Febe Schraepen - 2017 Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Traveling has always been a passion for me. Since I was a little kid, I loved it! So now that I'm old enough to travel on my own, nobody can stop me. But while I travel, I want to experience these lives of the people I am meeting. When I volunteer, I get a glimpse of the culture, the lives, and the inside jokes, and that is just amazing!

Volunteer with elephant in South Africa
"They say an elephant never forgets. But what they don't tell you is, you never forget an elephant either!" ~Bill Murray

Why did you choose GoEco?

I love wild animals! And I love Africa so that's wonderful!

How did the GoEco staff support you throughout your program?

They became friends for life and they answered all my questions and made me feel at home right away.

What surprised you most about South Africa?

I was mostly surprised about how friendly everyone that I met was. Not only the people at my project and the other volunteers, but the locals and the airport staff as well. It was such a nice, warm, and friendly environment.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

My teammates (other volunteers), the interaction with the animals, and the great food.

Horse with uniformed rider in South Africa
I always make friends in high places, you never know when it made come in handy :)

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

  • 7:00 a.m. - Getting up and having breakfast (mostly Nutella toasts)
  • 8:00 a.m. - Group meeting
  • 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - Food prep or enclosures cleaning
  • 10:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Tea-time with cake
  • 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - Cleaning, working on fences, assisting trainers, etc.
  • 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. - Lunchtime and free time
  • 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Animal training, bonding time with the animals, enrichment, etc.
  • 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - Going to the volunteers house and relaxing
  • 6:00 p.m. - Having dinner all together

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

It was a huge villa, with a lot of bedrooms. It got cleaned every day and it looked nice. I loved my single room!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Chatting to the other people, swimming, horse riding, and shark cage diving!

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

I wish I'd stayed longer. Two weeks was not nearly enough time.

Do you have any packing tips for other volunteers headed to South Africa?

Bring some warm clothes, sometimes it would get cold and I was not prepared for that. If you think Africa is hot all the time, think again and pack a few warmer outfits as well!

Volunteer holding a Ring-Tailed Lemur in South Africa
Making friends wherever I go!

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

The people where the friendliest people I've ever met!

Do you have any expert advice for someone considering volunteering abroad?

Go with an open mind, a big smile on your face, and an eager for learning, and an empty heart that will be filled!

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

The hardest part about volunteering abroad, for me, was the week before departure. I was doubting myself, the decision of going and I just had cold feet. But I pushed through and once I landed in Africa, all my worries disappeared and I loved every minute.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before your program?

That I missed seeing the country a bit more. Volunteering was amazing and I am definitely doing that again, but I would have liked to see some more of the country I was visiting. Next time, I'm going for a longer period of time and also I’m going to travel around more.

Volunteer petting a cheetah in South Africa
I am such a crazy catlady, but I love it!

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

I changed my college degree, I got a student job with animals, and I've made friends for life!

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

You get to have life-changing experiences, you live like a local, you meet all these amazing people who have the same goals/dreams and plans, you get such great food, and it is just such an adventure!

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

Yes! It changes you for the better and it makes you realize how beautiful this world is!

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

Goh, where wouldn't I go? Africa, for sure, but Asia is also calling my name. I am excited to see where life (and travel) will take me.