This is the second part of a two-parts article. Click here to read the first part.
Why should young people, students and youth workers choose the European Solidarity Corps?
On a personal level, the choice towards this program was mainly dictated by two factors:
- The need to do something practical in the long term;
- The desire to go to Spain (I tried to do it during my master’s degree, without success) and to develop skills and competences in the field of European affairs, project management and communication.
When I applied for this programme, I was really confused and deceived by the suspicion that a volunteering activity could not be enough for my career. I was really sceptic about the idea of leaving my home for a year and start a programme that I did not truly know. I remember my fears, my confusion, my doubts. My University supervisor was crucial to convince me to start this experience and she explained me that this European Solidarity Corps would have uniquely set me on an incredible professional and human path. Now, after almost one year and half from the beginning of my volunteering, I could not be more grateful to my prof for her precious and wise advices.
After collecting such a kind of experience, I can be honest and share with you an opinion that is normally widely assumed among the European volunteering family:
How many paid internships are capable of providing youth with the opportunity to grow up and, at the same time, get grants that allow them to mature and enjoy their personal freedom without too much ado? How many times do we forget the importance of achieving an adequate balance between our professional career and personal development, especially in the post-graduate period? How many times are we forced to stop thinking about our personal dimension for working constrictions which do not always depend on our choices?
The EVS before and the ESC now are volunteering programs that provide young people between 18 and 30 years with the almost unique chance to fully experience abroad and grow both professionally and personally. I would like to stress one verb: “to live”.
Pepe Mujica said in one interview: “The definition of freedom has many layers. The individual goes hand-in-hand with enjoying leisure time to live. [We are] free, when [we] have time to spend on things and people [we] love. […] That’s freedom.”
Personally, I think that the European Solidarity Corps provides us with the chance to “work by living” and not “live for working”.
To explain better, the ESC provides young people with really good economic conditions to live and enjoy their out-of-work activities. Just the fact that the participants do not have to pay their accommodation is a substantial support, as well as the public transports fully paid. The ESC volunteers can work and live at the same time happily. With a bit of attention on your costs, there’s a case also to be made for some simple pleasures. In doing so, volunteers can learn and find the time to engage a lot in their passions and hobbies. And trust me, even your hosting organization will benefit from this general well-being, as it generates a reciprocal positive impact.
Unfortunately, constant prejudices about “volunteering” often deceive and more and more young people underestimate the potential of this program. Indeed, as aforementioned, the benefits are effective because the volunteers are direct beneficiaries of grants capable of helping even people with fewer economic opportunities:
- Transports and accommodation are paid and, sometimes, even the food is included;
- The volunteers can benefit from the private insurance CIGNA for the whole duration of the volunteering;
- A monthly pocket money appropriate for the economic conditions of the host country is always granted. In my case, I received 350 euros per month (including transports) and you can do a bunch of stuff with this amount of money in a city like Madrid. Just to give some examples, I could monthly cover expenses for the public transport card, food for four weeks (even five if you are a smart consumer) and my pre-paid SIM, thus managing to save some money for other things.
- A 3-month local language course is always fully granted and, if we consider the regular prices for languages courses in private schools, this is really a good opportunity to exploit.
So, only economic benefits?
Of course, no. As I already explained in another article supported by official EU Commission sources, there are reasons why programmes such as the Erasmus Plus and the European Solidarity Corps help youth to feel better and find work more easily:
- The international experience as such helps young people to have a greater self-awareness of their own abilities and skills, and they usually understand better what career to pursue and what impact they can generate concretely with their actions applied on a daily manner;
- Adaptation and openness to the challenges progressively become natural elements that move people closer to what is alien to them, so that they start looking for new ways of communication, which in turn stimulate creativity and language proficiency;
- The knowledge of new cultures helps youth to break cultural and linguistic barriers, opening their minds to confrontation and mutual respect, stimulating multicultural awareness and the ability to work and live with people of different cultures and backgrounds;
- Serving a European volunteering service often coincides with a personal challenge that leads us to leave a comfort zone to dance with our fears, to know new social contexts and people, thus becoming gradually even more emotionally intelligent. Of course, we also have to face situations in which adaptability and innovation are needed integrally and this is often the most useful lesson for all of us. Then, these abilities create a multiplier effect and induce former volunteers to continue putting into practice what they have learned so far in their human, social and work relationships. The key word is “action”.
So, what is the European Solidarity Corps perfect for?
I would say that it is never too late to start an experience like this, but to be more precise, I would personally state that this program is perfect for:
- Unemployed youth;
- high schools’ graduates;
- graduate students with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree looking for an international experience;
- youth who are thinking about taking a year off before starting another academic or working activity;
- any person between 18 and 30 years old who wants to make something different and develop professional skills through a unique human experience abroad.
During my year in Spain, I met many volunteers who left their “comfort zone” at 18, 23, 25 and even 30 years old. The ESC is not a simple volunteering program; it is an opportunity resulting from years of institutional work and sacrifices made to build a Europe for citizens.
In my opinion, they are very few good opportunities such the voluntary programs provided by the European Union. In addition, valuable soft skills are often ignored by most of our youth generation, but they are now essential in any CV: flexibility, capacity for initiative, multicultural awareness, teamwork, communication, mastery of a second EU language, creativity, problem solving approach, orientation to multitasking and positive attitude at work. Together with these, I would mention the importance of being proactive and working closely with professionals who will teach you things that we do not learn at the university – how to use LinkedIn or a computer, how to drive a digital campaign, how to manage social media for marketing or business, how to use the the Microsoft Office suite and we could continue.
I would like to be honest. Without my ESC experience in Spain, I am sure that I would not be able to manage to be selected for the Schuman traineeship that I am currently completing at the European Parliament here in Brussels. This, consequently, leads to my final suggestion that I would like to share with all those who aspire to start doing something unique and great:
Do not be afraid. Seize this moment to live your transition with liberty, enthusiasm and passion to dream and explore. The benefit will be uncountable. The time to do this is now, in your present.
The European Solidarity Corps exists, it is a project and it will change your life.
Author: Leonardo Brambilla
Brambilla Leonardo , Trabajos Erasmus - libertad, descubrimiento y aventura , https://www.yeseuropa.org/trabajos-erasmus-libertad-descubrimiento-y-aventura/
Corpo europeo di Solidarietà - Guida 2019, https://www.portaledeigiovani.it/printpdf/pdf/scheda/corpo-europeo-di-solidarieta-guida-2019
Guía Cuerpo Europeo Solidaridad, https://www.yeseuropa.org/guia-cuerpo-europeo-solidaridad/
UE, nasce il Corpo europeo di solidarietà, http://www.lavoro.gov.it/stampa-e-media/Comunicati/Pagine/UE-nasce-Corpo-europeo-di-solidarieta-Luigi-Bobba-finalmente-l-Europa-riscopre-il-suo-cuore-giovane.aspx
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