Alumni Spotlight: Leah Harper


Why did you choose this program?

I have wanted to travel and do volunteer trips abroad for as long as I can remember. I never thought I would be able to afford them, but then I found IVHQ! I decided to go for it.

I chose India because I was intrigued by the culture and diversity of the country. I thought, why not fly across the world for my first time abroad?!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ did a great job at preparing me for my time in India. Once you get accepted to a program and pay the registration fee, you receive a destination-specific booklet that provides you with information about the country and how to prepare, pack, and what to expect. It covers everything from what to wear to how to be safe.

In addition, there is an online volunteer training that helps you with the basics of volunteering abroad. There is a point of contact in charge of your program as well, and they are available by email or phone to answer any questions you have in the preparation process. IVHQ organizes your accommodation and airport pickup.

On my own, I really only had to organize my flight to/from India and my transportation to the airport at the end of my trip.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Honestly, just be open-minded to the experience. Know that you are going to experience a world very different than your own, and that is something beautiful. Not knowing what IVHQ, India, volunteering in a third world country, or international flying was like was scary, but amazing. I'm glad I had no idea what to expect. Granted, I still did lots of research, read reviews, articles, and the booklet in order to learn about India.

The only thing I can think of that I wish I had known ahead of time was how much free time there was. I did not realize how much I would want to travel outside of the placement. I only went to a few cities near Delhi, but wish I had gone to more.

If you are thinking about going overseas, you have already taken the first step: considering something outside of your comfort zone. You might have already started dreaming up places to go. Go! This trip helped me see/learn things I would never have before. And it made me realize that traveling is possible for me.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The week days are dedicated to your project (ex: Childcare, Teaching, Medical, Environmental, Construction, etc.), but you typically do not have your project all hours of the day, every day. You have breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided at your homestay unless you choose to go out for food.

Also, there is time to travel and explore locally. Weekends are typically when volunteers travel to destinations farther away. Volunteers can choose to stay local and go to their project on weekends as well.

IVHQ programs are flexible with how you spend your time. However, keep in mind what you are there for and what your intentions are. Exploring the country is amazing, but staying local and focusing on your volunteering is just as great!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I had many fears and anxieties about the trip, so my biggest fear was probably the whole trip in itself. I kept thinking of everything that could go wrong. I was particularly scared of being in a plane for so long.

By going through with the trip, I overcame these fears. I have never been the most independent person, so this trip taught me a lot about myself and who I want to be.

What is something you learned in India that is important to you?

Probably to love more. To treat people like family. We are all human beings; we just grow up in different worlds, lifestyles, cultures, places, etc. I learned a lot from the Indian people I talked to.