Expectations exceeded on Caqalai base
The moment I walked out of Nadi airport, I felt like I was in a different world. Not because it felt like I was walking into a sauna, but because of the beautiful scenery radically different from any I have seen before and the warm welcome from the friendly and relaxed Fijians (not to mention being driven on the other side of the road). Before my departure, I did not have any expectations for what my experience as a volunteer in Fiji would be like. This is because I knew nothing about Fiji, marine biology research, or volunteering work in general. All I knew was that whatever experience was presented to me, I would embrace it with open arms and give my all to learn and enjoy as much as I possibly could. Little did I know how amazing this experience would actually be. Words cannot express how glad I am now that I came into it with an open mind.
Being a marine science expedition in which we survey the coral reef ecosystem around the wonderful island of Caqalai, one may confidently assume that the scuba diving aspect of the program is the most desirable. And although I do not disagree that the diving is excellent, especially when conducting surveys, I believe it is only one of many aspects of the program that offer meaningful experiences. In fact, I might even go so far to say that helping the local Fijians with various projects while simultaneously learning about their culture is a more rich experience than the still incredible diving. Teaching at the local school, helping villages with practicing more environmentally sustainable waste disposal methods, and planting cash crops such as sandalwood trees and cassava were all eye opening experiences.
Aside from the experiences the program has to offer, the people you meet and the friends you make are equally amazing. Living in close proximity to fellow volunteers and Fijians and working with them every day, it is inevitable that everybody gets to know each other very well. I have made many friends here who I have had incredible experiences with; I will never forget them. To conclude, I would strongly recommend this program to everyone, but I also would say that the experience is what you make of it. If you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone and devote yourself to new possibilities, it will yield unbelievable results. This is now my last day on Caqalai and I am very sad to be leaving, but at the same time I believe that I have become a much stronger and more understanding person. It is exciting to think of how this will benefit my life back in the United States. Many thanks to GVI, Caqalai, and my parents for realizing this profound opportunity.
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