May 2018 will forever be known as manic May.
It was due to be a busy month as the future EVS volunteers would be visiting the city for their advanced planning visit (APV. This is a visit that each visually impaired EVS volunteer is entitled to make before the start of their project in order to get a feel for where they’ll be living and to meet some of the people who will be involved in their project. I also had an APV, but circumstances meant that mine took place one just one week before the start of my project. This wasn’t ideal, and I’m glad the volunteers who will be arriving in October had the advantage of making this trip a good few months in advance of their arrival because I really believe it is advantageous to have this time to prepare and plan.
Anyway, two volunteers were scheduled to visit in the first week of May, with the third doing her APV at the end of the month. I was excited but nervous about these visits. I was happy to be able to meet the future volunteers and offer any advice that I could, but I was also anxious to give them a positive yet realistic overview of the EVS experience. I was given responsibilities during both APV’s such as collecting volunteers from the train station and transporting them to different meetings, which on the whole I managed fine.
A tricky situation arose with one of my neighbours, unfortunately just as I was supposed to be showing one of the future vols around the EVS apartment. It was a challenging situation that tested me in a lot of ways. Thankfully my manager from VIEWS was there at the time and supported me to handle things, but it left me frazzled and a little shaken.
Afterwards, I realised that I could really be quite proud of how I managed the situation and I’ve since come to realise that it was a bit of a turning point. I’ve struggled a lot with self-confidence throughout this experience; something that doesn’t come easy to me at the best of times but has been particularly challenging during my Belgium experience. However, I think that being able to be proud of how I reacted in this situation with my neighbour gave me a bit of a boost and has since increased my self-belief in a way that I think is quite noticeable.
Shortly after this eventful week, I was due to go back to the UK for a few days for a couple of job interviews. I completed one assessment centre day for a graduate scheme that I really didn’t feel very confident about but had another interview for a job that I was quite hopeful for. Fortunately, it went better than I expected, and I was offered the job!
When I return from Belgium for the final time at the end of June, I will start working as Events officer for Look UK. I’m so thrilled to have gotten this opportunity because Look have been my sending association for my EVS project, so I know them well and love their mentality and ethos. I’m really glad to be able to hit the ground running with a new adventure after EVS is over and can’t wait to start working for Look. They have a lot of really exciting projects for visually impaired young people and their families, so please check them out if you can!
During the last two weeks of May we hosted the final APV for the third future volunteer. There were no sticky situations with neighbours this time, but this was sadly the time when Liege was hit by a tragic incident; a man attacked police officers and a school, sadly leaving two officers and one innocent bystander dead. This was devastating and quite unnerving as the attack happened on a street that I regularly take, and it was scary to have something so heart breaking happen so close to home. I realised that day how much I have grown to love Liege and feel part of the city. It was a revelation for me as a few months ago I really felt like an outsider and never thought I would feel part of the community. I’m just sorry that this realisation was provoked by such a tragic event.
Another city was checked off my list in May as I visited Ghent with my manager from VIEWS and fellow EVS volunteer. It was a lovely relaxed day including a boat trip on the river and leisurely strolling around the city centre. I’ve since been to Ghent a second time and would recommend it for shopping and a bit of medieval history. I also spent even more time in Flanders, spending a weekend with friends in the small city of Lier, just outside Antwerp.
I know enough Wallonia and Flemish people now to notice the difference in their mannerisms and mentalities, aside from the obvious difference in language. I can’t say that I have a preference for either; the Flemish are a bit more reserved and are closer to British in terms of social custom, but the Wallonia French speakers are more relaxed and easy-going by nature (just from my observations).
I know that I say this in every post, but it doesn’t seem real that I’m leaving in a matter of weeks. What I already know is that I’ve learned far more about myself during EVS than about anything else.