Why did you choose this program?
Thailand is one of the very few places I've had the privilege of visiting outside of the USA. It's easily the farthest I've been from home, and the most extreme culture shock I've experienced. But I loved every moment of it. Combine this with my love for the water. For me, the beach is something I always loved. Whether it be swimming on a hot day or getting a great tan, you could count on me on being there.
When it came time for me to decide to volunteer for the very first time, I thought "Why not combine the two?"
That's how I came across a coastal conservation program in Thailand. How perfect!
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
GVI helped me extensively before I departed. Once you sign up, you pick a start date and they send you a comprehensive list of documents and tasks you need to have done before you arrive. These items include insurance, getting your visa and etc. I had many questions about certain items and they were happy to help in giving me specific instructions and locations to submit them. They did NOT help with flights. You are responsible for being able to coordinate and purchase your own flights.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Definitely make sure you choose a program you are actually interested in. Just because I have personal love for Thailand and the beach, doesn't mean someone else would. Don't choose on a whim, make sure you would be invested in the program for the amount of time you're going to be there. You will surely make great friends during your time there.
However, if you are staying for an extended period of time or during a slow season, it is essential you can stay motivated in your work if times are slow and there aren't that many people around.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Certain activities are constant each week and some are not. For sure, twice a week you can expect going to the Thai Navy base and taking care of the sea turtles. We also taught at the local Thai children's school once per week. Bird surveys are also usually twice a week, but it can change depending on the weather. Same goes for beach and village cleanups.
Now, depending on the season you are there, other activities will be sprinkled in. For example, we got to experience the pangolin surveys on a separate island which only happens about once a month. Hikes, diving and other community events pop up and can vary.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Being completely honest, my biggest fear was if I'd get along well with anyone! This was the first time I've ever been living away from home with people other than my family, and I really didn't know what to expect. However, as fate would have it I met some of the coolest people I ever had, from all around the world! (Mind you, I was the only one from America there during my time, so perhaps that played a part).
We were all there for the same reason in mostly the same mentality, and we bonded very quickly. After all, when you're all wanting to visit a place no one's had any knowledge or experience with, you learn to make friends with your pack.
What would you like to tell to all those interested in traveling abroad?
If anyone were to come ask me if they should do it, and if they really had the desire to try it, I would 100% tell them to put their fears aside and give it a try. It's worth it.
Take it from me, I never thought this would be something I would have done. But I was at a point in my life where I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone. Life was getting too repetitive, and I had an uncontrollable itch to travel; to see what the world has to offer. A friend of mine had mentioned their volunteering trip and it stuck out to me for some odd reason I couldn't place. So I trusted my gut, chose a program that I could really see myself supporting, and booked my flight.
Wouldn't you have it, I came back with a changed mindset, memories to last a lifetime, and an even bigger itch to travel once again.