Volunteering through ISV has changed my life completely. After arriving in Johannesburg, doing conservation work in the Lapalala wilderness reserve, and trekking through Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, and briefly to Zimbabwe, I realized that the world we live in such a beautiful, unique, friendly, and amazing place.
During our time volunteering we went on game drives and counted populations of zebra, impala, kudu, wildebeast, giraffe, hippo, and more. We watched the sunrise while doing 6 am bird counts. We hiked through african bush and were scratched from head to toe by the impenetrable thorn bushes. We were taught about the plight of wild rhino populations suffering from poachers, and we discovered that the stars in an unpolluted African night sky are unbelievably brilliant. The meals we shared were basic but hearty. The bungalows we stayed in became home. And the people we worked with became good friends.
On the adventure tour we swam with whale sharks, jumped off of cliffs, and sang songs around camp fires. In a beautiful open air craft market traded a tee shirt for a handmade bag. In Kruger National Park I was 5 feet away from a pride of Lions. In Mozambique we learned to surf on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. We ate delicious seafood, warthog, crocodile, ostrich, eland, and impala. In Botswana elephants trumpeted around our camp. In the cities we were stunned by the sadness of the children living in poverty. We haggled with fishermen, rode in a tuk tuk, and saw traditional african dances. The local people were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Nights at local backpackers made me feel more like family than a tourist. Listening to someone speak Afrikaans is a magical thing. I spent a month with new friends who shared every sleep, every meal, every hike, every early morning, and every late night with me. They are now friends for life.
ISV made international travel safe and fun. The tour leaders were very responsible, knowledgable, and exciting. I chose to go to South Africa because I had always been drawn there, and I knew the trip would change me, but I wasn't prepared for just how profound that impact would be. ISV has inspired me to plan future trips abroad, and to volunteer more. I feel like I have made a difference in this world. It was worth it in every way. A trip with ISV will change you. You will learn about a new place, meet new people, eat new food, try new things, and ultimately see this world with a new perspective. If you have the money do it. If you don't have the money; fundraise, hit up your parents, search through the couch cushions, sell your stuff and go!
I have recommended volunteering with ISV to everyone who will listen. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have cancelled my flight home. I discovered a wide open world and have the International Student Volunteers to thank. I will cherish the time I got to spend in South Africa and the lifelong friends I made while I was there. It was an epic adventure!