Volunteer Review: Rebecca G., Teach English and Other Subjects in Fiji
My name is Rebecca G.; I am 22 years old and come from Belfast. For 3 months at the end of 2011 I volunteered in the beautiful country of Fiji teaching in a local elementary school. I went to Fiji just 6 weeks after graduating from university. I chose Fiji as a challenge – it is literally the other side of the world with very different climate and food. It was also a personal dream to visit ‘paradise.’
Projects Abroad was one of the few organizations I could find online who offered Fiji as a destination, it being a newer project made it more appealing. I wasn’t nervous before travelling to Fiji, although going alone I managed to talk to a few people going the same time as me through the Projects Abroad Fiji Facebook page – it was nice to recognize a few faces and share ideas before arriving!
Living with the Buatavas
I was placed with the wonderful Buatava family of Samabula, Suva. The family consisted of Dad (Wise), Mum (Niseta) and little brother (Antonio). I have always wanted a little brother and I got one! The family was amazing and Wise was a brilliant cook. They included me in all family activities and made me feel so welcome.
If I am honest, I underestimated the role of my host family before I travelled to Fiji. I was more concerned with the work I would be doing and meeting the other volunteers. In reality, the host family was fantastic and really added to my time spent in Fiji. I feel lucky to have been part of such a special family and will definitely keep in contact.
My teaching placement
My teaching placement was in Holy Trinity Anglican School in Flagstaff, Suva with class 3, who are aged between seven and eight. On my first day I was nervous, how was I going to control a class of 53?! I began by introducing myself and had brought postcards of Ireland so they could see my country. They were so excited to have a volunteer which put me at ease – they had a lot of questions and everyday jostled over who was sitting beside me – even 3 months later!
I taught a range of things including math, English and science. It was difficult at times to control and maintain the attention of the children, but I found turning things into a game caught their attention. For example, I would spend 15minutes explaining a topic, and then divide them into teams and whoever could remember the most won. They are very competitive! I also got to write and mark my own test papers which was a lot of responsibility and made me feel that my contribution was worthwhile.
I was also lucky enough to celebrate Fiji Day (10th October) and World Teachers’ Day with Holy Trinity Anglican School. The teachers made me my very own sulu and chamba (traditional Fijian dress) and it was a unique experience to see everyone in such bright clothes celebrating. Another highlight with class three was their field trip to a village and then to Pacific Harbor to go swimming. The excitement and build up lasted for weeks and it was great to see so many happy faces and to be a part of it.
On my last day I was presented with many gifts from the teachers and children and we had a party. The hardest thing about my whole experience was definitely saying goodbye. However, I will never forget them and have already sent them some books and pencils for starting class 4!
Fiji is a stunning country and has to be explored in free time! Projects Abroad have weekly socials which are a good way to catch up with other volunteers and hear about their week. It is also the best way to organize weekend trips, the staff were very knowledgeable and helpful about where to go! It is not expensive to travel in Fiji and most places offered discounts for volunteers, everyone I met was genuinely interested in what work I was doing in the country.
For anyone going long enough to earn holiday time like I did, the Yasawa Islands are the thing to see. Along with a few other volunteers I did a week long cruise and it really was paradise! I never thought I would get a chance to visit beautiful and famous places such as Blue Lagoon. The experiences in Fiji are something I never dreamed I would experience and I count myself very lucky to have done and seen the things that I have.
Life after Fiji
Leaving Fiji was very hard – I was not ready to come home and had never experienced any homesickness! I still talk to many volunteers, my host family and some teachers from school. Fiji was a learning curve for me about myself. I learnt I am more independent than I thought and a new way of life. Fiji, I will be back!
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.