Michael Sleeman volunteered with Lattitude last year as a teacher in Fiji. He’s written about his experience and what he was able to learn before going off to uni!
I was in Fiji working in a high school where my primary role was as a teacher and teacher’s assistant in the maths and physics department. I was also in charge of coordinating the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme at the school; helping out with various extra-curricular activities; and occasionally assisting with supervising the boarders. I was staying with a local host family and so, in addition to my work commitments, I got to participate in Fijian family life.
I think I would be very hard pushed indeed to choose my favourite part of the experience - there were so many different factors which all contributed towards the amazing time I had. The people I got to meet and the cultural education I gained through them helped make it a very special experience, as did the amazing places I got to visit whilst I was there. Perhaps the most exciting and proudest moment of the whole placement came right at the end when my school hosted a two day sports tournament and carnival and invited me to be the Chief Guest for the opening day.
What skills did I learn? Working as a teacher, I obviously gained skills specific to my role, from lesson planning to classroom management (although I would be lying if I said I mastered any of them – I was still learning a lot by the time I finished my placement). However, in many ways what I value more are the life skills and capabilities that I developed through my time in Fiji. Things such as being able to adapt to a completely different lifestyle; having the confidence to stand up in front of a class of students scarcely younger than you; developing an appreciation of and sensitivity towards different cultures; building up a resilience towards highly demanding and challenging situations; and managing the logistical and financial aspects of travelling to the other side of the world for several months have all proved really useful since I returned and, no doubt, will continue to do so for the rest of my life.