A volunteer interview with Mira on her role as a school assistant at a boarding school in New Zealand.
How did you find the support you received before departure?
I found there to be continual support before my departure including aid with deadlines, applying for visas, and getting other documents all ready before my flight! I really liked that for the visa application, Lattitude had instructions that took you step by step through every part of it, which I found extremely helpful as visa applications are pretty intimidating. This made me feel more confident I hadn’t made any mistakes before I sent it off. I attended the briefing in-person which I again found really helpful, and liked that they had an alumni who went to New Zealand to talk to us in small groups and could directly tell us about their experience.
What was your role and placement like?
I would work half the time in Christchurch Girls’ High School and the other half of the time in the boarding house. My roles included administrative work in the office, aiding girls who needed assisted learning, as well as acting as a teacher’s aid in classrooms. In the boarding house we were to watch over and make sure the girls were safe, healthy, and happy. This included walking them to school, doing “rolls”, prep work, cleaning, lock ups, and, occasionally, office work.
What was the accommodation like at your placement?
The accommodation was very similar to what the older girls at the boarding house got, with there being one private room in the hallway among the seniors. And then one little suite, which contained two small bedrooms a shared bathroom, and a little seating area with a mini fridge and sink.
Do you feel you made a difference at your placement?
Possibly, I think staying longer than 6 months would have made more of an impact on the school and boarding house, as it took a few months just for the girls and staff as well as for us to get comfortable with the job and roles.
Can you tell us about the high point(s) of your placement?
The high points would be when the girls started to get comfortable with us, and would reach out for us for help, tell us funny stories, and ask you all sorts of questions about where we were from. It was nice building that sibling-mentor bond with them.
Can you tell us about the toughest part(s) of your placement?
The toughest part is that you’re not a high school student and don’t get treated like one. And you’re not a regular school staff member either and also don’t get treated like one. So I found in my placement it was difficult being in that in-between position and gaining the respect of others.
Did you experience match up with your expectations? How so, and how did it differ?
Yes, I would say my placement pretty much met my expectations. I found the boarding house culture something very new and different that I had never experienced before, so I was very unsure of what to expect. The boarding house was a lot stricter and regimen than I was expecting, but I learned to adapt.
What advice you would offer to future volunteers at your placement, and with Lattitude in general?
Definitely put yourself out there, do and join as much as you can, and meet as many people as you can, as you truly make the experience for yourself.