Alumni Spotlight: Henrik Siemer

Why did you choose this program?

Since I realized the problem of Climate Change I was thinking about what I could do to support the environmental movement. When I heard about the program from a friend, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. A combination of Climate Activism, physical work, sustainable agriculture and meeting a different culture. The idea of living in a community of people thinking the same way working hand in hand to maintain the campus was really catching me.

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

After I send my first E-Mail I got support with different informational documents and personal contact. Every question I had was answered within a short time and I was well informed. I even received a document that made sure the immigration workers in St. Vincent would let me pass. Once I showed them that I was going to join RVA, they understood and even welcomed me to the country.
I only had to organize my own clothing for work, vaccinations and other medicine. Everything else was provided or available.

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

Dont forget to bring one or two pairs of gloves, sunscreen and mosquito spray. Some people were affected by them, but not me. I never used it. And bring a good camera if you can, because you will be surrounded by amazing nature.
You should be okay with living in a bedroom with another person and also bring enough idealism to see the work as a passion and not as.. you know work ^^.

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

After you have been trained in the skills you need for the work at the campus, your week will look normally this way. From Monday to Saturday your day starts with breakfast at 07:00. What happens next depends on whether it is a practical or theoratical program. You will either work in your responsibility area (garden, kitchen, promotion, maintenance,etc.) or do other practical work, if needed. If it is a theory day, you will be part of a morning class, in which a teacher informs you about different topics concerning climate change.
Lunch is at 12:00 and Dinner at 6:00pm. Normally you will be finished with your work around 4 or 5pm and can go to the beach or call home before dinner. After dinner we used to play games or went for a night bath in the sea. Sunday is the day, that you can use however you want. Go to Kingstown, hike the Vulcano or go diving! On sundays breakfast is at 09:00.

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 could not stand the hot climate, because I obviously never worked in a garden in the tropics. I told myself I just had to try and asked my friend about that. He told me, that everybody had adapted after a few weeks and that was also true for me. After I got tanned, I always enjoyed the sun! There are also some cloudy and rainy days, so you should really not share my concern.

How was the atmosphere among the participants?

Living at the Campus of Richmond Vale Academy is a wonderful experience. Working and living with the same around 50 people the whole day creates deep friendships, that you seldom find at normal schools. Due to the option to choose your responsibility area, you will work with people, that share your interests and enjoy every minute. At RVA everything is selfmade. Nobody, except the local workers, that support the students is really educated in the skills. You learn everything by doing it and that is the secret of RVAs success. Me and my team build a large pig enclosure without knowing anything about it before. Our teacher gave us advise and we just had to be creative. The result was rewarding! On top of that you will meet young people from all around the globe and can exchange your stories and thoughts, which was totally awesome. Now I have a lot of friends in different countries!