Anthropology Student Shares her Volunteer Story

by Sarah Harris|Feb 05 2018|Ghana

What were your first impressions of Ghana?

The people were so kind and welcoming, and they’re really interesting, really interested in getting to know you, the kids are really curious, just really open and really friendly. And they just seemed to be really, really friendly and happy, they all had a very positive approach. And it’s amazing when you think about what their background may be, so it was really touching.

Did you think about Ghana before you went? When you were looking at going to Ghana, what were thoughts and expectations about it?

I really didn’t know what to expect actually. Obviously we’d spoken about what it might be and what would be involved and that kind of thing, and having lived in other non-developed countries previously, I had some expectations from that. I guess not knowing maybe made it easier because then you don’t have any expectations, so then you get there and you just adapt to whatever is expected of you and whatever’s available.

Have you volunteered in the past?

Yeah.

What made you decide when you finished your education that volunteering was something that was right for you?

Oh really important. For me, because I studied Anthropology and Geography – and the reason I had chosen to do it was because I wanted to find out more about the world and about people; the different ways that people live, choose to live their lives, the way that they react to their environment is really interesting. And I realised I didn’t have any first-hand experience. You learn about these things in theory, but it’s priceless to go somewhere and talk to people about what they do day to day and to be there and let it sink in.
Would you say it helped in sort of finding a career path and helping you decide next steps?

Absolutely! I think even if you go there and you realise that living somewhere like that is not for you, which in itself is a massive learning experience. I think the most fundamental thing that probably everybody just realises is that the way that you live and things that you take for granted are not the same for other people, and for most of the people on the planet, it’s not the same. Having that greater appreciation for what you do have and the kind of support you can get I think is massive. And it means you have to be more resourceful and rethink about what your expectations are for where you’re going be and what you want to do. And I think it’s something that’s quite transferable in that respect, because you can take it to any job and be like “ok, well I don’t expect anything from this so what can we make from it?”

You’ve volunteered multiple times, and I think that each time, because you’ve done it before, you learn something new that you can then apply to the next experience.

Absolutely!

How did you manage to use previous skills in Ghana in order to adapt to a new culture and a new country?

I think one of the first things was, from previous volunteering, I really realised that if you can pick up a little bit of language, locally, it’s really good. It’s a great way to ice-break with people and to show that you’re a bit more invested in being in the place, you’re not just a tourist travelling through, you’re actually going be staying there for a while. And it’s a great way to start a conversation. And obviously kids love sharing with you their language and talking to you about how you say things and correcting you, it’s always quite entertaining for them.

You can watch the full interview with our Anthropology student here

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