A friend of mine approached me about doing an overseas volunteer trip over the summer. Together, we researched different programs and websites in order to find one that suited us, as well as allowed people under the age of 18. We wanted the program to revolve around animals, given our shared love for the environment. We landed on the Newcastle Wildlife experience, it seemed perfect.
Alyia is a high school senior who volunteered in Australia over the summer of 2019 when she was 17. The opportunity she was afforded really changed her for the better both socially and work ethically.
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?
On our own, we had to book flights and transportation to Newcastle. Given that we were both underaged, we had a lot of parental help with that.
The program provided nearly everything else, including telling us what to pack. They provided housing, transportation, food, and entertainment. As well as working basically two weeks full-time, I got to experience a lot outside of that through traveling to Sydney and learning about the culture on my own.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would encourage anyone to go, even if it seems out of their comfort zone. It was a wonderful experience and it really brought me out of my shell. I would also recommend that if you can get someone to travel with you, do it. It made it a lot easier for me to adjust to such a different place with a friend by my side.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Each day, we drove to the park. The drive was about an hour and a half, but it didn't seem long because all the volunteers conversed the entire ride. When we got to the park, we worked for about two hours before tea time, where we ate snacks. As an American, I wasn't used to tea time and I ate my entire lunch on accident.
After that, we worked until lunch and then worked a little more driving back to the house. On our first day of work, we were given a schedule on who and what we would be working with each day, ranging from mammals to reptiles to food preparation.
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 have social anxiety, so I was personally most afraid of being away from people I was comfortable with. It helped to have a friend there, but once we were at work, we weren't really together for the entire day, except for the occasional crossing of our paths or overlap of our work. My views changed pretty quickly once I got comfortable with the other volunteers and all the keepers at Oakvale.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
My favorite experience would have to be feeding the dingoes. I got to see the way that they were trained and how they were taken care of. I watched them play with enrichment, and I got to take pictures with them.
It was really awesome because, stereotypically, dingoes are a threat to humans, but seeing some that had been raised in captivity really opened my eyes to how friendly they are.