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Abbie McCallum - Former Bo'ness Academy Pupil

Experience of working abroad

  • 3 Weeks volunteering in Fiji during the summer of 2017.

Why did you decide to work abroad?

Realising I had a long summer break ahead; from May to September I decided I wanted to do something worthwhile and rewarding whilst I had the time off university. The opportunity came in a lecture at Strathclyde University where an enthusiastic student boasted about his experiences volunteering in an exotic country and I thought to myself I have to do this! After further research and meeting with reps from VESA- Volunteer Eco Schools abroad I decided this was the perfect project for me and with it lasting only 3 weeks I was able to keep my part time job at home yet still feeling fulfilled and satisfied that I had made something of my summer!

Was it difficult to apply to work abroad?

The application process was reasonably simple, it consisted of a form which inquired about personal details, qualities and skills and gave you a chance to state any previous experience volunteering along with your desire to work on this project. The organisation VESA run 4 programmes, one in South Africa, South East Asia, South America and the Fiji Islands. We were able to choose a preferred location and date and if we were successful VESA would accommodate our choice as much as possible. The Fiji Island project immediately jumped out at me and luckily I was accepted within a week or so of applying along with my closest friend at Uni, and that’s where our adventure to Fiji began!

What was the best part about working abroad?

Where do I start?! The experiences I gained and lessons I learned from volunteering abroad is something I will genuinely treasure forever and I believe these are things you cannot learn in a classroom or from any books.

My particular experience consisted of a week of living with a traditional Fijian family, living their lifestyle, eating their food and practicing their culture. During this week we refurbished the local school and playground and taught lessons daily to the school children. The family was so incredibly welcoming and treated us as one of their own, it really put everything  into perspective seeing how little they had yet how immensely happy they were. The final two weeks were spent on three different islands focusing on marine conservation, cleaning and building turtle habitats, cleaning sick and young turtles, beach clearing, removing poisonous starfish and coral planting. We even got a chance to do some fun stuff in amongst this- cave diving, snorkelling with manta rays and skydiving to name a few! The feeling you get from knowing you have made even the smallest difference to the  people in the village and the environment is the most amazing feeling and makes everything worthwhile (including the 24 hours on a plane to get there).  I have made friends for life up and down the country and I now know I will always have a second family in Fiji.

Top tips for pupils who decide to work abroad?

Put yourself out there! It might be out of our comfort zone but take the challenge and you will not regret it! Do your research; speak to someone who has been through a similar experience get some advice and I’m sure they will tell you to go for it too! Don’t be afraid to fundraise, flights etc can be expensive but people are very generous when they realise you are doing something for the greater good. I cannot recommend these types of experiences enough, I know for a fact memories of my trip will stay with me forever.