Emma Jones - 2011 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad? 

I wanted to experience more of the world, and to travel to somewhere very different to my home country to see different environments, learn about different cultures, and witness how other people live.

Woman by a lake in Tibet
On the banks of a lake in Tibet

Why did you choose Oyster Worldwide’s program in Nepal?

I chose to volunteer as an English teacher in Nepal, because I wanted to experience life in a poorer country and to hopefully contribute to a worthwhile project. I was also fascinated by the Himalayan Mountains and wanted to witness them for myself. I chose Oyster Worldwide because I liked the very personal approach of the organisation; they took the time to meet me in their offices, talk to me in detail about the programme, and reassure me about any concerns that I had. They clearly take care over choosing the projects that are going to be the most beneficial to the local community and supportive to the volunteer, so I completely trusted that I would be in safe hands with them when going abroad.

What was your favorite part about Nepal?

The friendly and welcoming nature of the people, and the beautiful architecture of the many religious and cultural monuments found all over.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Staying with an incredibly friendly local family who welcomed me into their home and treated me like their own daughter. This complete immersion in the Nepalese culture made my experience of the country very different to that of a tourist just passing through.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Basant, Oyster's in-country representative, met us every week to make sure we were all okay and getting on well in our schools and with our host families. When I was ill, Basant organised for me to talk to an English-speaking doctor who was able to diagnose my symptoms and prescribe the correct antibiotics. Basant gave us an initial orientation in Kathmandu, picked us up from the airport, and drove us to our host families. He also took us out for a welcome and leaving meal.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I can't think of anything! I really enjoyed my trip and can't think of anything I would have changed.

Group of trekkers in Nepal
Oyster 2011 group on trek in Nepal

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Wake up at about 7:15 a.m. and go into the kitchen to have a cup of tea with my host mother. Sit with her and help while she prepared the morning meal. During this time, she started to teach me Nepali songs and other fragments of the language. Then I would eat a main meal of rice, lentils, and curry at about 8.30 a.m., wash, and get ready to leave for school. At about 9:30 a.m. I'd meet the other volunteer in my village, and we'd walk over the fields together to our schools. 

School started at 10 a.m. with a whole school assembly in the yard, followed by lessons. Generally I had three lessons a day, and could spend the rest of the time at school planning and marking. I left school at about 3:30 p.m. and walked home to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening with my host family.

Often I would go out into the village with my host sister and we would visit relatives, walk around the gardens, or go up to the monastery. Generally we would return to the kitchen in time to help prepare the evening meal of rice, lentils, and curry. After eating between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., we would either sit and chat with the family or (if there was power) go to watch some TV or a film before going to bed.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my host family during the weekday evenings and going with them to religious celebrations and family events, such as weddings. On the weekend and during the school holidays, it was good to meet up with the rest of the volunteer group in Kathmandu and be a tourist for a bit, visiting the sites and enjoying sharing stories and socialising with the others.

Fields in Godawari village, Nepal
View of the fields in Godawari village, Nepal

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I was staying with a local family and I had my own comfortable room in their house. When I visited, there was no Western toilet and only a basic shower, but this is something you quickly get used to. The best thing about it was being able to get fully involved in family life, and experience life in a very different country to my own.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Some Nepalese habits and ways of life are very different to those we expect in the UK. Go with an open mind and don't be offended or disappointed if some things don't quite meet your expectations. Strikes are common in Nepal, and be prepared for things not always going as planned!

Now that you're home, how has your time in Nepal impacted your life?

I have made friends for life, with the family I stayed with in Nepal (I have visited them again since returning) and with the other volunteers on the programmes (I still keep in touch with many of them). I have become more grateful for some small things, which I previously took for granted, like clean tap water for drinking and reliable electricity, for example. Successfully completing the project, and overcoming the challenge of putting myself out of my comfort zone, gave me greater confidence in facing future challenges, and made me more independent, which was a good preparation for university.

Would you recommend Oyster Worldwide to others? Why?

Yes, definitely! The programme is a brilliant experience. I think that everyone should do something like this at least once in their life. It's an excellent opportunity to make new friends, experience a very different way of life, and make a worthwhile contribution to the education of Nepalese children.

Oyster Worldwide is an a fantastic provider to go through; the level of support that they offer is superb, and it's great to be able to go with a group of other like-minded volunteers too.