Interview with Juliette, the French volunteer from Lille

Hi Juliette, thank you for your time. Just to start the interview, introduce yourself: speak briefly about your story, your interests and your background.
I’m Juliette, I’m 23 and I come from France. I have a bachelor in French Literature but as I don’t plan to become a teacher of French Literature, I decided to take a couple of years to find out what I’d like to do.
Tell us what are you doing here in Varna. Do you like your work as a volunteer and your everyday tasks? If you had the chance to change something would you choose different assignments?
I’m a volunteer at the Alliance Française – a cultural organization which aims at promoting French language and culture. I wanted to find a project which would have some sort of connection with French as a Foreign Language. It’s an option I consider…
I have various tasks. My favorite ones right now are the conversation workshops for adults and children. I get to teach my own language to motivated learners in a playful and spontaneous way every week — it’s incredibly rewarding! I also help choose films for the 4 monthly screenings, attend those screenings as well as the two Polyglot Cafes. Plus office work. If I could change something I would maybe ask someone more experienced than me to take photos (we cover each event). I’m not all that interested in the subject of photography and certainly have a lot to learn in order to take better photos!

What stage in your life are you at right now in comparison with your planned path and your future after the EVS? What is the biggest challenge you faced inside and outside your working environment?
I didn’t really “plan” my future and I’m used to taking it one year at a time. Doing an EVS in a Slavic country was on my bucket list though! What’s a bit difficult is to see your closest friends or family only once or twice a year. I’ve been living abroad for more than a year now and when I come back to France for a few days, I only get to see everyone for a few hours before saying good-bye again… Of course I met amazing people and it’s really easy to keep in touch with everyone with FB, Skype… nowadays but it’s always better when you don’t have a screen between you and your friend! It’s the only sacrifice I have to make. On the other side, I have the wonderful opportunity to discover new things everyday and it’s worth it.
According to your CV, you already had international working experiences before your arrival here. Speak us about your previous adventures outside your native country. When did you first think of working abroad and why? How much useful are you finding training, skills and orientations collected during your past trips?
I thought about EVS right after high school. I knew that the path I had chosen (preparatory class instead of university) would have made it quite difficult to study abroad since you get into the University of your choice after two or three years of study, and universities are reluctant to send you abroad then. They want you to complete a whole year at your French university so you can get used to the new teaching system and everything… So if you get into university as a master’s student, you have to stay in France! For this reason I decided to take a gap year to make an EVS after my studies.
Then I realized during my first year of my masters that I didn’t want to study French Literature anymore and went to Germany after that. It was my first experience as a volunteer and I always wanted to spend several months in Germany to finally have the opportunity practice the language and not just translate literary texts! I worked in a Kindergarten for 6 months and taught French to the kids that wanted to discover my language. I also had the opportunity to travel to Russia in 2010. I was in high school back then and was learning Russian. It was the first time I discovered a culture that was really different to the French one and it was great! My host family was so welcoming and very keen on answering all my questions. I didn’t get to stay there long there but loved the “Slavic atmosphere” back there.
Traveling and working abroad makes you question your own culture and makes you see everything you take for granted in a new light. The educational system in Germany is very different from the French one for instance–I had to adapt very quickly to those new rules or absence of rules and forget how I had been raised and taught in France. In the end, you can take a deeper and more critical look at everything and take the best from each culture. I think I can adapt more quickly to new living and working environments now.
As for the “most useful baggage of trainings” as you say, I can’t tell. I’ve been told several times about “cultural shock” and “depression” when living abroad and haven’t experienced any yet. But speaking more than one foreign language is definitely a plus when it comes to learning Bulgarian. I also lived in the former GDR in Germany – that is to say, in the former socialist part of Germany — so it’s really interesting to compare how things have evolved since 1989 in the two countries.  
An EVS experience is composed by hard work and a lot of funny experiences at the same time. Speak to us about the most over-the-top and crazy adventures you have experienced since the beginning of your EVS. Reading Proust by candle light while you drink dietetic drinks will be not considered so exciting.

I think my first days in Bulgaria are worth mentioning. I missed my first plane to Sofia, so I had to buy the only ticket I could find, with a connecting flight in Belgrade. However, Serbia is not in the EU and I don’t have a passport… so when I landed in Sofia, they didn’t want to let me in since I was coming from a non-EU country without any visa. After talking in a broken mix of English and what I could remember of my Russian, they finally let me in. I then realized my luggage had been lost somewhere between Brussels and Sofia, and I had to fill in all those papers forms without speaking a word of Bulgarian. It later turned out I gave had given the wrong address… I arrived in Varna with no luggage, very little money and without a single spare T-Shirt. The four or five days I had to wait for my luggage seemed like an eternity!
Thank you for your long stories all around Europe, proper girl! See you in front of the sea for some other late conversations about french cinema.