I love all kinds of animals and I wanted to help them in away. Picking up trash is an easy task and everyone can do it. With this program, I was able to do something useful for the environment while I met new people and cultures from all over the world. I could also get the open water certification.
Vivienne is in the third and last year of apprenticeship for a chemical laboratory technician. She is from Switzerland and has just started traveling on her own. She loves adventures and her friends describe her as "sometimes a little chaotic".
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
They arranged the pick-up and they helped me find my ID when I lost it. If I had any questions, I always knew who to ask.
The train ride to Lisbon was organized by myself. They stayed in contact with me if anything didn't go as planned.
They did the pick-ups, but they didn't bring me back to the train station when I left.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I wish I stayed longer. I was there for 2 weeks, but it was really short. You just get to know everyone and then you already leave. Most of the other volunteers there stayed at least 3 weeks. You can't really pick up that much trash in 2 weeks because you have to get certified first. Also, you will be very tired coming back from scuba diving and you just want to relax a little bit so for really seeing Lisbon you have just the weekends.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The ones from the marine conservation program had to leave the hostel at first. We got up at like 07:30, put our swimsuits on under the clothes and quickly ate something. We left at like 08:10 and walked down the hill to the train station. There we took the train to Cascais and walked to the dive center.
First, we always put the scuba equipment together and tested if it worked. Then we put our wetsuits and shoes on and went on the boat. If the conditions were good, we did a dive. Then we headed back, had a shower and went back to Lisbon. We were back at the hostel at like 3 pm.
They always saved us something from lunch.
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 to not find any friends there. I wasn't afraid of taking a 35h train ride through 3 countries on my own, just of not finding any new friends. Now I can say that my fear was completely "needless" because I was welcomed since the first minute I arrived and I found a lot of new friends. I was always included in every action and was always asked if I wanted to join them on a trip.
This experience changed my view on how people could see me. I'm not stressed about such an issue anymore because if so many people from different cultures liked me since the first day, then there will be some more all around the world.
What is your favorite story from this trip?
My 3 favourite stories:
- We went out with the dive center and I really had too much. I fell asleep on the pier for 10 minutes. I'm glad it happened in such a safe country. We arrived back in the hostel around midday the next day. There, I realised that I lost my ID... I went to the Swiss embassy on Monday (we didn't dive on Mondays) and got some documents for getting back. On Tuesday at the dive center, they had a surprise for me: Someone has found my ID! I know you might think that this sounds like pure horror, but I got everything back and had a lot of fun. I wouldn't change anything.
- We went dolphin watching! I would highly recommend that - it was amazing. They had dolphin babies!
- This adventure was on my trip back to Switzerland. If you're from Europe, I would recommend traveling by train with a global pass from Interrail. You will meet so many people and it's a huge adventure. So a day, before I took the train in Hendaye to Paris, the SNCF company went on protest. Everyone who was affected the day before was now getting on the train I was and we had some huge delay. I missed my second train to Geneva, and because there were so many people in the train station and the staff was so busy, I couldn't get a ticket for the next day. Luckily, I met another girl from Switzerland, so we were able to split the hotel bill. The next day we went again to a train station, but every train was fully booked. We could book one the next day at like 5 pm. So again, we had to take a cheap hotel together. But it was cool: I saw the Eiffel Tower! And I arrived home safely the next night. I know that not everyone will think that this is amazing, but if you're looking for an adventure like I did, that's how you can get one.