Marilou Albero came to Armenian Progressive Youth in Armenia from France to do a 6 months long European Voluntary Service (EVS). We have asked her about her experience with Armenia and her EVS life. Marilou says that she decided to participate in an EVS because she thinks it is a good way to be involved in a project and to discover a new country. “Concerning Armenia though”, she says, “I didn’t really choose to go to specifically Armenia, it was more the opportunity. But I guess I was really curious about this region of the world”.
Marilou’s role in the Armenian Progressive Youth organisation was focused on communication work. She was, among others, updating the website. During the training courses she was responsible for visibility at social medias, for an example to post information about the activities on Facebook. “I learnt many professional skills related to communication skills during my time with Armenian Progressive Youth, for an example how to take good pictures and how to write an article.” When coming to Armenia, she recalls, a big obstacle was the language, but the cultural shock was probably bigger than the language problems. “For me the main difficulties were some of the traditional values of this country. As a «french feminist girl» it was difficult to learn about the differences of rights for girls and LGBT people in Armenia, compared to what I was used to. I never realized that before. Maybe, I was a bit naive.”
Marilou explains that she did not know much about European programs before she came to Armenian Progressive Youth. Because of this, she says, it took her almost three months to understand that the organisation was doing and how it was working. “I think, if I could do one thing differently, I would have studies the organisation before arriving. In this way I maybe could have understood my role better, and have taken more initiatives”. Concerning support, she says that she had everything she needed. “Armenian Progressive Youth and Armenia was very welcoming; I am very thankful for that”. Marilou received language courses like all volunteers enrolled in the EVS programs do. She says though, that learning Armenian in 6 months is not very realistic.
As for coming back to visit Armenia, Marilou already did. “I came back to Armenia 6 months after my volunteering as a participant in one of the trainings organized by Armenian Progressive Youth.” If Marilou could advise a future volunteer coming to Armenia, she says it would be to bring books. “It is almost impossible to find books in foreign languages in Yerevan.”
Interviewed and written by Edith and Tamara, 2 APY volunteers