Our next Student Leader post comes from Lucy Allcock who volunteered in India in 2012 and is returning with a team of six volunteers this summer, check out her advice below!
I’m Lucy Allcock, just finished my second year at Edgehill University studying Drama and Creative Writing. Last summer, I went to Kerala, Southern India with VESL, teaching English in a school for 6 weeks, it was an absolutely amazing and rewarding experience, to see my teaching skills and the spoken English of the students develop, was invaluable and something that will stick with me forever; which is why I dived at the opportunity to go back again as Student Leader, taking 6 volunteers back to Kerela to continue the work, myself and many other VESL volunteers have started.
VESL is an outstanding charity that offers incredible experiences to many volunteers, which helps to support and develop many overseas schools and students with their spoken English. VESL continues to grow, volunteer wise and in country with the number of schools volunteers visit increasing- that’s why I chose VESL!
What is the one thing you wouldn’t go overseas without?
There are so many things that I would suggest not going overseas without, but one main thing I’m glad I had with me last summer was a torch! The amount of power cuts that we had when we were there was horrendous and believe me trying to plan lessons in the dark is not fun! So my wind up torch came in handy! This year however I’m going to take a head torch as it will keep all my hands free when writing and putting stickers on my ‘Student of the Week’ certificates!
What is the one thing you would advise volunteers not to pack?
A definite no, no is any white clothing! From t-shirts to underwear just don’t take it, especially not if it’s new! Because you have to wash your clothes yourself with a bucket of water and a bar of soap, I’m sure you can imagine it is hard to keep things looking clean, although the locals appear to do alright at it! Last year I ruined several bra’s and t-shirts through my lack of expertise in the washing department so I’d steer clear of whites if I was you!
What was your most memorable moment last year?
Gosh! It is so hard to choose my best experience or most memorable moment from last year because there were so many. I think one that stands out the most was the farewell assembly at school. Some of the students and staff gave speeches to thank us for our help and it was overwhelming to feel that appreciated for something that I had done and been a part of! It was a real emotional moment and I got a true sense of reward.
What did you find the hardest part of the trip?
The hardest part of the trip for me personally was the first day moving into my host family’s house, I was so overwhelmed with the culture and the food and got a little home sick. But this feeling didn’t last long; I soon easily fit into the family and their way of life, indulging in the culture by wearing the traditional dress. I became extremely close to my host family and what I was most nervous about became a real significant and one of the best parts of the trip.
If you could give one piece of advice what would it be?
The one piece of advice I would give to future volunteers would be to fill your time with extra-curricular in and out of school time. Be creative, use initiative and the support around you and start new clubs and groups. Don’t let an evening go wasted, power through the tiredness, travel to other volunteers villages help them with a club or tutor group, make the most of your time and go above and beyond what you thinks expected, you’re only there for six weeks!
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m most looking forward to this year seeing the volunteers on my team go through everything I went through and go through those experiences with them, from the first time they teach, to the first time they use an Indian toilet. From the first time they get on a train or tuk – tuk, to the first time they wash their own clothes! Taking me back to the first time I did all those things and seeing how familiar it is to me now!
What was your favourite food?
My favourite food on the trip was fried fish, it was absolutely delicious! My host mother had to make more because I ate that much of it, because I ate my meal first by the time my host father came to eat there would be non-left! A definite must try!
Do you have any travelling tips for weekends?
Travelling trips for the weekend would be, definitely go a train while you’re there that in itself is an experience, exactly like you see in the films! I’d also recommended getting a lonely planet guide as they are really useful when finding places to stay, especially if you are just going to turn up at the destination without booking, handy when trying to find cheap accommodation and finding your way around!
100% go to Kanya Kumari, the tip of India, it is an extremely sacred place as you can see where the Tsunami hit and exactly how high it came, also the sun rise and sun set are incredible! Only managed to see the sun set last year, too lazy to get up for sun rise, but I’ll definitely be doing it this year!
Is there anything you’d wish you’d known last year before you went overseas?
The only thing I wish I would have known before going to India last year was how easy it was to use ATM’s. I ended up taking a lot of cash over with me, when it would have probably have been safer and easier to use the ATM.
I hope my blog may have helped a little into the insight of being overseas and a few tips before you go! Enjoy!