Working with youth overseas has been my goal from the beginning of my university career. I started my degree with the intention of working with youth conflicted with the law, however over time my interests went in the direction of the global issues that youth face. What better an opportunity to gain experience and volunteer my time than to go to Ghana with YCI and work with youth?
Never having volunteered or worked in another country before, there are a few things I’ve learned that might help other volunteers prepare for their first trip overseas.
First, you never quite get used to the attention you will receive as foreigner in another country, however, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Although at times it may seem tiring to frequently be stopped it chat, most people just want to welcome you or see why you are there. No doubt it is tiring adapting to your new environment, but try to take advantage of these encounters. Getting the chance to talk to some of the local people and learning the language are things that will only enhance your experience.
Second, though this may be obvious, try to see and do as much as possible. This will allow you not only to get the most out of your stay but it is a nice break from the usual work activities. It’s important to rest and spend some time doing comfort things like watching movies and chatting with friends from home, but try not to keep yourself cooped up too much. Those who live in the area will be able to point you to the best spots for sightseeing, food, music, art and everything else you should see. So familiarize yourself with the area, try a local dish, and take advantage of the social aspects of your trip. These are all thing that will make your trip unforgettable.
Thirdly, try to approach all aspects of the trip with an open mind. Stress may be high at times, but this is expected when you’re living and working in a place you haven’t been before. The best way to deal with the stress is to go with the flow. Accepting that things may not always happen when or how you want them to will only help things runs smoothly when you’re accomplishing daily tasks.
Last but not least, enjoy your time and take it all in. Learn from the challenges and let yourself grow and change because of them. Safe travels!
– Marlee Jordan, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2013