Journey of a volunteer at Sund fhs in Norway

Arho Keränen

This is Arho from Finland, one of Sund’s two EVS-volunteers. Wait… “EVS”? What’s that?

 

EVS, that is European Voluntary Service is an international volunteer program funded by the European Commission. It enables any 18 to 30 years old european youth to go on a international volunteer project in a foreign country lasting from 2 to 12 months. Now however the project has changed its name into ESC – which doesn’t mean Eurovision Song Contest, but European Solidarity Corps. The program itself remains more or less the same. You can google it, if you got interested 🙂

 

Now when the basics are out of the way, what does an EVS-volunteer do at Sund folkehøgskole? Easiest way to find out might be to go through my personal experiences, successes and challenges as a volunteer.

 

Basically, since EVS is based on cultural exchange, volunteers participate in the daily life at Sund fhs, spicing it up with a part of their own culture, while learning about the Norwegian one. Or trying to learn, especially when it comes to the language. Big thanks to the second year students’ norsk lessons and support from other students, I now manage to understand Norwegian at least on some level. For me learning the language is also important part of understanding people’s mindset and how they view the world. In addition to Norwegian culture and language, I learned a lot about other cultures as well. Since some of the majors at Sund are all about global problems and solidarity, I’m now way more aware of conflicts in foreign countries, environmental issues and understanding the point of view on all sides of those debates.

Norwegian nature being one of the most beautiful places in the world applies to the surroundings of Sund fhs as well. This is the view from the school campus.

Independent work

Anyways, being EVS in Sund is very independent work and much up to what do you want to do and bring for the community. I personally contributed with initiating art and creativity related activities, such as painting class with acrylic colors, and having a textile printing/painting workshop for t-shirts or canvas bags.

It is also really much up to what the students want are interested in. What Sund is as a community, is shaped by the students themselves. Your ideas for electives or workshops won’t always turn out to be too popular, for example my discussion group about ethics and environment, which as theme is already much discussed among students, whether it is on class or on their freetime. Sometimes it can be challenging to find good moment to do something, when people are not too tired or busy with other things. But I learned that it doesn’t matter if there is 2 or 20 people who appear, your workshop can still be equally important for those who participate.

 

It’s worthy of noting that on my five month stay I didn’t manage to do so much than I intended to, since adapting into a new environment and culture takes some time. Before you start feeling comfortable and “home” (which still happened faster than I thought) it might be harder to take initiative. But I feel like I learned to be a little bit more spontaneous and brave in that. Generally I think students at Sund are always really quickly and enthusiastically into something new and unexpected.

Clean environment is one of the Sund’s values, and the students go out frequently to get rid of plastic stranding on the shore. Even though nature in Nordics is relatively clean, you could fill an shopping bag with plastic and other trash in just 15 minutes.

 

 

We shared knowledge, culture and crazy ideas!

I feel like rather than some arranged activities, for the students more of a contribution from me was the everyday interaction with them; sharing my knowledge, culture, crazy ideas and inspiration to be or do something. Overall, I was left with a feeling that what I gave to the community – and what I got as well, was something more abstract and indescribable, than just concrete actions.

Also, even though most of the times someone needed to translate for me what’s going on, I felt I was an integrated part of the community, just in a slightly different way as everyone else. I was left with unforgettable memories of the moments with the people, and amazing experiences from school trips and traveling across the beautiful country of Norway.

Enjoying a good company at 3 day trip to an old fishing community on Sør-Gjæslingan islands on was one of the highlights of my stay in Norway. In a cabins with no electric heating and clean drinking water we had to work together to utilize our survival skills, especially when it came to not having internet connection 😉
Shooting an epic trailer for student organized game week in the nearby forest turned out to be more fun than the trailer itself.
The last day of school was really serious business with all the glamour, traditional dresses and everything.

 

Tusen takk, jeg savner dere Sund fhs

-Arho 🙂

 

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