Sonia Golini – the French Volunteer of Varna European Youth Capital 2017

Sonia, French volunteer for Varna 2017.

Sonia is a 24 years old French volunteer who came to Varna few months before us (and here I mean the bigger part of youth who participate in the project Get Ready – Varna 2017 and myself). This is why, I am sure, she has much more to share with you, as she had time for some reflection and experience.

Sonia, what are you doing in Varna?

I am a European volunteer for the Municipality of Varna, supporting the Varna 2017 team for the European Youth Capital title.

Why did you decide to do a European Voluntary Service?

I was doing my last year at the University and I wanted to go abroad before starting the “professional life”. In January, all students got the information from the University internship service about offers of EVS made by the municipality of Strasbourg. Among them, there was the one proposed by the Municipality of Varna. It was about Varna European Youth Capital 2017.

I studied European and Local Administration so this project was connected to my studies. I wanted to know more about this field in the foreign country and to be part of a European project, as the European Youth Capital. It was also the opportunity to visit Eastern Europe where I have never been to before.

So, I applied and here I am!

What do you think about Varna being the European Youth Capital 2017?

Firstly, it is great, because it is the reason I am here.

More seriously, it is great for Varna to be highlighted. The city has a lot to offer and this is the year to show it! I met so many young people with plenty of ideas about how to improve their city, so many young people being in love with Varna! This title is their title!

I really hope that Varna will take advantage of this award.

Sonia in front of the Youth Centre of Varna 2017.

What is your contribution to Varna European Youth Capital?

At the beginning of my voluntary service, I was making English translations for the Facebook page and I was writing some articles for the website of Varna 2017 (I interviewed the previous president of the European Youth Forum, for instance, it was nice to be a journalist for a moment).

I also participated in the organisation of the Fun City + Festival last year. I joined different workshops and helped where it was necessary during the entire festival (distributing programs, putting order in different workshop places etc.).  It was very nice to be a part of it!

During the official opening of Varna 2017, I helped with the international guests. I was their tour guide for four days and it was very pleasing.

I was also involved in other events related to “Varna 2017” as Varna 2017 university campaign, seminars, hackathon etc.

Besides these tasks, I take part in other activities which are connected to “Varna 2017”. For instance, together with another European volunteer, we helped one Bulgarian guy to create a “Use-It Map” of Varna. It is a map made for young locals and international people for other youth visiting the city.

To sum up, I have many different tasks, sometimes, I am a tour guide, sometimes a journalist, sometimes a secretary. It is very interesting for me to do such different things.

Tell me something about your personal project.

(You have to know, that as an EVS participant, we have the possibility to plan and realize our personal project).

My personal project is an exhibition about youth: “Youth & You: quotations for an inspiration”.  It will take place on the 12th of May in Hale 3, the spot I really like and, according to me, the one which is made for young people. The point of the exhibition is to give inspiration and motivation, to try to help to understand what being youth means.

What, in your opinion, is the most useful thing you gained during your EVS?

I am more tolerant of myself. I have also learnt to be more flexible and to adapt quicker to unknown and last minute situations. It will be very useful for both, my personal and professional life.

What has surprised you in Bulgaria?

When I arrived, I was surprised by the prices of the food in the shops, restaurants and bars! It is so cheap in comparison to France. I can eat in a very good restaurant for the price of a cheap restaurant in my country. I can drink cocktails for 2 euro. In France, it is at least 4 times as much! Also, the price of taxis! It is so good to be able to take a taxi for such a small price.

What do you think about Bulgaria?

I think it is a country with many opportunities, but the one which doesn’t use them. Bulgaria has wonderful landscapes, wonderful tradition, culture and people. However, sometimes I have a feeling that they just not try to improve things, as if the country was asleep. Also, there is a lack of pursuit of perfection according to me. They are not looking for it, it is enough that everything is just “добре”.

What do you like most in Bulgaria?

I like all the small traditions you can find in Bulgaria: Трифон Зарезан (Trifon Zarezan) on the 14th of February, Баба Марта (Baba Marta) on the 1st of March, Цветница (Tsvetnitsa or the Flower day) week before the Easter.

There are lots of beautiful places. In Varna, some of them are a bit hidden (mostly bars) which is also very original and nice.

They have good red wine (I am from France so, yes, I like wine) and they have Rakia! I also like garlic bread and sirene (this cheese which looks like Feta) and I like the fact that in the restaurant’s menu, there is always the quantity of food you will have written.

Also, at least in Varna, it was easy to find places with free Wi-Fi which is very convenient for foreigners with prepaid phone card like me 😀

What do you dislike most in Bulgaria?

It is heartbreaking to see street cats and street dogs, especially during the winter. Some of them struggle to survive and dogs have this sad look… even if some people give them some food and some bed sheets during the winter.

The second thing is that there is lots of pollution and environmental issues are not really being taken into account. Plastic bags and other tools are overused, which is very sad in a country where there are so many beautiful natural places.

I also dislike the fact that there are almost no facilities for people with physical disabilities. For instance, I stay at the Management University and there is no lift, and so in many other places…

And finally, I didn’t like the service in most bars and restaurants I visited. Most of the time, the service is not good because something is missing: a welcoming and kind waiter/waitress; being served at the same time as your friends or being served faster.

What was the strangest situation you have experienced while living in Bulgaria?

I think I didn’t experience strange situations, just funny and awkward ones: buying plane tickets to go to Stockholm after a night out , going to a beauty institute and a hairdresser where no one speaks English, seeing people using a carriage with a horse in the centre of Varna as a way of transport, cutting my thumb while opening a tuna box to feed cats next to the municipality…

What is your favourite Bulgarian word or expression?

“Наздраве”, which means cheers. I think it is the word I know in the most other languages than French right now 😀


Some volunteers in Nesebar.

To whom would you recommend EVS?

To all young people from 18 to 30 years old! It is a good opportunity to get personal and professional experience abroad. I also think it is a very good opportunity for young people, who still wonder what they want to do, and those, who are unemployed or disadvantaged. You don’t need money for your EVS, the accommodation and the food is paid. I could live only with my volunteer financing (I used some personal money just to visit countries abroad).


Today, a bit shortly. From W. Clement Stone: The reason so few people are successful is no one has yet found a way for someone to sit down and slide uphill.