Alumni Spotlight: Kristina Jenkins

Kristina has a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Conservation. She is passionate about elephants and conservation. She is an Animal Conservation Graduate. GVI ambassador and elephant enthusiast!

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program as it was the only one that offered the possibility of extending your stay by doing a scholarship following your volunteering/internship. The setting was also perfect – in a rural location surrounded by culture, community, and wildlife in the surrounding landscape. In my opinion, it was also the best value for money.

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

GVI helped me with any questions or issues that may arise. They gave me a checklist of everything I needed to sort out before I left. The visa can be a bit confusing, but they helped me apply for the correct one. The vaccinations, CRB, and travel insurance were all self-explanatory.

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

Go with a completely open mind and no expectations. Only then can you truly embrace the magic of the place.

Take appropriate clothing such as long sleeves and trousers to protect yourself from the insects as bug spray does not really work. Avoid taking things like sun cream and stuff like this, as volunteers leave so much of it behind.

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

Elephant hikes are from Monday to Friday. The nursery is on a Wednesday, but elephant hikes are still an option. Optional biodiversity hikes are on Tuesdays and Wednesday. Lunch is sometimes in the forest where the Mahouts cook noodles or meat. Showers follow hikes to freshen up.

Afternoons are for Pakinyaw lessons and other presentations. Evenings are free time/adult English lessons.

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

My biggest fear was being cut off from home, and not knowing how often I would be able to speak to the people from home. But Thai sim cards can be purchased from Tescos on the way to the village.

Credit is cheap and easily available from the little shops in the village. My fears were unfounded and communication with the outside world went on.

What did you realize upon getting into the program?

I did an internship and didn't really expect to want to take a laptop, but it would have really helped to have my own to work with. Also, a decent camera is a must.

My favorite memories are of the laughs and jokes I shared with the villagers. Also, learning a new language certainly helped develop my relationship and experience far more than I expected.