One usual evening during the beginning of 2018, I was relaxing at home, scrolling through Facebook as I normally do before I get ready for bed. When an advertisement showed up on my screen for the Women’s World Cup. It said something about volunteering for FIFA before it’s too late. As a huge football fan, I clicked on it, and applied.
I had no idea you could volunteer for these events, so I gave it a shot. Fast forward to July of 2019, I just completed my six weeks of volunteering in Nice, France for the Coupe de Monde (World Cup in French). It was such a unique experience, so I wanted to share everything I went through.
Logistics of Being Accepted
So my timeline for applying for volunteering for FIFA went a little like this: I submitted my application in the winter or spring of 2018, was asked for an interview around July, then was accepted as a volunteer around January or February of 2019. During the interview, I was asked which area I’d like to work, and with not a lot of knowledge, I let the organization place me. I ended up on the accreditation team.
My background included an internship in sports marketing, a degree in Business Administration & Marketing, and lots of soccer culture experience including playing for 10 years and refereeing for five years. The requirements on the website stated you had to be over 18 years old, available to work on all match days, and motivated to participate in the event. I was able to meet all of this, so my application was accepted.
There was also a language requirement to speak the language of the host country, which was French. I took four years of French in high school, so I had a foundation of the language, so I noted that I was intermediate on my application.
I was accepted for an interview! Confident in my abilities, the only concern I had was with the language requirement. I hired a tutor for the three months I had left to prepare for the interview. The contact I had to set up my interview had told me that the interview would be in French, so the studying began.
Once the interview came, I just was not at the level to communicate effectively in French. Luckily, the interviewer said that they will need English speakers to help with the international attendees that can’t speak French, and I was accepted for the accreditation team.
Placement in France
There were nine different cities in France to choose from, spread all throughout the country. I had explored the north of France in the past, so I limited my choice to southern cities. Plus, the south of France is supposed to be stunning. I chose Nice as my first pick, and that’s exactly where I was placed. (I’m now so happy this is where I was, it was spectacular).
Getting to France
Now that I was approved for volunteering for FIFA, all I had was a city and a date to be there by. As an American, I can stay in France for 90 days on a tourist Visa. The tournament was only six weeks, so I decided to just enter on my tourist Visa. In an email, I was told to be there my May 27 for my first day of training, and I would stay until the completion of the tournament on July 7th.
Searching for AirBnb, hostels, and hotels in Nice showed to be incredibly expensive. I had no idea Nice was a popular summer destination, so I was a bit worried. I ended up joining a Facebook group for expats in Nice, and met someone with an empty studio that gave me a good deal. I’m so thankful for this, I was not ready to blow down thousands on a six week hotel in Nice. With my date set, studio ready, and plane ticket purchased, I was ready to go to Nice.
The Volunteer Experience
The entire program had about 2,500 people volunteering for FIFA in France, and 350 of them were in Nice. Everyone was assigned to a specific team to work with. The teams varied from logistics, transportation, marketing, media, spectator services, ticketing, match organization, and much more. Accreditation was the specific team I was assigned to.
My first day of training was a very eye opening experience. I took a long ride that consisted of two buses and an unexpected twenty minute walk. Somehow, I made it on time. I walked in and was greeted by everyone speaking French – and a lot of them didn’t speak English.
Living in Vietnam, I’m used to being in an environment where people can’t speak English, so that was no problem. That is, until the training presentation began. It was all in French. EEEK! I couldn’t understand the directions and expectations for the tournament. I hadn’t spoken really more than “bonjour!” to anyone and it was super intimidating.
By the end of it, a German woman came up to me and told me that she can speak English well, so I could go to her for any questions. Yay! Finally, I had someone I could talk to. By the end of the day, I had met a few more people that could speak English, and they eventually became my favorite group of people.
The Work Day
My regular volunteering for the FIFA work day consisted of making accreditations for people. These are the badges that people wear to access the stadium. Every volunteer, vendor, manager, and player needed one to access the stadium, so we were pretty busy in the beginning.
