Alumni Spotlight: Sierra Wirsch


Sierra is a recent High School graduate, who loves to volunteer whether its in her own community, in another city, or even halfway across the world. Her sense of adventure mixed with her desire to give back is what drove her to go to Indonesia for 2 months this past Fall.

Why did you choose this program?

This was my first time going outside of America, as well as my first time traveling alone, so I wanted to make sure that I was investing in something safe (but not lacking in adventure, of course).

IVHQ will give continuous support to those who volunteer with them, and their programs are set up in a way that is reliable and great for first-time traveler like myself. Apart from that, I specifically chose Bali after doing some research and reading other alumni's reviews on it; what I learned about the culture they have there intrigued me into wanting to know more, which pushed me to decide on that destination.

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

IVHQ was very helpful throughout the whole process, and assisted me in telling me what to expect on the trip and what to bring with me. They also arranged free airport pick up for me, gave me a list of suggested vaccines to get before I went, and had a specific contact person for me to email at any time if I had any questions or concerns.

On my own, I had to organize things like getting a criminal record check done, applying for a visa, and arranging flights and travel insurance. When I was there, as I was teaching English, the lessons were to be planned by me as well.

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

The biggest piece of advice I have from this experience is actually unrelated to the program itself. While I was there, there were quite a few issues with using my debit card in a Bali ATM ( at one point it didn't work, and then when it did there was money stolen from my account -- likely do to a scanner in the ATM.).

ATM's are widely available all throughout Bali, however, I would suggest to someone to bring as much cash as they will need/feel comfortable with having with them. If you do need to use an ATM be cautious and always check your accounts after you withdraw money, as well as a day or two later to make sure no more is taken out without you knowing.

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

During the week, you would wake up (usually to noises from the chickens outside), get ready for the day wearing suitable clothing for your placement (conservative clothing that covers knees and shoulders for teaching, for example), and go eat breakfast with your fellow volunteers. Then, if you are in the kindergarten program you would leave in the morning to go to your school. There, you would teach the kids the lesson that you most likely would have prepared the day before or sometime on the weekend. After that, you return to the volunteer house in time for lunch. After this you are free to roam around; many go on day trips, or maybe to some waterfall or temples.

There are so many options and so much to do in Bali that you'll never be bored. You are welcome to have dinner at the volunteer house, or out at a restaurant if you prefer. During the weekends, most people choose to go stay in hostels in a separate part of Bali for a weekend trip (but you are more than welcome to stay in the volunteer house if preferred).

Personally, I stayed in Canggu to try some surfing one weekend, Nusa Penida to do some beach hopping and snorkeling, Gili T to bicycle ride and snorkel, and many destinations in Bali like Uluwatu and Jimbaran. I also hiked Mount Batur on an early Saturday morning trip. This program is very flexible and allows you to experience both the culture and beauty of Bali while volunteering.

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

Having turned 18 five days before leaving on this adventure, this was my first big step into adulthood. I'm a fairly independent person, but I knew this trip would be a big change for me. I would be going through the airports alone for the first time, figuring out what the heck to do with the forms the stewardess gave me, and of course, putting myself out there and introducing myself to new people (that internal fear of possible rejection creeping up).

But here's the reality: I learned airports are really easy to find your way around (especially if you ask for help from a person wearing an "I speak English" pin), and no matter where you are there is always someone around to help. I'm a pretty outgoing person as it is, so introducing myself to others wasn't that scary, and I was able to make friends the morning I got to the volunteer house. I still keep in touch and even plan on visiting some of the volunteers I met along the way.

The basic lesson from all of this is just to put your best foot forward, ask for help, and don't be afraid to put yourself out there.