Alumni Spotlight: Fanny Ferrillo

Fanny is a young woman from Switzerland where she studies GSI at University. She followed her passion and traveled for a year around the world, and ended up volunteering for GVI in Laos.

Why did you choose this program?

I first chose this program because teaching with monks seemed a unique opportunity. It's another religion and another way to live, and I thought the people there can teach me something that our western countries can't. Now will be my 4th time coming back. That shows how unique this place is.

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

I went first with an agency called WEP, but I definitely recommend booking directly on GVI’s website. It’s easier, and the GVI staff is really competent. They will give you all the information you need. However, unlike WEP, you have to book your flight by yourself. This is really not a problem as these days, we all know how to book a flight, and sometimes you can find even better deals than an agency can. Also, I think that booking directly at GVI’s website is cheaper than thru an agency.

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

Be open minded! The culture and values can sometimes be different, but it’s what we are searching for when we decide to live somewhere else so we have to accept it.

Maybe I would have liked to know that we actually need shirts with sleeves for teaching. It's written in the manual GVI gives us, but I only browsed through the manual at the airport before leaving, and it wasn’t a very clever thing to do!

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

We have 2-3 classes a day depending on how many volunteers are on the project. Usually, it’s one class during the morning and one or two during the afternoon. After each lesson, you will plan the next one with the help of a staff member. When the classes are done, you are basically free. There is a meeting on Wednesday and Sunday to update everybody on anything that happened during the week.

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 was specifically worried about possibly misbehaving around the monks, but it went really fine! You learn their rules, and you will sometimes do something rude, but they are aware of it, and they may even find it funny. Aside from that, I was honestly really excited to discover a place that’s completely new and different to me, so I didn’t have much time to think about being afraid.

For how long should you go?

It might not be a very good question as it can give you the idea that "oh yes, three weeks is enough" or something. When you travel and visit a country, three weeks or so is usually more than enough, but when it comes to an experience like this, it's nothing.

Within that period, you’re only beginning to know your students and have this confidence in the class. You’re just starting to know the city, have your routine, be really friends with the volunteers, and then you find it's already the end. I think that more than a month is a long time if you don't like the project. However, if you do, then you regret not staying a bit longer.