Alumni Spotlight: Madelyn Grant

She is Madelyn Grant and she is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She swims competitively and lifeguards in the summer. She loves working with children and being around any type of water.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I love working with kids, and going to Africa has always been a dream of mine. I love service, especially when it involves helping underprivileged people like the girls at the boarding school. All they have are their uniforms and their school books, but they were so sweet and happy. I didn't think that my life would change as much as it did after visiting Africa but I am forever grateful. This trip taught me so much about myself and others.

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

I was assisted with the packing for our trip and the actual flight days. They handled all of the program organization but we were in charge of coming up with fun ideas that we could do with the girls. What they really helped with was my emotions. I was overcome with emotion when I saw the conditions of the orphanage that we visited. They were so supportive and kind and helped me deal with all of my emotions, and use them to be an even better volunteer.

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

I wish I had known to bring extra clothes, a lot of bug spray and sunscreen and to always stay hydrated. I would recommend bringing enough clothes for a week longer than your actual trip. Bring bug spray and sunscreen (no matter where you're going) because you're going to be outside no matter what. Bring cash because not all foreign stores accept credit/debit cards. DRINK WATER!!! I cannot stress this enough. You need to drink so much water during the day, because it may be hot and you may be walking around, and you get so dehydrated from traveling. Trust me, I've been dehydrated on a trip before and it is no fun.

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

An average day includes waking up fairly early and eating breakfast as a group. Then you're given time to get dressed and pack your backpack for the day. Next, it's time to board the bus or get in the van and drive to wherever you're going to be working. You spend about two-three hours working and then you eat lunch with those you're helping.

After that, you'll be allowed to do tourist things with the group or with a couple of people from the group like shop and sightsee. I would say that is about an hour or so.

After that you board the bus again and go back to the place you're staying and once you get there, you have time to relax before dinner. Dinner is eaten together and after dinner, you help clean up and spend another hour give or take talking about how the day was for you.

Once everyone has spoken, it's time to get ready for bed and trust me it's early compared to being in America but you are going to be so tired.

Then you start it all over again.

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 scared of not being accepted by the girls at the school. The first day we spent with the girls, I was so anxious. I didn't want them to think I was weird or annoying or anything other than nice. I'm not a very outgoing person, but I believe in faking it until you make it. In this situation, I had to fake confidence when meeting them for the first time. And it worked. They laughed with me and told me about their lives with open and honest attitudes. After this, I saw that, even if you are faking it while meeting someone new, you'll probably end up with a real friend.

Do I have a roommate? What if I don't get along with someone?

Yes, you will have a roommate, but the advisers are amazing at reading the group, so you will never end up with someone you don't particularly like.

This is a fact of life, you will never get along with everyone. But if you go to your adviser and bring the issue forward, they will facilitate a meeting and you will be able to work it out. And if you don't feel comfortable with that, there are going to be other people on the trip that you can spend time with.