Canada | School Volunteer | Meike

Meike, an 18-year-old from Germany, embarked on a transformative volunteering experience with New Ventures Worldwide (NVW) at a school in Canada. Meike’s role as a School Volunteer involves assisting teachers in various tasks, from academic support to boarding house duties. Despite initial challenges, Meike finds immense joy in working with the children, particularly to see how the girls are having fun to learn something new every day. Through this experience, she discovered her patience and developed valuable skills in managing challenging situations, supported by the school staff.

“I love working with the kids. They are high-energy and demand a lot of attention, which has helped me realise that patience is a skill of mine. I have learned a lot from seeing how teachers manage challenging situations.”

Motivation to Volunteer

Meike’s inspiration to volunteer stemmed from her cousin’s recommendation and her desire for a gap year experience before university. Seeking personal growth and English language improvement, Meike embraced the opportunity to explore new horizons through volunteering.

“I wanted to take a gap year after school, to explore a new country with its culture and traditions and to improve my English.”

Living Away for the First Time

Meike initially grappled with homesickness but found solace in Canada’s welcoming community and friendly people. Over time, she settled into a routine, allowing her to explore the country and enjoy experiences like travelling to Toronto and attending hockey games.

“The first two months were tough, but the people being so friendly and open helped a lot. I have free time to travel and explore, which I love.”

Food and Accommodation

Meike enjoys the convenience of having meals provided by the school, featuring a variety of dishes like pasta, sushi and tacos. Living with three fellow volunteers from Germany in shared accommodation, Meike is adapting to household chores and sharing living spaces.

“The school provides all meals, which is handy. I’m also learning to do housework and clothes washing for myself.”

Experience with NVW

Meike praises the seamless support provided by NVW, particularly during the visa application process. Despite applying at the last minute, Meike received timely assistance, ensuring a smooth transition into her volunteering placement.

“It was a long visa application process but NVW were always there to support me when needed.”

Personal Growth and Future Aspirations

Meike reflects on the transformative impact of her volunteering experience, both professionally and personally. She gained valuable workplace skills, confidence in her abilities, and a deeper appreciation for her home country.

“It’s shown me what the workplace in a school is like and prepared me for my future everyday working life because I have learned, what it means to have responsibility and how to work professionally with the children. On a personal level, I have learned more about myself.”

Advice for Aspiring Volunteers

Meike encourages prospective volunteers to approach their experiences with an open mind and embrace the journey wholeheartedly. She emphasises the importance of cherishing each moment and making the most of this valuable opportunity for personal growth out of your comfort zone.

“Be aware that it will be so different to home. Make the most of it, be grateful for this opportunity and enjoy each moment.”

Canada | School Volunteer | Jette

Jette, a 19-year-old, also from Germany, supports teachers primarily in junior school and kindergarten. She assists with various tasks, including administrative work and caring for the boarding house. Despite initial reservations about working with children, Jette sincerely appreciated their contagious energy and unique perspectives. Her experience taught her valuable lessons in working with children and handling challenges effectively, such as addressing behavioural issues tactfully and seeking support when needed. Despite facing homesickness, Jette acknowledges the personal growth and newfound independence she gained from stepping out of her comfort zone.

“Honestly, I used to think kids were a bit annoying, but now I love working with them. Getting out of my comfort zone has been the best, and I have learnt so much about life and myself.”

Motivation to Volunteer

Jette was introduced to the volunteering programme through a family friend who had previously volunteered for a gap year. Seeking to broaden her horizons, meet new people, improve her English, and gain diverse experiences before pursuing higher education and employment, Jette embraced the opportunity to volunteer abroad.

“I want to get to know the world, meet new and different people, improve my English, and do something different before going to university and getting a job.”

Living Away for the First Time

Living independently for the first time presented Jette with various challenges, including managing household responsibilities and adapting to shared living spaces. However, she found solace in establishing open communication with her housemates and addressing shared concerns collaboratively. Immersed in the welcoming atmosphere of Canada, Jette was struck by the warmth and politeness of the people, although adjusting to the weather and urban lifestyle posed initial challenges.

“It is a lot of work living independently, but I’m getting used to it. The Canadian people are really nice, helpful and polite. It is sometimes overwhelming how chatty people are. The weather is cold, and I must wrap up whenever I go outside. Living in a big city for the first time was overwhelming at first but now I’m enjoying it.”

Food and Accommodation

Jette notes the differences in dietary preferences between Germany and Canada, adapting to lighter, more American-style cuisine. Despite having specific dietary requirements, she manages her meals effectively, preparing food at home due to histamine intolerance. Her accommodation, situated above the school, offers convenience and character, although occasional maintenance issues arise.

“In Germany, we eat more bread and carbs. My apartment is above the school. The building is 123 years old, so the maintenance person is often here fixing stuff. I live with three other gap year volunteers who are also from Germany.”

Experience with NVW

Jette praises the straightforward and supportive experience with NVW, appreciating their assistance in facilitating her volunteering journey. She values their role in providing essential support and information, acknowledging NVW’s expertise in placement logistics.

“The experience with NVW was straightforward, and they are there to support me if I need them. It’s nice to have an organisations helping me.”

Personal Growth and Future Aspirations

Jette reflects on the profound personal growth she experienced while volunteering. Learning about herself, her communication style, and her aspirations, she recognises the impact this experience will have on her future endeavours, particularly in her chosen field of business psychology.

“I am learning about myself, and it is helping me be more open-minded with people.”

Advice for Aspiring Volunteers

Jette encourages prospective volunteers to approach their experiences with gratitude and positivity, recognising the invaluable opportunities for personal and cultural growth that volunteering presents.

“Always see the positives of every experience and enjoy each moment. It is an incredible opportunity to learn a new culture, so be grateful.”