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Volunteering as a Teacher in Greece

Giulia, a Media and Communications student, volunteered as an English and German teacher for a non-governmental organisation called Respect for Greece in Athens, Greece for her Erasmus+ Traineeship.


How did you source your placement? 

At the beginning, I applied for the European Solidarity Corps – a website suggested by the Go Abroad Team – but unfortunately I did not receive a response. Nonetheless, the Go Abroad Team gave some helpful tips on how to continue searching for placements. In the end, I found my placement online by googling ‘Volunteer work in Greece’.

What were the highlights of your experience abroad?

One highlight of my experience abroad was the day I said goodbye to my language teaching organisation. Not because I was leaving – on the contrary – but because I was surprised me with a goodbye party by my colleagues. We had a delicious Arabic barbecue and we danced traditional Greek and Arabic dances all night. In addition, meeting wonderful and brave people from all over the world (mostly the Middle East) was a privilege. We shared personal stories with each other and taught each other phrases from our respective languages. This was an important shared experience.

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Volunteering at MEMPROW SA in Johannesburg

This Fine Art student volunteered at a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation called MEMPROW SA, in South Africa. She was awarded funding from Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement.


How did you find your placement?

I visited South Africa to implement Healing and Empowering Art workshops for Women. I was employed by an organisation called MEMPROW SA, a women’s empowerment and enabling organisation who aim to combat sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). MEMPROW have a base at a drop-in centre called Sithand’Izingane Care project in Tsakane Township, Johannesburg, South Africa which supports residents who may be unemployed by providing short courses and skills to get them into work. 

My involvement with the organisation began in 2018 when I was part of a team that was implementing workshops within the centre. Later on, I was asked to go back to continue the much needed work. Luckily, the Goldsmiths Go Abroad Scheme funded the workshops in 2019, so I was able to implement an elevated set of workshops with more women at Sithand’Izingane Care Project.  The workshops were 4 days long, and consisted of poetry and spoken word, life drawing, self-reflective sculpture and an Exhibition on the final day where the community would come to see the work and contribute to the conversation surrounding SGBV and women’s empowerment through art.  

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Volunteering as an Au Pair in Spain

Madeleine, a History student, volunteered as an au pair for a Spanish family in Madrid, Spain. She was awarded funding by Santander Universities to help cover the costs of her placement.


At the beginning of August 2019, I hopped on a train from Yorkshire and just over a day later I arrived in Madrid, Spain. I made use of the Go Abroad funding by purchasing an interrail ticket and using trains instead of planes to reduce my carbon footprint. After having studied Spanish for just 7 months I was eager to use it in practice, but didn’t want this experience to cost the earth! Through the organization AuPairWorld, I found a host family online who I would be staying with for the next month in return for helping their children with English.

The highlights of my time abroad range from the feeling as huge as being whisked into Madrid’s mountains on an old rickety train, to engaging in Spanish conversation at a coffee shop. Spain has such a variety of landscapes on offer, from poolside paradises to luscious green forests. It was such a thrill every time to be able to hear the Spanish language all around me!

a young blonde woman jumping in the air against the backdrop of a multi-colour painted wall

My daily routine involved getting up with the family to help the kids start their day and then learn English through play. We baked scones, read stories and even watched the Chuckle brothers! In the evenings I set out to my Spanish classes where I improved my understanding of tenses and demystified many lexical definitions. Lesson learnt: ‘embarazada’ means pregnant…not embarrassed! My daily routine differed from being at home as the lifestyle was centered around being outdoors. The sun was almost always shining which meant that the children had much more freedom to enjoy nature and be active!

My top challenge whilst being abroad was staying in tune with the Spanish language. It was so easy to switch off and let the language wash over me, instead of truly participating. I was prepared for the fast pace of native speakers, but did not anticipate that it becomes tiring to be actively listening and digging deep into my brain to produce an unfamiliar language. But this is also something I improved at over time by spotting commonly used phrases and making note of them, to try and embed them deeper into my own vocabulary.

From my experience abroad I learnt a lot about myself and my interactions with other cultures. I gained a better understanding of Spanish politics and how this is influenced by their culture and history, which like any European country, plays a strong role in forming the Spanish identity. Professionally I reaffirmed the lesson that you should always give 100% to everything you do otherwise you will live in regret. This is especially important when working with children as they require so much encouragement, and you are forming lifelong memories. In an academic sense, I learnt that becoming fluent in a language is an all-encompassing task which requires huge reserves of patience and an ability to laugh at yourself and your mistakes!

My top tips for students about to go abroad would be to make the most of your location and get to know it from top to bottom. Take lots of photos and talk to the locals – they will point you in the direction that Trip Advisor cannot. I had the most incredible trip thanks to the fund, if I was eligible to go again I would do it in a heartbeat!

 

Volunteering with refugees in Greece

Lauren Haley, a BA Anthropology student, spent a month working with migrants and refugees in Athens with the help of Santander Universities Go Abroad funding.


Following a successful application for Go Abroad funding, I spent 4 weeks in Athens volunteering with refugees/migrants. Despite extensive attempts, the informality of organisations supporting refugees/migrants due to lack of central funding meant it was quite difficult to plan ahead. However, the flexibility of the Santander Go International Bursary meant I could still receive this financial support by providing evidence part way through my placement. When arriving in Athens, through the initial outreach I made prior to flying, I was put in contact with an autonomous organisation who provide teaching by volunteers in squats, as they cannot access state-facilitated education.

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What I learned working abroad in Sri Lanka

Alba Sirvent-Gonzalez, BSc Psychology student, spent five weeks in Sri Lanka completing a work placement focused on mental health and wellbeing. She received a £1,000 Santander Universities Go Abroad bursary to help fund her experience.


The work placement I undertook last summer was aimed at promoting positive mental health and wellbeing in the country of Sri Lanka. During my five-week placement, I participated in the planning and running of sessions for people with different disabilities and mental health conditions, together with other volunteers. I was involved in nine different projects each week, where I worked with individuals with patients in psychiatric facilities, as well as those with special needs and physical impairments. I also taught English to young adults.

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