It’s been about 6 months since I finished my 6 week volunteer placement in Arusha, Tanzania and every day I think about my experience. My time in Arusha was fantastic and definitely changed my life. I challenged myself to try something completely new, I made friends in a foreign country and I changed as a person. I experienced so many things that I am still processing the events of my placement.
Throughout the six weeks I experienced culture shock and homesickness and by the end of the placement I was excited to return home. I missed my friends and my family and all the modern conveniences that come with living in Canada. I packed up my souvenirs and all the gear I was returning home with, I said many goodbyes, and throughout all of that I was still more excited to go home.
It wasn’t until I was in the airport in Dar es Salaam that it really hit me. I was leaving Tanzania, and I was going to really miss it.
Getting home was great, I was surrounded by family and friends, could have hot showers whenever I wanted and had reliable electricity ALL day. It was difficult at first to adapt. I had so many stories to tell and wanted to spend all of my time talking about Arusha, but my friends and family also had summers of their own with many stories that they also wanted to share. For a couple of weeks I went through a small disconnect (reverse culture shock), and felt like I didn’t fit in any more at home.
Over the last 6 months, I told all of the important stories with all of the important people in my life, I sorted my photo albums and I reflected on what that experience meant to me and how I will use it in my life. It was a long and slow process, and even now I still find myself randomly remembering the minute details of the trip.
This past weekend, I met up with the three other volunteers who I spent my summer with in Arusha. We spent 6 weeks with each other, and after returning home our lives caught up with us and while we kept in touch we spoke a lot less frequently. That mini reunion was fantastic. Almost immediately we fell right back into step and refreshed each other’s memories about Arusha.
I know that I will continue to reflect on Arusha, share my experience and plan my return trip. Spending a summer in Arusha was a fantastic experience that allowed for a lot of personal growth and will continue to impact my life for a long time to come.
-Matt Leslie, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011
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