Volunteer Review: Emily D., General Journalism Projects in Samoa
At the risk of sounding cliché, five weeks ago I could never have imagined the opportunities and incredible experiences that coming to Samoa would give me. I am a volunteer from England with Projects Abroad, and I was fortunate enough to be placed at the Samoa Observer as an aspiring journalist.
Having chosen a very small country, a place that most of my friends had never heard of, I had to justify why I chose Samoa pretty frequently. I did a lot of research before I chose the destination: as a sun seeker, the South Pacific made sense and because I was in search of a very authentic and raw experience, Samoa seemed the natural choice. It’s much less developed than Fiji or New Zealand, while still being renowned as a safe location for a 19-year-old girl traveling alone. The country is very religious and welcoming.
My host family
Traveling alone was a daunting prospect, but from the first day my new family became just that. The way in which each member takes pride in contributing around the house and at the family business is something I genuinely found shocking. From a world away, where it seems people are in a constant struggle against life, forcing themselves to go to work, to just carry on, it’s refreshing to see people truly enjoying life.
My host mother is a fashion designer, and I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in one of her fashion shows during my stay. She handmade a dress to fit me and she gave it to me as a leaving present. The dress was gorgeous and incredibly expensive and my host mother won a prize for it at the show.
The house was always busy, and there was always somebody to go shopping, sunbathing or diving into a waterfall with. They are a vibrant family and amazing cooks! My host family is an incredible group of hardworking people that I will always consider to be part of my family. I feel honored to have met so many amazing people and I have loved every second of my unforgettable summer in Samoa. After my friends back home see the endless beautiful photos, I’m sure we will all be back.
My Journalism placement
One of my goals has always been to find a career in which I actually want to get up and go to work each day. During my time helping at the Observer, I think I may have found it. I have been truly honored to work with a passionate, dedicated and undeniably talented group of people. In such a short time, I have learnt so much and have been astounded at the opportunities I’ve been given. During my placement, I have interviewed the Head Coach of Manu Samoa, Namulauulu Alama Leremia, and the Captain of the Welsh Rugby team, Jamie Roberts, I have sailed around Apia harbor with the Yacht club and attended a United Nations discussion. These are just a few of the surreal experiences I am yet to come to terms with.
I was definitely plunged in at the deep end, with very little in terms of a story briefs, but anyone with initiative and a bit of enthusiasm will do well there. The team at the paper are so welcoming and the editor is a real inspiration, as he genuinely cares about his country and using the paper to make it a better place. He makes sure that the paper is not only publishing the stories that people want to hear, but the ones people need to hear. I ran the tourism section of the paper during my placement and I received messages from many Samoans thanking me for promoting their country. It was truly humbling to think that I may have made even the slightest difference to the tourism industry there.
I would like the opportunity to thank everybody at the Samoa Observer for taking me in and teaching me more about writing and journalism in five weeks than 19 years in England afforded. I would attribute this to the Samoan culture and their indescribable ability to make a stranger feel like a friend.
My free time
The island itself is more beautiful than I can attempt to put down in words. In England, it is cold or raining the majority of the year, so escaping to the other side of the world to get a good tan seemed like a natural decision. Having never traveled alone before, I thought I’d dive in at the deep end, take the three flights, totaling 31 hours in the air, and visit Samoa first. However, I think the rest of the world will have to wait as a return trip to Samoa and my new friends there is at the top of my wish list.
My love of all things edible has definitely been nourished and I will miss the food. The beaches of Savai’i can’t be compared to anything else I’ve ever experienced. Nor can To Sua Trench, which, if you survive the ladder, is undeniably one of the most beautiful places on earth. There’s never a dull day when you’re in paradise.
I love a good timetable, a neat diary and pride myself on never being late, but the person I used to be is most definitely gone. She’s been replaced by a lover of the unknown and I can’t remember what it was like to ever have worries. Let’s hope I can still function in busy England. If not, then I suppose I will just have to make the permanent move back.
I could write for hours about the unbelievable experiences Samoa and its wonderful people have given me, but it would be far more interesting to visit the beautiful island yourself!
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.