Alumni Spotlight: Abigail Edwards

Abigail Edwards is 22 years old and from Melbourne, Australia where she completed her Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) degree at Swinburne University. Currently working as a sales assistant and a sports journalist in Australia, she enjoys soccer, traveling and everything Kanye West related.

What inspired you to volunteer abroad with GapForce in Thailand?

Abi: I had just graduated from my journalism degree and was determined to travel the world but didn't know quite where to go and what to do when, of all people, my mother suggested volunteering overseas!

I had friends that had volunteered abroad before, especially in Asia and with animals, and had talked about how great an experience was so I looked into a few different volunteering projects and came across GapForce’s Elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

I’ve always loved animals and I really wanted to do something that would push me outside of my comfort zone whilst allowing me to see a part of the world that I hadn’t before. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to grow up when, where and how I have and thought that it was my time to give something back and volunteering with animals seemed the logical choice!

If you change one thing about your experience, what would it be?

Abi: If I could change one thing I think it would be the duration I stayed with the program. I opted to do one week of introduction in Singburi and one week in the elephant sanctuary in Umphang. If you stay for an extensive period of time you can do a few different volunteer projects provided by GapForce in Thailand.

When I spoke to other volunteers about the different projects they were doing they sounded interesting and I wish that I could have stayed longer not only to experience more of Thailand and the other projects, but to hang out more with the other volunteers I met and have stayed in contact with since my trip.

I travelled in Thailand after my volunteer project and found that I enjoyed the experience of volunteering and the less-touristy sights/experiences that it provided more so than just general sightseeing. It was a good way to experience another culture.

What was the best moment of your trip?

The Elephant Sanctuary in Umphang was definitely the highlight

Abi: Whilst I enjoyed a variety of things on the trip, I think that the Elephant Sanctuary in Umphang was definitely the highlight.

The trip up from the introduction week location of Singburi was long but definitely worth it. In the middle of the mountains, the scenery is beautiful and the people are, of course, so kind and happy.

The elephant sanctuary was a short drive away from our accommodation, so getting to and from the location on a daily basis was easy. With the elephants we were able to cut down and prepare the food for them, feed them and take them down to the nearby river to wash them

All of this was done under the guidance of our supervisor Toon, one of the nicest, happiest people I think I have ever met! He was so helpful and friendly to everyone and really added to the positive experience I had in my time in Thailand.

Tell us about one person you met.

Abi: One of the first people I met in Thailand was our tour guide of sorts, Benz. She was so kind and happy to answer any questions that any of the volunteers had about any of the sites we were visiting.

A lot of the volunteers were quite young (around my age and younger) and so was Benz, so quite often she would come out with the volunteers to hang out, chat and just have a good time. Her as a host helped add to my positive experience and i've stayed in touch with her since I left Thailand.

How has this experience impacted your future?

My volunteer experience was such an eye opener

Abi: Personally, my volunteering experience was a great way for me to experience another culture and meet an array of people. As cliché as it sounds, it’s a real eye opener to see another culture and what other people have to endure, and gives you a real appreciation for the luxuries we are able to experience in life whilst others get by on the bare minimum. It is a worthwhile experience I recommend everyone should do at least once in their life.

Prior to my volunteer project, I would have never considered working abroad but, having had a little exposure overseas I am now more open to it and am thinking about doing another volunteer project or even internship abroad in the near future.

Professionally, having graduated from a journalism degree, the more you know the better it can be to your overall understanding of the world and you never know where that information is going to come in handy.

I am currently looking into doing some media/journalism experience with both GapForce and other volunteer projects which is now bolstered by my understanding of volunteering from my trip in Thailand and, additionally, the connections I made through organising my stay.