Arielle lives in Phuket, Thailand and went to Sigatoka, Fiji in January 2020 to complete a Teaching Volunteer Program as part of a gap year before starting university. She met other volunteers and got to explore the area and learn about Fijian culture and language through Culture Week, and then spent 6 and a half weeks teaching at a secondary school before she had to come home early due to the coronavirus. Read more about her experience in her own words here:
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP YOUR EXPERIENCE?
I loved every bit of it. I thought it was perfectly balanced between work and having time to go off and explore and hang out with friends I made. I loved the program coordinator, who was one of the ones staying at the house and went off to school with us. I didn’t really have any expectations going in but was completely blown away.
HOW WAS CULTURE WEEK?
I loved it; I thought it was so much fun. I was lucky and had a pretty big group doing it with me. Everything was beautiful and the experiences were so much better because of all the other volunteers with me. I really loved the waterfall but it was a bit far, so we never went back there. Maui Bay quickly became my favorite spot and it was like 20-30 minutes away so I would go on weekends. It was absolutely easy to get around on public transportation.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY AT YOUR PROJECT.
I was teaching grade 7. The teacher was the head teacher in charge – the principal, actually, so he was very busy. He had to go in and out of the classes all the time, so most days for a few weeks it was just me with the grade 7s. It was pretty fun; I liked it. I would communicate with the head teacher about where the kids were at, if certain kids needed special attention, and what was the plan. I’d communicate with him a lot and we’d work together each morning to make a plan for the day.
WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Me and the other volunteers would coordinate weekend trips to different resorts, hostels, day trips, and islands. All of the memories blend together; it was all very fun, I loved it all. I look back at the photos and remember the moments.
WHAT WAS SOMETHING THAT IMPACTED YOU IN FIJI?
While we were at the school, me and a couple other volunteers basically became the school nurses. We brought our first aid kit supplies and would bandage up the students. One girl had burns on her foot and on her hands, so we took care of them for her. One of my kids had sliced open his thumb while climbing over wire, so we made sure the thumb didn’t get infected and kept it clean. They just didn’t have any first aid supplies. We were planning to get all the volunteers to chip in and create a first aid kit box that last week, but I had to leave early [as COVID-19 travel restrictions went into place], so we didn’t get to. I was sad about that, but I plan to bring first aid supplies for the school when I go back to Fiji.
TIPS FOR FUTURE PARTICIPANTS?
Try to go in without any expectations. That’s a lot easier said than done. I’m an over-thinker and I would want to do research on a country or project before I went into it…I mean, do the basics, sure, but not enough to write an essay on it. Give yourself room to enjoy it for what it really is and not what you’ve made it out to be in your head. Because nothing is ever like it is in your head. So I decided no, I’m not going to do that anymore. Once I stopped having set expectations or pre-set notions of what everything was going to be like, everything became more real and raw and natural for me.
If you’d like to volunteer abroad like Arielle, visit our Volunteer Abroad page and apply! We’d love to work with you to arrange a meaningful, rewarding volunteer experience that matches your interests and goals, and takes you on the journey of a lifetime…
…Until it’s time for your adventure, enjoy Arielle’s beautiful photos of her time in Fiji!