One word which had such a profound impact on me whilst I spent a month in Fiji volunteering, teaching English and Maths to Primary School children. It was a simple saying that everyone would exchange with one another in the morning, starting your day off the right way and radiating a sense of unity within the whole Fijian community.
As a first-year student hungry to explore the world, I was eager to begin my adventure across the globe.
The journey began with a 30-hour trip by plane followed by a two hour trek by truck up the Novosa Mountains to a small, remote village. Little did I know that this place would come to hold such a significant place in my heart. A warm welcome from our fellow Fijian families settled our nerves and apprehension. We were quickly ready to embrace the “Kaiviti” way of life. This essentially translates to mean the rural Fijian way of living.
The whole purpose of the trip was to influence the education system, bringing fresh, innovative ideas and teaching styles to these schools – which severely lacked resources. The children were full of energy, full of ambition, and full of passion but lacked that access to a beneficial education that we in the UK readily enjoy. Working alongside Think Pacific we were able to maintain close ties with the Ministry for Health and Education which enabled progress within these rural schools in Fiji.
Teaching was significantly harder than I ever thought it would be. Being a young University student with a broad Scottish accent sometimes made it especially difficult. My Scottish accent stuck out like a sore thumb but eventually my Fijian family learnt to adore it. By the end of it I was speaking to them in Fijian (well, attempting with great effort to!). The sense of community within my family and the village was inspirational and so special.
In a way I was jealous of it; everyone had time for each other, no matter the time of day. It was so unlike in St Andrews where you walk down Market Street with your hood up, hoping not to bump into anyone despite being the small place that is is. A deep respect for the Fijian way of life is definitely what I took home from this experience and opened myself up to exploring new things and embracing what the world has to offer.
Alongside the experience I also realised that a lot of preparation is key when travelling to the other side of the world. Awareness of the dress code in a rural Fijian village was something I had never really thought of, in addition to the local laws, visas and vaccines. A good website to check before you head off somewhere is https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk, which enables you to find exact information with country-specific advice and entry requirements. It is a campaign by the UK Foreign Office which gives guidance and key information for students and young people travelling abroad.
It’s worth remembering that each country has various laws and legislation that differs from the UK rules we are used to. It’s really important to check all of this before you go, for example in Fiji, given that it’s still a developing state, their health system isn’t as thorough as that of the UK. Therefore, comprehensive travel insurance is a must!
Overall, I would encourage anybody to just go for it and travel the globe. With the right preparation and mindset, the sky is the limit.