"Overwhelmed with an amazing sense of community and support"

A volunteer interview with Alison as she looks back at her Gap Year and her role as a Teacher’s Assistant and Boarding House Supervisor in Australia, about 5 years ago.

How did you find the support you received before departure?

I really enjoyed hearing from a range of volunteers personal experience and the pre-departure meeting. I attended in person. I would have liked to have had more opportunity to mingle with the volunteers going to the same country.

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How was the in-country orientation?

Really great, along with the orientation, we got to mingle with volunteers and explore the city our orientation was in as well. I think that helped me feel more comfortable because I got to create a network of people going through the same experience together.

On arrival at your placement, did your host/mentor give you an induction or training?

Yes, we met with our advisor the day I arrived and did a orientation to our role. Our mentor additionally took us to her favourite beach-side restaurant to introduce us to the city.

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What was the accommodation like at your placement?

I shared a 2 bedroom flat with 2 other Gap Year students. We had a kitchen and laundry. We also received meals from the boarding house dining hall three times a day and plus snacks.

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Do you feel you made a difference at your placement?

Yes, My favourite part of working at the school was working at the art department. I helped in classrooms and prepped projects prior to the class but I also got to work on a special project by taking underwater photos for a mural in the school. 

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Can you tell us about the high point(s) of your placement?

  • I loved working with and teaching kids about things such as art, math, and French. I learned that although I loved this it was not the career path I wanted to take. This really helped me narrow down what I wanted to study in university.  

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  • I really enjoyed my time with the other Gap Year students I worked with and met from other schools. I got to learn so much about where they are from and it really broadened my perspective on life. I continue to maintain friendships and travel with these people today.

  • I have so many unforgettable experiences from traveling through Australia and Bali during the time I had off at my placement. I traveled with other Gap Year students that I met in Australia.

Can you tell us about the toughest part(s) of your placement?

The boarding house I worked at had girls that were very close in age to me.  Sometimes I found it hard to be an authority figure to a few of the girls who were aware of my age.

Did you experience match up with your expectations?

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It exceeded my expectations. I expected the highlight of my trip would be the work that I did but what was really the highlight were the people that I met and worked with (other Gap Year students, locals, boarding house girls, supervisors, and coworkers). I was overwhelmed with an amazing sense of community and support by many of the individuals I met. I feel so lucky to have learned about everyone’s stories and background from the places they are from. 

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I have always been a very driven person that tends to focus on my job, my goals or tasks and sometimes I forget to enjoy the moment.

I really found this opportunity allowed me to seek a balance in life, to relish the moment as well as the people around me.

My gap experience is a constant reminder of the amazing things you can do when you embrace every opportunity without fear or self-doubt.