AV volunteer, Katie, joined Africa & Asia Venture’s 16 week volunteering program in Uganda and shares her thoughts on how her experiences will help her in the future when she goes to medical school and beyond….
Most of all I feel my confidence, teamwork, leadership and decision making skills were greatly improved from the project I completed with AV in Uganda. We were very much thrown in the deep end when we first started working with the children, (no exaggeration- we were walked to a classroom by the children, we stood there with 70 sets of eye’s on us, no textbooks, no prep on what to teach, no lesson planned, no idea of the level that they were at, no timetable, until the awful realisation as my AV partner, Immy, turned to me and asked “Are we supposed to teach now?“.
However, if anything I’m so glad that this happened, it gave us the independence to approach our lessons in a new way, building on the existing teaching methods, making our own decisions and learning how to lead each other, as well as a class of 70 over-excited children. We found the textbooks and planned lesson’s moving through a small section of the subject at a time, incorporating games, drawings, acting into each lesson to ensure the children were more stimulated when learning.
Although I will not be teaching, as such, in my chosen career of medicine; this ability to think for yourself, act quickly, find your way and take control of a situation you have no idea about initially, will be a useful skill when thrown in to my first job in a hospital, or any other job come to think of it. Furthermore, it is rather a daunting thought thinking back; getting on a plane not knowing anyone you’re with or where you’ll be living, and going to a strange and unfamiliar country that will be your home and life for the next 4 months, however at the time we were all relatively calm.
This is the moment you start to grow up, you think to yourself these people will be my friends – we have so little in common, yet love all that is around us and we’re all here together embracing the same things. The confidence you gain after taking this huge step means that entering any new area of life, be it starting university, a new job, a new school will seem so easy and insignificant. Additionally, standing up in front of a class, teaching, talking, joking and making a fool out of yourself on a regular basis seemed so easy at the time but now has greatly improved my public speaking, and confidence to stand up in a room full of people and talk. All I have to do is imagine the faces of my class staring back at me and nothing could be easier.
Now I am home I feel that the next step of job interviews, when everyone else will churn out the same old speech about school, university, work experience when asked questions on skills they’ve built over the years and how a doctor needs to have confidence, leadership skills, decision making, time management etc. I will not only stand out from the crowd telling funny anecdotes and unusual stories of my time in Africa.
When returning home from AV you have no idea how easy and how much enjoyment you get when given the opportunity to talk about this life changing experience. I could honestly talk about it for hours, to anyone, and in an interview talking about something you know so well and is so close to your heart will not only calm your nerves it will give you a sparkle that not many people have.
For an employer or interviewer seeing someone that could be so passionate for something and embrace such a new and different experience would be one of the greatest skills and assets you can offer.