Name: Sam Porteous
Sam is currently studying environmental management at Leeds University. During a gap year, two years ago, he travelled to Mexico with Global Vision International, (GVI) the ethical volunteering organisation. He is interested in scuba diving and wanted to scuba dive with a purpose, as well as do some volunteering work. He was about three hours south of Cancun, in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve managed by an NGO.
What was your motivation?
I wanted to do something that was to be of benefit, as well as doing something I really enjoyed. I am interested in the environment and it seemed like a really good opportunity.
What did the application process involve?
There was an online application form followed by a telephone interview. I was not kept in the dark; I was given lots of information. The support leading up to it was brilliant with emails from staff with last-minute advice.
What did you do?
The primary thing we did was a coral survey. We had to learn 52 coral species off by heart in Latin – before we went. We were staying in a marine park in Mexico, diving twice a day and surveying the coral.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
I gained tremendous team-working skills, working in an international group of all different ages. It was real team-working.
Did you enjoy it?
Definitely. The highlight of my gap year was those 10 weeks in Mexico. I came back on the biggest high. Everyone there was on the same wavelength as me and we are still in contact. I am looking to do something like it again.
What did you learn?
Coral! In 10 weeks I learnt a lot about myself. It was the first time I had been properly away from home and responsible for my actions. We were living in basic conditions – slumming it – but it showed me that I take a lot of stuff for granted. You don’t need materialistic things.
The place we were in and the people we were with. All the people were brilliant, both the staff, as well as all other members of the expedition. And the diving was great.
Leaving. And certain aspects of communal living became a challenge, people not pulling their weight for example, was frustrating. And learning the coral was quite difficult!
Advice to readers?
Definitely take up an opportunity like this. It shows you a part of the world you would not see otherwise. It’s a chance to give something back and have an amazing experience.