My name is Arthur, I come from Paris, France, and I’ve participated in an EVS project within the NGO Opora in Yoshkar-Ola, Russian Federation, from November 2015 to October 2016.
I decided to take part in this project as I finished my studies related to International Relations and Russia because I wanted to get to know more of the Russian society from the inside, and gather some experience abroad while feeling myself useful to the society, getting involved in social projects and getting to know similar-minded people beyond the borders of Europe.
The first months of adaptation however made me understand that I felt myself at ease in this new environment, and this is greatly due to the incredibly warm welcome I received from the organisation and the inhabitants of the city.
I got involved from the very beginning to the very end into the projects of the organisation, including regular visits of orphanages in the Republic aiming to foster healthy lifestyle and active solidarity and citizenship among the youngsters in these institutions, and well as more broadly in the city of Yoshkar-Ola. I tried myself at teaching French and English in open classes with the objective of getting more people interested in foreign cultures and horizons and active in international projects and exchanges. I also got in contact with local schools where I could implement social and cultural projects such as a poetry festival or song contests. The high point has certainly been the traditional participation in the summer camp Tramplin in the forest of the Mari El Republic where I could share my knowledge and skills as a foreigner and as a dancer, painter, musician and camp leader.
Most of these experiences had been more or less varying from what I had lived since I left school, and I surprised myself to feel that much passion and dedication to all those different activities. I realised quickly that I could easily bring happiness, knowledge and interest to all kind of people that I crossed on my way. This has definitely constituted one of the decisive factors that have made my experience unforgettable. The freedom and flexibily that EVS volunteering provides is also a fantastically fertile ground to allow self-realisation to grow within a young, inexperienced European youngster. But most of all, the Russian hospitality, the vibrant youth of the small city of Yoshkar-Ola, the thirst of knowledge and discoveries that each and every by-passer has when meeting with a foreigner, not forgetting the wonders of the nature within the Mari El Republic and beyond, are the number one reasons for getting on board the EVS adventure in Russia. A little knowledge of the language, a pinch of interest in the Russian and Mari cultures, and an honest dose of respect and open-mindness are like a passport that allows you to meet and share with people of all ages and horizons, and make durable friendships, if not more so!
Of course, difficulties appeared along the road, because the Russian society and the living standards in Yoshkar-Ola unquestionably differ from what a usual European youngster is used to. However, the constant support provided by the staffs of the organisation as well as new acquaintances helps to the adaptation. The language, as instance, is usually the first source of concern and hardship for foreigners. To remedy the problem, language courses are provided within the framework of the EVS project, that facilitate interractions with the environment and the people.