Michaela Jones - 2011 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I have always wanted to travel, but my friends don't share the same interest, so going with a company like GVI made me feel safe. I love learning about the world and different cultures.

Why did you choose GVI?

I knew a girl who had gone abroad with GVI, so I knew that they were a good company. I chose the programme because I have always wanted to help third world countries and I enjoy teaching, so this was the perfect combination! 

Girl sitting on a dock in New Zealand
New Zealand

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

The incredible landscape and wildlife. I saw whales every morning on my way to work!

What made your experience abroad unique?

Going on a safari and shark cage diving. These are fantastic opportunities that you cannot get anywhere else in the world! 

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They provided safety briefings and arranged transport to destinations. This was very helpful as South Africa can be dangerous, but I was able to do everything I wanted.

Church of the Spilled Blood, Russia
"Church of the Spilled Blood" Russia

What surprised you most about Cape Town?

I was most surprised just how beautiful Cape Town really is. I imagined it to be dirty and rough, due to its dangerous reputation, but it really wasn't.

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

I wish I had stayed longer so that I could have seen more of the country! 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Get picked up from a GVI driver and taken to the school for 9 a.m. Teach until break time, when we played before more lessons. We had an hour for lunch, then more lessons. Our driver collected us at 3:30 p.m. and took us home. We would chill in the house or go out for dinner. Lesson plans were done after dinner, then I would have a shower before bed. 

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

It was a three bedroom house with bunkbeds in the rooms. There was a bathroom and a separate toilet room. The lounge was large, with a TV and DVD player. I liked the area that we were in. We were walking distance from a shopping mall, where we could get anything we wanted. It was close to bars, restaurants, and the train station.

Girl visiting Uluru, Australia
Uluru, Australia

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in South Africa?

I wish I'd known more about the things to see (i.e. Table Mountain and Nelson Mandela prison). 

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad? 

The hardest part was going there by myself.

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

Employers are always impressed when they read it on my CV! I have definitely become more grateful about my life and where I come from. I am also more aware of the world that the media doesn't show us and have become much more passionate about helping those in need.

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

I think the biggest benefit is that it makes you more grateful for the privileged country that we come from and makes you more aware of what's happening around the world. 

It fills you with a sense of compassion and a more open mind.
Temple in Bali, Indonesia
Bali

Would you recommend your program and GVI to others? Why?

Yes, absolutely! I feel there is so much negativity in this world; we complain a lot about what we have or don't have. Spending time in South Africa with these beautiful children will change your perception of how rich we already are, emotionally as well as financially. You really will be making the biggest difference in these children's lives and it will be very much appreciated by them.

Aside from the rewarding teaching, you can participate in the most amazing experiences and come face to face with magnificent animals that you will not find in other countries. By paying to go on a safari, also helps fund towards the wellbeing and protection of the wildlife.

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

It's not just about teaching in the school. South Africa has so much beauty to offer that you should take your time to see everything.