I was in my second year of college and I really just wasn't happy where I was going. I just really needed something that got me excited and that I could look forward to, and this was exactly it.
Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ’s kindergarten project?
I chose kindergarten because I have worked with kids before and I really liked it, so thought it would be a good fit. I'm not really sure why I honestly chose Fiji, it's just kind of sounded nice. Once I started to research it and heard other people's experience, I knew it was the perfect place for me.
What was your favorite part about Fiji?
The culture is amazing and the people are the most welcoming group of people I have ever met. It was completely different from at home, so it was amazing to explore and get to know the country.
What made your experience abroad unique?
We were located about 15 minutes from Suva, which is Fiji's capital, so we were by the touristy stuff. It was amazing to be in the real Fiji and experience the real culture, and not just beaches and resorts that are designed for tourists.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
I can't begin to describe how much I love the in country team. I will tell you I cried so hard when I had to leave and say goodbye to them. Anything you need help with they will drop what they're doing and help you. Whether you need a copy of something or you to go to the pharmacy or the doctor, they will do it. I was sick quite a lot in Fiji, and they were always making sure that I was OK and asking if I needed anything. They are seriously amazing!
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would've stayed longer than two months.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
Everyone pretty much woke up around 7:30 a.m. and had breakfast. After we finished eating you could do last minute lesson plans or just chill out. Around 8:45 a.m. we headed to our placement, and then we usually get back around 11:45 a.m., but it depends on what school you're at.
Then we’d have lunch, and after lunch you could do lesson planning or just chill out some more. In the afternoon you sometimes have the option to go to construction or to the orphanage, which I highly recommend.
At 5:30 p.m. we had dinner time, and after that is when people kind of hang out and talk. Thursdays is when we did our goodbye ceremony for the people that are leaving, so dinner that night is extra special. We had movie nights a lot and Wednesday nights were our night to go out.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoyed talking to the other volunteers and getting to know what it's like in their country. I also loved hanging out with the coordinators, talking with him more, going into town, and doing stuff with them.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
The accommodation was very nice. You really don't need much; we all had a good bed and a nice living room to relax in, so we are all happy.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Fiji?
Pack light! It's easy to do some laundry in a bowl or the sink, so also pack very lightweight clothes. Some days were horribly hot, and wearing a heavy shirt and sarong when I was teaching didn't help. Try and keep in mind that you don't need to look luxurious all the time, so keep your hair dryers, straighteners, huge makeup bags, and lots of things that really aren't a necessity at home.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
You'll sweat a lot! Be prepared just to dive headfirst into their amazing culture, and know that they're just such welcoming people. If you ever need anything, somebody will be there to help you. The schools and the kids are amazing; you’ll start to love them so fast, and it will be so hard to say goodbye.
What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?
I think the hardest part about volunteering abroad for me was just doing it. I've done lots of volunteering, but never abroad. It was so exciting, but terrifying, to fly over 7,000 miles away from everything that I knew.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
The accent was something to get used to, but overall it was pretty easy to communicate with them. Even my kindergarteners knew pretty good English. It was also pretty easy to learn some basic Fijian words to help you get around or stay in control in the classroom.
What surprised you most about Fiji?
What surprised me most was just how welcoming the Fijian people are. Immediately they welcome you in and tell you how much they appreciate what you're doing there.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?
The biggest benefit is just how much you grow as a person. For me, when I was there I realized just how much I love teaching and not only decided on what college I was going to be transferring to once I get back, but I decided on majoring in early childhood education! It's kind of like you have to experience it to really understand, but it just opens your eyes up to the world.
Everyday I was learning something new and it was amazing. Traveling abroad is something everyone needs to do at least once in their lifetime.
Now that you're home, how has your time in Fiji impacted your life?
It helped me finally decide on a major! It's really hard to describe, but being with those amazing kids and the awesome volunteers, you see that you're from all over the world; but, you are all so similar and you can talk about all kinds of things. It really broadens your view of the world.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Fiji?
One thing I wished I knew was just how much it would change my life. It's an experience like no other and it's just absolutely amazing. Also, I should have prepared myself better for just how hot it is there some weeks!
Would you recommend IVHQ to others? Why?
110 percent! IVHQ is very affordable and they are willing to answer any questions you could have at any time (and I had a lot).
If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?
If I could volunteer again I would either go to Peru, Thailand, or right back to Fiji!
Fiji was Brogan’s first international travel experience. Prior to joining International Volunteer HQ’s kindergarten project in Fiji, Brogan had worked with children in an elementary school in the United States.