NAME: Katrina Dunbar
DEGREE AND UNIVERSITY:English Language and Spanish, Newcastle University
Work Experience:Last summer I chose to do three months voluntary work in children’s homes in North-Eastern Argentina. I travelled with the organisation i-to-i, who specialise in voluntary and teaching work overseas.
Reasons for doing work experience
I took a gap year between college and university and wanted to do something worthwhile, as well as travel to somewhere I’d never been before. I’d worked with children before so voluntary work with underprivileged kids seemed just the thing for me!
Tasks carried out during work experience
As volunteers our job generally was to occupy the children so the staff members at the home could get on with other duties such as cleaning, cooking, and maintenance. We would combine classroom-style teaching with creative activities, games, and sport. At meal-times we would also help out alongside the permanent staff.
Impact on career progression
Working in a place where there are few tourists meant I picked up Spanish very quickly, which has opened up many new routes for my future career. The experience has also enabled me to work as an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher, a career I’d never previously thought of. Working with children and with minimal resources has taught me to be innovative and flexible.
Highlights would include watching the children learn and have fun, as well as being forced to think on my feet when things didn’t go to plan!
Getting ill away from home is never fun, and I managed to get flu whilst out there. However, I now know that I can cope by myself if it happens again.
Living in another culture taught me so much about other people. I had a great time, learnt a lot of life skills, and made some fantastic friends with both volunteers and locals.
Qualities needed for work experience
Energy and ingenuity are necessary for working with children, as well as patience. Some days they just have no interest in the activities you’ve got planned! A willingness to learn the language is also key if you are working in a place where English is not used.
Advice for people wanting to do work experience
Research the various companies that offer voluntary projects in order to find one that suits you. It’s important not to be afraid of a place just because they do things differently and, of course, embrace those cold showers!