I left university with a 2:1 in Philosophy and Classical Studies and very quickly discovered that it’s not always enough to just have a degree. Practical experience counts for so much and as any graduate will tell you it is a vicious circle trying to gain that experience in a working environment that demands experience before it will give you any. I spent 6 months unsuccessfully applying for any number of jobs before I decided to travel again. My parents both volunteered in Africa and at the age of 23 my sister spent 2 months in Uganda and then travelled down to Tanzania. I think you could say it was an obvious decision for me to travel to Africa and to do some volunteering. What I don’t think would have been obvious to anyone was the affect this decision would have on the direction my life has taken or the places it has taken me. 2 weeks in Namibia with GVI followed by 3 weeks in a game reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa confirmed that I had made a good decision, but it wasn’t until I got to Cape Town that I stumbled into what I have been doing ever since. My first thoughts when applying were to give myself a broad spectrum of volunteering projects so I could take a variety of new experiences home. With that in mind I was ending my trip with the community based programs in Cape Town after trying out some construction and wildlife programs. I loved all of them but ultimately it was the community work that really hit the spot for me. I’ve always liked helping people and although I never expected to be a teacher I have enjoyed working with kids. After 6 weeks on teaching and childcare programs in Cape Town I was offered a position as Sports Coordinator. It was a big decision for me to come back to Africa but 3 years on I can honestly say it was one of the best I’ve made. From there it has been one big learning curve taking me through volunteer projects all over GVI Cape Town and now to GVI Costa Rica where I am currently based. The experience I have picked up since my first GVI program has not only been amazing in terms of the locations I have visited and the things I have seen but it has made a big change to the way I see things and the skills I have to offer an employer. I have a completely altered understanding of things like communication, time management, people management and of course community development. I’ve also done a lot of the one thing I never intended to do – teaching – and it turns out that is useful in a lot of fields and not just with kids. To anyone considering this as an opportunity to come and help I would warn you, there is no way you can do something like this and not come out learning something about yourself, about the way you think and the way you work, and learning something and the world as well. Someone recently asked me what my most memorable travel experience was. My answer was the 3 months I spent in Southern Africa before signing up for the position in Cape Town. Why? I’m still on that trip and still learning from it.