Shushanik Zargaryan, a volunteer from Armenia, participates in European Voluntary Service (EVS) project called Volunteering in the library in the North Bohemian Research Library in Ustí nad Labem. You can meet her up to June in different lending departments of the library, during her presentations about Armenia or in English Club. What she likes on her project, in a new city and country? What it is difficult for her? And what she learnt? Answers not only to these questions you can find in our interview.
1. Shushanik, I know you studied Economy at university. Why did you decided to go to EVS project that takes place in a library? Do you have any previous experience with working/volunteering in a library or what was your motivation to try this project?
I have no previous experience with working in a library, I was only a reader. But library is for me a mysterious place where you can find everything you need to know. So it was one reason why I decided to try EVS in library. The second was that I will have a possibility to read a lot – I like reading and want to continue with this my hobby also during the EVS project. In Armenia everything is linked – you finish secondary school, go to university and after university studies you must find a job… EVS project was something new, something that was not part of this „stereotype“. And according me it was better choice than find a job after my university degree.
2. And how did you know about our project?
I learnt about EVS projects after I had participated in youth exchange in Italy. After this short experience being abroad I knew that I want to go abroad for longer time. Before this I didn’t know anything about EVS, and at first, when I heard about it I couldn’t believe that I can have a chance. It was something new for me so I had a lot of questions and worries, but I took a risk and tried. I was maybe lucky because when I decided to find some EVS project there were not many of them. And Tigranuhi, coordinator in NGO I cooperated with, told me about the project in library in the Czech Republic.
3. Do you think you can use something from your studies also during your project?
I think I can, but it is more about daily life – economics you use every day – for example I have received pocket money and food allowances monthly and I must have known how to manage them. Normally I am a person who is used to spend a lot, but here I know that I have only limited amount of money and too much plans for traveling, so I need to manage my costs in a right way. Also I use time management. I tried to plan things and what to do in my free time. In library I do not use it so much, but the project is planned and its activities too, so is good for me. On the other hand I think that I can use a lot of things I learn during the project – e.g. presentation skills, speaking in public, cooperate with people and I also improve my English.
4. I know you like Math and with Math is connected logical thinking. Do you think you use it during the project too?
Logic thinking is always with me, it is a part of my daily life.
5. During the project you also took part in English Club and you help to organize it. Was it difficult for you to jump to these meetings and cooperate also with people who are much more older that you? What about the beginnings and did it change somehow?
First days were hard – my English was not perfect, it was hard for me to understand the others and also to transfer my thinking and whole life to English. Now it is better – I improve my English, I am using it every day, and I learn to think in English.
Also at the beginning me and Elvira, the second EVS volunteer, we were new there and maybe we looked like strangers to the others. But during the time we have been getting to know each other more and becoming like friends, so it is better now.
About older people – of course there are some differences in way of thinking, but you can learn from them a lot.
6. You are in the middle of your project. If you can evaluate it a bit, how is your project going on – what you like?
I do things I like and want to do – improving my English, I can feel it, I have start to learn new foreign language – Czech – I have a possibility to let people know about my country (note: Shushanik has in library presentations about Armenia for public) and I make some new friends.
7. Do you see also some negative things or something you would like to change?
Not really negative. Only I want to have more time for travelling and more time for meeting with friends. I have a lot of plans for Spring and Summer connected with travelling. I know I will return to Europe after my EVS project to travel there again, but I want to manage everything now.
8. You can take part in long term EVS only once a life, do you think it is a pity?
Yes, it is a pity. But I will look for other projects connected with education or internship, this time also connected with my economical studies.
9. You mentioned presentations about your home country, Armenia. Four presentations are over, one or two are in front of you. Is it difficult for you to present your country to people in Usti nad Labem?
The only difficulty is the language – English. It is my limitation, because I would like to share more with the others, but it is hard to explain or express it in English for me. And also every time I prepare the presentation about my home country I miss it.
