Alumni Spotlight: Henry Thyng

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Lover of good food, good beer, and travelling.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I wanted to do something totally different to anything I had done before and something that I could feel genuinely proud of if I made a success of it. I was stuck in a rut at the time I signed up and needed to do something big to open my eyes and start looking for living with a sense of purpose again.

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

GVI advised me on the different options available. They were always on hand to discuss any concerns or queries I had once I had signed up. The Project Manager in Laos even arranged a Skype call with me so I could get a detailed overview of the aims of the project and requirements of the volunteers.

The only thing I had to organize myself were flights and insurance. GVI organized travel insurance through a partner so buying my policy was incredibly easy.

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

Be prepared for a culture shock when you arrive. Laotians are famous for their laid-back, slow paced approach to life and can come across as very disorganized compared to what you are used to. If you keep an open mind and view any setbacks with a sense of humor, you will very quickly learn to embrace it. I found myself becoming far more laid back than I normally am back home just by being immersed in the culture.

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

Days can be long. I was normally working up to 10 hours, but if you love being busy, then the days will pass by in a flash! Most morning classes start at 8:00 AM, and I would normally have breakfast beforehand to give myself the energy for a 90-minute lesson. Afternoon classes typically run from 1:00 PM, and evening classes from 5 – 6:30 PM. After that, you can relax with a beerlao. In between lesson, there are slots set aside for lesson-planning with your mentor.

On the weekend, you are free to relax or explore. There are plenty of hiking/kayaking/mountain-biking tours available for your time off project.

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 wanted to be a teacher for a while, but unfortunately had a horrible experience when trying to train in the UK. This partly came about because of my diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome which affects my ability to process information and organize my time. I discussed this in detail with the Project Manager before joining, and throughout the project, they were so inclusive and supportive.

I felt comfortable from the start, and the trust I had in the staff was incredibly valuable. As a result, I was able to enjoy teaching and perform at a level so much higher than I had in the past.