Alumni Spotlight: Stefan Ascherl


Stefan wants to see the world and is always up for the unknown and challenging adventures waiting somewhere out there. Though a chilly day at the beach can be quite nice, too.

Why did you choose this program?

First, I wanted to take my first step into South America. Second, I haven't had any Spanish language skills. Then I did my Google research and came across IOI. Never heard of them before, but the program description sounded tempting, so I gave it a go.

Additionally, the social media program I haven't seen anywhere else before and could combine it perfectly with my real job.

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

I was in touch with the program coordinator and got all my questions answered within one or two days. Further, I got some additional information via Email as for instance packing lists and arrival information. I also got advice on which hostel I could spend the two nights before arriving at the final destination. So this was all sorted very well.

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

Think about before you go, what your usual day looks like. Galapagos island is nice, but if you go on your own in the low season, the island is also pretty empty in terms of people.

I was fine with my two weeks being there; if you have a travel buddy, then add another two weeks, but I am not sure if a longer stay makes sense, at least for me. The rest of the world is quite interesting, too. ;)

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

The day starts early on Galapagos which is sometimes before 7.00. Most often the day starts at the office to meet up. Then, you are heading out. For me, it was either out to the highlands or for instance to the tortoise breeding center. Spending the day there, doing some documentation and heading back.

If you stay longer, there are for sure days you can take off and decide on your own what you want to do.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

This was already my third volunteering, though overall I was fine with everything.

The arrival schedule is quite tight because you have to change the way of transport quite often (plane, bus, ship, bus, ship). But it's an island, though; that's just how it is.

The other issue was cash. Earlier there was no ATM on the island; now there is one, but I don't like to take cash with me, so that was it.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

The good thing about volunteering is that you meet interesting people there. That's the difference to all-inclusive-vacation. Also, the fact that - at least most often - you are allowed to get to places that are forbidden for tourists. You get a much deeper insight into the culture there, compared with usual vacations. A big plus is if you know the language. I can say that it's possible without the local language as well, but a lot of interesting information gets lost.