10. Do you have any previous experience with presentations in a public?
Not really. Only when I defended my diploma work I spoke in public, but it was in my native language. So these presentations are great opportunity for me that I can use also in my future life. Now I know that I can do it also in foreign language and also that nobody can recognize on me that at the beginning I am nervous, that is good.
11. Do you think that Czech Republic and people here have something common with Armenia and Armenians?
According me Armenia and Czech Republic are different and people too. But maybe it is because in Armenia I have family, my relatives and friends. Here I did not know anybody at the beginning. But now I know some people also here and some of them became my new family – I like them and I can feel they like me. But anyway, the country where you was born, always will be in your heart.
12. And what about some characteristics connected with Armenians and Czechs?
Generally I do not like stereotypes connected with countries and especially with their inhabitants. Characteristics are connected with people, with each person, not with nationalities.
13. Did you meet here some interesting people or did you make some friends?
I met new people from Romania and one boy from Hungary who lives here in Usti. Also I have Elvira (note: the second EVS volunteer), Katka and Petra (note: mentors in EVS project) and also I have my Russian class. I like that I can ask them for a help if I need to know something. And also I have you, my coordinator.
Zuzana: Thank you.
14. I know you live in capital city Yerevan. What was it like for you to come to Usti nad Labem, that is smaller and not so lively, and live here? Did you miss something or is there something you like?
At home in Yerevan I could meet friend every day, going with them to café, visiting cinema or theatre or restaurants. Here I meet friends only sometimes, in theatre I was only once, thanks to Ludmila from my Russian class. But I have a lot of possibilities to visit other cities that is nice.
Also in Yerevan I was used to go for a walk with friends in late evening, but here it is not possible in Usti, and it’s a little bit strange for me when it seems that sometimes people are afraid to be out at late hours.
15. You said that it is the first time you are for so long time from home? What is it like for you?
Yes, it is. Before EVS project I have been only for 10 days to Italy for youth exchange. My travels to Georgia were always with my family. I spend some holidays also alone, but it was in Armenia. But I like to be abroad from the beginning. It was my dream. I have time for personal growing, time to be alone.
16. Now a bit different kind of question. I know that you are addicted to chocolate. Do you have any favourite chocolate or sweet that you discover here in the Czech Republic?
Nothing really new, but I still love nutella – it is my favourite. Maybe I found some new types of Milka. And yes, I tried Studentská pečeť. I got one as a birthday’s present.
17. And what about Czech cuisine in general. Did you try some food? And how you liked it?
I like everything – dumplings, goulash, svíčková. And I like that portion for one person are so big.
18. Your project ends in June. Do you have any plans for the future, when you come back to Armenia.
I think about two ways. First one – find a job and stay in Armenia. Second one, that I prefer – find a good scholarship and go to study abroad. I would like to try studies in Germany. I like this country from my studies.
19. Did you try to find some EVS project in Germany?
No, because for EVS it was more important the project than the country.
20. Is it easy to find a job in Armenia, I mean job in a branch you studied or you want to work in?
If you are well educated, you can speak foreign languages and you can present yourself self-confidently and show the potential it is easier. But you have to try.
Of course there are some branches, like history or Art, in which it is really difficult to find a job. On the other hand if you want to be a teacher, it is easy. It is not really well paied job, but as a teacher you can give some private classes.
21. And my last question – we are in library – can you compare University Library in Yerevan you visited during your studies and North Bohemian Research Library in Usti nad Labem?
In Armenia we have different systems in libraries – some of them are a bit outdated, some of them are new – it depend from library to library. In Armenian libraries we also have online catalogues, but in each library there is also the old one with cards. I usually use internet, but I like to search in old system of card files, it has its magic.
Shushanik, thank you for the interview and for your smile and good mood.
Thank you too. I try to be positive, especially to people I like here like people from my Russian class.
Interviewer: Zuzana Čermáková
Answers: Shushanik Zargaryan
More information about European Voluntary Service you can find on web page of Erasmus+ programme (http://www.naerasmusplus.cz/cz/mobilita-osob-mladez/evropska-dobrovolna-sluzba/)