Alumni Spotlight: Sam Middleton

Interested in marine ecology, sharks and environmentally sustainable practices. At the time of the project, just completed sixth form in the UK; now a mechanical engineering student at university.

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Why did you choose this program?

Projects abroad sent representatives to my school a few years before to talk about some of the projects they had to offer. They mentioned that this was a new project they had set up to help study and better understand sharks and their ecosystems. It sounded amazing so I decided I would join them when I left school; I knew some Fijian people too and they said that it was a fantastic country to visit.

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

Projects Abroad organized flights for my whole trip from the UK to Fiji and back, as well as accommodation and food for my entire stay. They also assisted with visa applications both before I arrived and while I was in the country (visas must be extended after 14 days in the country). They also offer the possibility to explore the country after the project and then return on the flights they booked for you (though I didn’t do this).

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

If I went back, I would make a list of all the things I would like to do while I’m there, outside of the project. I would probably take the option to explore the islands after the project as well, though I would rather do this with friends than on my own.

I loved my time with the Shark Conservation group, but there was so much more I would like to go back and do!

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

If you are new to diving, you will start with a diving course with the Beqa Adventure Divers after which you will be qualified as a PADI Open Water diver (18m). After this, you will probably dive twice a week, go fishing to find baby sharks once a week, do a community project like dancing or visiting a school or village on Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays to explore for yourself!

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 that I was traveling halfway around the world on my own for 2 whole months. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I hit a problem. In the end, though, I needn't have worried: many people traveled there alone so it was very easy to make friends, and the project staff was fantastic. I met so many different people from around the world and I’m so glad I went.

Who would this project be suitable for?

I would genuinely recommend this to anyone! There were large age, knowledge and ability ranges among the volunteers, so they were never a factor anyone had to be concerned about. For any younger people who are very worried about traveling alone, there is a 2-week version for high school students!

If you are interested in sharks or marine ecology, this is a once in a lifetime experience you shouldn’t miss!