Les Ambassadeurs des Valeurs Européennes – MARLEN KAKKORI – 12 Months Volunteering in Bordeaux, France


European Voluntary Service in Maison De L’Europe Bordeaux-Aquitaine

My name is Marlen, I am 25 years old and this is a story of my EVS year in Bordeaux, France working as a ambassador of European Values in House of Europe (Maison De L’Europe Bordeaux-Aquitaine that we call MEBA).

I already had experience in volunteering and civic education in Estonia since I was 16 years old – European Union simulation games, youth council, student council, youth non-governmental organizations etc. So “once a volunteer, always a volunteer” mentality has been inside my mind for a long time. And I always dreamed about volunteering abroad, though my initial plans were Africa, Middle-East or South-America. In the end, I think starting inside Europe, was a great idea that prepared me for my future volunteering goals. And after my master’s degree – what can be a better timing? It was a perfect timing, because I was mentally so ready for it. Previous exchange studying experiences in Turkey and France, youth exchanges/training courses and work experience as NGO leader in Estonia helped a lot to be ready to benefit from the EVS to the fullest.


The “Ambassadors of European values” project is based on the idea that European solidarity is built through concrete and everyday actions. We as European volunteers intervened in primary schools, middle schools, high schools, youth/activity centres, associations/organisations, communities, consulates, cultural institutes, medias (radio, television, newspapers) where we talked about Europe with our own words and based on our personal experiences.

Our goals were:
1) communication, with the aim of getting visibility on the local media scene;
2) raising awareness through all the interventions in schools, centers and org’s;
3) organization of monthly events at MEBA (debates and conferences, discovering nights, linguistic coffees), day of Europe and participation to larger metropolitan events according to the local community request (Bordeaux marathon, European Village etc).

What do I think about Bordeaux? Beautiful river, bridges, views, parks, bars streets. Every time I crossed the bridge with the tram or by foot at evening/night, the view of Bordeaux Place de la Bourse made me so proud and happy and lucky to live in this amazing city. My shared apartment living room window had the best views of the city for me as well, I will miss it.

September was tourism and integration month. MEBA organized for us so many tours and museum visits and paid even for the tickets to go to the seaside. Most of the organization is done very well and during the first month they translated all the meetings from French to English (double languages) or held some of them in English. This was very important for me as a beginner second level (A2) in French.

The second month we were divided into trinoms (group of three volunteers – two internationals and one French) who were working closely with. So we worked 80% of times in schools/activity centers with our trinom and 20% of times with other volunteers (depending on teacher’s needs, nationalities etc). In October we had many trainings about the European Union, migration, human rights, sustainable development etc and meetings with teachers or facilitators mostly held in French. For a non-French speaker or beginners, it was a challenging month, but with the help of other volunteer’s notes and translation, it worked. In October the two-day training about non-formal-education (with English translation) was so good and same method continued in On-Arrival-Training – those experiences were so teaching, eye-opening, friends-making, etc. On-Arrival-Training was really useful for a pyramid of the objectives, answering our concerns (felt good to share and discuss), learning/re-discovering the methods to use in my work at schools, getting friends from many countries (and from many places in France to visit during the EVS).

From November until June:
– interventions at primary, middle and high schools, and youth activity centers about the topic of Europe and Estonia through non-formal education activities
– language cafe’s for teaching Estonian and English
– radio shows for introducing Estonia at three different radio stations
– sustainable development team meetings for planning events and communication
– organizing a cultural evening to all Bordeaux public for introducing Estonia
– participating in free trainings and seminars on visual facilitation, intercultural learning, non-formal education, valuation of international mobility experiences, goal-setting and self-analysis, European Union and human rights in English and in French
– organizing events for the month of Europe during May.

I learned to see Estonian from a different perspective while teaching Estonian. During Estonian Evening I presented Estonia for almost one hour in French and facilitated the whole evening including speeches, dancing and food table. In addition, I did tree radio emissions/shows in French about Estonia. Most of my daily interventions by non-formal education games with French kids was in French. And in language cafe’s I was teaching English as well. Furthermore, I participated full-day trainings in English and French where communication in both languages developed tremendously. Since I was working with non-fluent English adult speakers and almost non-English speaking kids, I learned to explain myself creatively and put the words into many different forms of expression to get the ideas across.

Thanks to EVS on-arrival training and mid-term training I learned to make goals pyramid that helped to focus and measure my year achievements. A lot of learning took place in informal situations while having deep discussions about cultural differences and behaviour with my intercultural work colleagues and friends. My learning goals during the EVS included learning French, learning to live more healthy lifestyle, learn about different cultures, ideas and countries, learn to make and keep international friendships, learn about my strengths and weaknesses/advantages and disadvantages, learn about my future needs and possibilities, learn how to contribute to other people’s lives, learn to gain balance and peace in my life. I am sure that I progressed in all the fields of my goals. EVS work, living independently and active free time spent abroad have been helping me to get closer of achieving all the them.

Most importantly I learned to communicate in intercultural team where understanding of preparation, timing, quality standards, responsibilities and work structure was very different in the beginning. I learned to be more flexible, adaptable, patient, polite and have more open-mind about planning. Being the only one from the north-east in our project, I needed to explain my cultural background many times to others. I needed to explain the difference and the connection between my personal character and my social cultural programming that makes me how I am. I experienced culture shock during first months, but I came true it thanks to self-analysis and help of EVS training, my friends and my mentor. If I saw tension or a conflict, I took one step back and tried to understand other people’s needs. I learned to appreciate different people by not judging them before I could hear a elaborated explanation of their ideas. I learned the importance of knowing the local language and how much it changes the possibilities to participate, to be understood and to understand your colleagues. I learned to be more communicating with strangers, more small-talk with colleagues and about more delicate ways of giving feedback.

Biggest benefit of EVS compared to school or university type of learning is the working in an intercultural team. Working together is much more intense than studying together. All of those learnings helps me to be better team worker and leader in my future professional work. Seeing more diversity, helps me to understand all kinds of people better. All the challenges I had, I came true by analysing and correcting myself. Seeing myself learning and improving makes me so proud of myself. Besides all of these learnings, I had so so so much FUN during this year (hobbies, traveling, friends). The European Voluntary Service year was living my dream!

For more sophisticated (read: longer!) analysis, read my blog. 🙂

Our introduction and videos at MEBA webpage and radio links for more interested readers:

Youtube link my trinom introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MwOgy6lsv0&list=FLsfs-w7uHkzmWqbXmgkA-JQ&index=5&t=10s

MEBA’s website for text introductions of all the volunteers this year:

All the videos of our volunteers in this year project: http://europe-bordeaux.eu/fr/accueil/nos-jeunes-ambassadeurs/saison-3/la-meba-en-images/

http://europe-bordeaux.eu/fr/accueil/notre-saison-europeenne/nos-emissions/   – our radio shows and under Radio Campus there is also my show: “Episode 10 – 19/01/18 : L’Europe se raconte en musique avec Marlen et Emeline qui nous parlent l’importance de la chanson en Estonie” or if easier, the link for only my show is here too:
Minutes 8:13-22:44 – the show is together 14 minutes about Estonia.

My “blog” is my monthly reports to my coordinator in Estonia: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jS4gIo3gW6FCnNBYhAS8LQX3qG1xTNY4-lVlQw3ihWU/edit?usp=sharing



This Project was financed by European Commission’s Erasmus + Programme