My normal shift was about eight to ten hours in a day with a free lunch included. My team had about thirty volunteers from all over, so it was a fun group to be a part of. I had volunteers from France, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, and Romania. One of them was even an ex-player for the Women’s France National Football team, how cool is that?!
Once the games started, most people already had their accreditation badges, so our responsibilities grew less and less. For the match days, we were all required to work. Spectator services recruited me for some extra help.
This involved helping fans with any information they needed. I helped them find their seats, find the bathrooms, showed them were to buy merchandise, and even got to peak at the games a bit while doing so. I’d say I was able to watch about half of each game uninterrupted, which is pretty awesome. The work wasn’t difficult. It was such a fun experience to be surrounded by soccer all the time. I was in Heaven.
Spending My Days Off
Days off typically involved lots of coffee, wine, and a train ride somewhere. I was able to explore so many places in the Cote d’Azur. Scanning the cost line, I went as far east as Marseille and as far west as Genoa, hitting Cannes, Antibes, Canges Sur Mer, Carros, Villefranche, Monaco, and Ventimiglia in between. It felt like a vacation every day in all honesty.
The Big Finish
A volunteer party in the stadium followed the last match for all of the volunteers. It was so much fun. We had food, an open bar, gifts for all the volunteers, circus performers, and a dance floor to boogy on. I felt like they really cared about us volunteers, and it was nice to feel special for a night and finally get to play with everyone.
Take-Aways from the Volunteer Experience
These six weeks in France were six weeks I will probably remember forever. Between my experiences, the people I met, and the places I saw, it was a fantastic time that I’m happy I got to experience.
The people I met are my favorite experience of volunteering for FIFA. Being in a new country is always great, but having this network of 350 people at my fingertips was what made it the best. Some of the relationships that blossomed during this trip will stay forever. I have a best friend in Lebanon, I got to ride the mountains of France on the back of a local’s motorcycle, I sipped Rosé with a University student from Romania, and got to chat soccer with a goalie for a University in Nova Scotia.
Mountains and an ocean surround the city of Nice, so this enabled a stunning geographic region for exploration. A sunny day at the beach was a 30 minute walk from my studio. The Nice hilltops were a 40 minute bus ride. France’s neighbor, Italy, was also just an hour long train ride away. I saw so much of this pretty area.
Food, food, FOOD! The food in Nice was delicious. Living in Vietnam, I was definitely happy to be able to splurge on all the Italian pizza and French pastries. So much yum.
The feeling of independence is my last favorite. It was freaking amazing to pack up and spend almost two months in a place where I had never traveled to before and knew no one. It made me feel like I could conquer the world. I came with no knowledge and just curiosity, and left with a place that felt like home and some amazing memories.
Of course, my time volunteering for FIFA wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There were a few times that were difficult. One of them was combating the loneliness. Being in a private studio, I wasn’t surrounded by other travelers and people my age like in a hostel or hotel. When I first arrived, and the high of being in France wore off (this happened on day four by myself), I started wishing I had my friends here with me. This was all fixed once I began working and meeting people, so having the volunteer network with me really helped.
The big one on this list is finances. With no way of making an income, I had saved up a bit while working in Vietnam, and that was all I had to live off of. Every dollar I spent wouldn’t be made back until I went back to work six weeks later, so it as kind of stressful to have to live off an allocated amount of money for six weeks, but luckily, I was prepared and made it until the end. But this would be a different ending if I hadn’t of saved prior to my trip.
Witnessing the 2019 FIFA World Cup Champions
As a proud American, I was rooting for the US of A the entire tournament. I was so sad they didn’t have any matches in Nice, so I wasn’t able to watch their group stage games. But I sure did watch every single game on tv. There was a good group of Americans at the bars in Nice, so it was still a good game-watching environment.
With lots of hope that the US would make it to the final match, I bought tickets. And with the help of my cheering and praying, they made it! And then they won! THEY WERE THE CHAMPIONS. Witnessing my country win the world cup was so bomb. Like WHOOOOOAAAAAIIIIIIII! What a day, and the perfect way to close my experience in France.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about my volunteering for FIFA or about the South France region! Happy travels!