Nikola Klementová, from the Czech Republic, has studied International Relations and Sociology in Brno. She was Erasmus student in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. There she met a lot of nice and interesting people and decided to travel after her studies again. One of her friends from Erasmus told her about the European voluntary program, then she checked it and decided to apply.
What was the reason why you chose Iceland? and Why worldwide friends?
At the beginning I wanted to go abroad and it does not matter to which country. I was checking more possibilities. I was thinking about going to France and practice my poor French language but at the end I chose Iceland because it was one of European countries which I have not visited before. That means it was the most exiting one for me, the most far away, the most unknown and that attracted me. I always like Icelandic culture. I´ve listened some Icelandic bands, I’ve read few Icelandic books and watched some Icelandic movies, but honestly I did not know a lot about this country before my EVS. I applied for two or three project in Iceland and finally they chose me in World Wide Friends.
What is WF? What are they doing?
Worldwide Friends Iceland (WF) was founded in 2001 as a non-governmental, non-profit organization promoting nature and peace-oriented activities for people interested in spending time in Iceland as volunteers. The main activities offered by WF Iceland are workcamps, exchange programs, and educational seminars. WF also sends Icelanders abroad who wish to have similar volunteer experiences elsewhere in the world. Currently WF is hosting 28 EVS, but between two hundred and three hundred applications are received each year.
What was your role as EVS in WF?
I started to work as a camp leader. I never like the name for this position, but basically you take care about international group of people coming to Iceland. My first workcamp which I was “co leading” was called Visual Art in Reykjavik. There was a group of nice people from different countries and I really enjoyed it. After that workcamp I helped with some workshops in Christmas workcamp in Reykjavik. We celebrated Christmas and New Years Eve with 25 foreigners and it was a totally new experience for me, because usually I celebrate Xmas just with my family.
After this I led with my friend Sandra two Multicultural workcamps. We were preparing with volunteers games, songs, and materials to present and introduce different cultures to the kids in the kindergarden. We also prepare multicultural afternoon in social centre where we cooked special dishes and have presentation about cultural topic. These workcamps were really enriching for me and in the same time there was a lot of fun. I came to WF in November and I should leave in May. But time goes so quickly here and I decided when I had survived dark Icelandic winter to stay longer and have experience from Icelandic light summer as well.
Then, you stay here working in the office… What is you occupation in this job?
In March I started to work in office. There was a free place and I took it. The name of my new position is Replacement Officer and actually I take care about the application of short term volunteers who are coming to the Iceland for two weeks workcamps which I led before. Mostly it is administration work. Most of the time I am replying emails and work like information office, I accept application of short term volunteers, preparing invitation letters for visa if needed, preparing infosheets for the workcamps. I am working in office with Jule, girl from Germany, who is evs coordinator, Piret from Estonia who takes care about booking, logistic and helps me with infosheets, and Marino and Siga from Iceland. I like people in office I think we are a good team. We have also very kind boss which is also important for me.
At the beginning it was quite hard for me to get used to sit in front of computer eight hours per day and communicate with people indirectly because I am quite active person and I prefer personal contact. But in World Wide Friends are still lot of people around and we are running a lot of interesting project which I can be part of even if I am working in office.
How have your professional skills improved through this experience?
Like camp leader I learnt a lot from people. Sometimes it was not easy to be whole day with people and pay attention. I practise my communication skills and learn how to manage to lead a diverse group of people with different cultural and social background and different expectation. There was also a wide diversity of ages- people between 18 and 64 years old. Some people were really nice and kind but some of them also gave me hard moments and taught me how to be more patient (and do not kill them). What I practice the most in my EVS is my flexibility. The plans are changing all the time in Iceland and you have to be prepared for everything. For sure most of all I practice my language knowledge, like a camp leader I practice spoken language and informal communication, in office I practise more written English and formal language expressions. I have begun to be little bit more well organize in office with what I had problems before because I am kind of chaotic person sometimes. After all these gained experience I feel more self-confident in general and maybe it can help me to find a job in future, we will see.
You are from Czech Republic, the middle of Europe… How do you feel living in this island?
From the Czech Republic to Iceland is a long way and it is difficult to compare two such a different countries. What it is same that both of the countries are relatively small and suffer with kind of similar small countries’ complex from not to be overlooked. The Czech Republic lies in the middle of Europe, it was part of communist bloc in past. It is relatively young country. It is intercontinental country that means we do not have any sea, neither a bit. And I miss it. I really love sea, the marine blue colour, the salt smell, waving sound, never-ending space. Maybe because I am from country without sea I am enjoying and appreciating the living in the island now. There is sea everywhere in Iceland. In comparison what Icelandic people could appreciate from the Czech Republic are trees. The Czech Republic is full of beautiful forest with nice high trees. In Iceland there are no trees and at the beginning it was really strange for me. Few days ago we celebrated 1st of May. In Czech there is the tradition to be kissed under the blossom tree; here it is not possible so I was kissed under the volcano instead of. The Czech Republic has a lot of historical monuments, Iceland has awesome landscape. Icelandic people would probably appreciate also our good, cheap beer in comparison to the expensive Icelandic alcohol.
I have realised that the mostly of EVS are girls… Is this an exception? or instead, is it the usual situation? What do you think from your point of view as sociology?
Yeah, it is true that in our organization there are a lot of girls. We have more girls who are evs volunteers and also more feminine short term volunteers. We can say more or less 80% of our volunteers are girls. It is not because we are choosing just girls but because we are receiving more application from girls in general. I do not why. In my opinion girls are more interested in voluntary work because voluntary work is usually connected with social or human studies department where we can find more girls. Boys from technical and IT schools usually prefer to find a job after their studies and earn money. Problem can be also that in human studies it is much more difficult nowadays to find a job directly after school so students are looking for other possibilities. But for sure it is not always like this. We have here IT guy from France a girl who is an architect which is going against my theory so maybe I am wrong. It would be interesting to make a kind of research about it.