From an Erasmus Student to an EVS Volunteer – a Few Words from Sven Mertens

Every volunteer in our project is an unique person and has an unique story. And trust me when I say it, because this year we managed to gather very interesting blend of people. It also applies to how and why all of us decided to come to Varna. Even though we are part of one big project (Get Ready! Varna European Youth Capital 2017!), our motivation is different as well as experience and places we work at. Not all of us chose project first, sometimes it is more about the city, or people, or language…

This is what happened to Sven Mertens (29), German volunteer, who actually started his journey from studying in Varna as an exchange student at the University of Economics. Later on he met us, volunteers, and I suppose he really liked Varna, cause he decided to stay.

This is Sven, German volunteer, previously Erasmus student in Varna.

“A semester abroad brought me to Varna and later I was looking for ways to stay longer. So I just applied and got accepted. I thought it’s a good opportunity to do something useful while staying here.”

He was lucky to not have to send plenty of applications and instead of Skype interview, managed to meet project coordinator in one of Varna’s restaurants. No one doubted that he will get in. Now he works at the office of “Varna – European Youth Capital” Association. What is he doing?

“I have to do a lot of different things. Planning events, doing research for different topics and also preparing locations for events.”

Currently, he works on developing volunteering guidelines and researching youth and volunteer policies across Europe.

“During my staying here, in this project I have learned to be more flexible and to accept things that I cannot change. Patience is quite important as well. Besides that I got to know many different people, cultures and languages, which I see as the best part of this kind of projects”.

Sven working on Varna, European Youth Capital 2017.


But as you know, not everything is bright and colourful, especially when you have to deal with cultural differences.

“The fact that I am German makes it sometimes difficult because it’s a big difference how things are being organized in my home country. So organization part is something that I would definitely like to have improved. Also thing that I don’t like about Bulgaria is that people mostly just assume things instead of asking. The other, which correspond with the first thing I mentioned are mostly poorly organized events and activities as well as lack of people who speaks English.”

Organisation (and I would add information flow) is one of the things that many of us complain about. But I have a feeling that maybe this is something that in some weird way create this specific Bulgarian/Balkan atmosphere which attracts so many people. No excuses though! Anyway, we also love many things about this country.

“The different cities, landscapes and most of the people. This culture is totally different for me and I also have to say I feel much safer than in other countries I have been to.”

Let me make small digression about the landscape because some of us spend last weekend hiking the highest peak in Bulgaria (as well as in Balkans) – Musala. Definitely one of the “must do” things while staying here. Wild mountains, almost empty in October, and what do we find in one of a хижа (mountain hut)?

But going back to the topic, as you already know Varna is European Youth Capital 2017 so I wanted to get some information from the “inside” but all of the volunteers seem to be very diplomatic in their answers. That is why I am sorry in advance but I suppose I am not gonna amuse you with this part (in case somebody was expecting this).

“Varna It’s a really nice city which needs more attention. So being a Youth Capital is a good way to promote things and create events. There are also good locations here in the city.”

Now, trying to finish smoothly. To whom Sven would recommend this kind of experience? To everyone, who doesn’t know what to do next. What about him? How EVS influenced his plans for the future? Besides that he has to go back to Germany and finish his study (cross your fingers for him!), he started to think about working abroad.

Maybe in Bulgaria, Sven?