New Zealand and back again: Emily’s volunteer journey

Posted on the 2nd February 2017

Why did you choose Lattitude?

I came across Lattitude whilst doing a business assignment for college and I fell in love. They had endless options and previous experiences were all positive so I didn’t feel the need to search around.

What were you most looking forward to about your placement?

The main thing was meeting other people from across the world who liked the same things as me and going to a country I had always dreamed about going to.

How did you raise the money for your placement?

I was working, training for rowing and in education right up until the day I left so finding some time was hard. However, I did a few things such as sell Christmas hampers and a coast to coast cycle which raised more than I hoped for which was pretty awesome.

How did you feel on the day of departure?

My departure day came around a month sooner than it was supposed to because my placement had asked me to go earlier which was very exciting! I had lots of things to do so it didn’t really register until I got to the airport. It was my first time flying longer than an hour (33 hours was a huge difference!) and I was on my own because nobody else was going out early so I was nervous and it was sad to leave my family but I knew I had good times ahead which helped.

emily's gap year in new zealand

How did the culture of New Zealand differ from life in the UK?

New Zealand and English Culture is different to an extent but not as different as I had thought. The Maori side of New Zealand was a sight, beautiful to say the least. It’s hard to explain but they do a lot of singing in Maori, which I found a beautiful language and great fun to learn. They also do different dances for each pride. We have nothing like that over in the UK so it was quite strange and I found it hard to keep myself from laughing with some things they would say or the ways things were pronounced. British humour (or maybe just mine) is very very different. However, the ‘English’ side of New Zealand is just that, very English. One thing I found pretty cool was they seemed to always have ‘morning tea’ and ‘afternoon tea’ which for us is like a snack but they went full out getting scones, biscuits, fruit, cake and you took what you wanted. Pretty awesome!

What did a typical day involve?

My typical day was to wake up at around half 6 every morning and grab a shower because you tend to find in the evening you are just way too tired to do anything. I would then go up to the kitchen and help set up breakfast for the children and serve as they came down – greeting them, seeing how they slept, all the friendly stuff! Once breakfast was done it was time to set up the first activities. We usually all helped each other with this as some activities were harder to set up than others. I also then had to take a group of children (which changed daily) around the farm to see and help feed the animals. This was definitely the favourite part of my day as most of the children that came through had never been that close with animals such as pigs and cows. We would then get on with the activities! The children did 3/4 activities a day and you would normally stay on one activity for the day. Lunch was always somewhere in there but it changed depending on the group etc. After the activities were finished the children then had time slots to get showers and play outside which they always loved. The instructors got involved in this sometimes bringing a group together and playing a card game or teaching children tricks on the trampolines. We had a games room which had a pool table and table tennis which A LOT of the children loved. Then it was dinner and evening activities time! This lasted until around 9.30 pm and then the children had to go to bed and we had to make sure they were quiet and lights out were at 10pm. This never seemed to happen though as let’s face it, it was a room of about 20 girls or 20 boys… Are they really going to sleep straight away!? This is a whole day by the way and we didn’t do the whole thing! We did this as an 8 hour shift or split shift, so you got time to yourself as well.

What was the most important thing you learned during your time away?

For me the most important thing I learnt was that everyone deserves to be treated like family whether you know them or not because at the end of the day love is what is needed and feeling welcomed when you aren’t in a place you know is one of the best feelings.

What would you say to someone considering a placement with Lattitude, who hasn’t yet made the decision to go?

Go for it. I would honestly say whether you are 85% or 50% decided just take that leap and go. You will either love it or hate it and let’s be honest you are most likely going to love it. It isn’t fun sitting there saying ‘I nearly did’ or ‘I wanted to but’. Sit there and say ‘I did’, it feels so good afterwards because you find out who you really are.

What are your plans on returning from your placement?  How will you use your placement experience?

My plans now are to get into a job doing personal training where I am working with people who want to better themselves in any way. My placement experience has come in useful for this because I have learnt to be nice to everyone, not that I wasn’t before, but you don’t know someone’s situation and all you can do is get to know them how they want you to see them and not listen to other people and the remarks people give.

Would you recommend Lattitude?

100% yes! Every single person who works with them, whether it is direct or not, has helped me and they are all so lovely! If a meaningful gap year is what you want and you want a little help in doing something fun as well, you have found the place!

Apply now to volunteer in NZ like Emily!

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