We interviewed Grace and she shared her recent wonderful experience volunteering as a School Assistant at Queen Mary’s School during her Gap Year in the UK.
Thank you so much, Grace, for detailing what your placement was like, all the fun and adventure you got up to in your free time, and how it impacted you as you look ahead on the next steps for pursuing your career. We are so excited for you!
Why did you choose to volunteer in the UK?
I chose to take a gap year in the UK because it had always been a dream of mine to go and live there. Plus being in the UK gave me the opportunity to also easily travel through Europe while getting work experience in the UK!
Tell us about the orientation you received when you arrived.
During Orientation, we all stayed at this really nice hostel about 10 minutes away from Kings Cross Station. We spent the first bit of the orientation in a big conference space, where the Director of Lattitude UK talked to us about laws in the UK, expectations, and general life in the UK. Afterwards, we had a couple of tours of London and we were allowed to have free time with the other volunteers! It was a really great way to make connections for those in your placement area!
Walk us through a day in the life of your placement.
I’d start work at 7:10 am when I’d wake up all the girls in the boarding house, make sure they got into uniforms and went down the breakfast by 7:30 am. After breakfast I’d head upstairs with all the juniors (age 7-12) and make sure teeth were brushed, hair was done and dorms were tidy- they were off to school by 8:20 am. From then on I’d work in boarding, doing laundry, checking dorms, and various tasks that needed doing that day until about 10:45 am when I’d go supervise morning break outside.
From 11:05am-12:00pm I had a break, I’d usually go and hang out in my room or workout. My room was a private room in the boarding house. I shared a small corridor with the other gap year student on the junior side of the boarding house. On certain days I’d go teach Year 1’s to swim or I’d help out at lunchtime with serving food to the younger kids and supervise lunch break outside. From 1:00 pm-3:30 pm I’d have another break where I’d eat lunch and hang out in my room again, occasionally going out to the shops when I could find a way out there!
From 3:30 pm-5:30 pm I’d go help at After School club, usually years 1 and 2 girls. I’d walk them down to their riding lessons at the stables or we’d play games or colour together! It also gave me time to help out the teachers with marking work etc. At 5:30 pm I’d go do the dinner register, which is just making sure all the boarders got their tea, then I’d get my own.
At 6:30 pm-7:20 pm I’d do activities with the junior boarders and the outdoor education teacher, usually games like tag or swimming or running around in the gym! Afterwards, I’d get the girls upstairs and make sure they showered, got them a bedtime snack and by 8:30 start putting them all to bed. I was off at 9:30 pm every night after the year 8 girls had lights out! Full and busy days with lots of fun and downtime throughout.
I believe I made a positive impact in that I helped some of the girls at the school. I found myself in a bit of a big sister sort of role to a few of the full boarders and they trusted me, talked to me openly, and asked me questions that they weren’t comfortable asking to others.
What are some of the big differences between where you volunteered and where you call home?
The location was a big change for me. My placement was very rural, there was almost no public transport and the closest town was about a 15-minute drive away! A lot of sayings were different and took some time to get used to. The kids I worked with found it hilarious when I’d pronounce words differently too.
Tell us about the travels you got to do during and after your placement?
I travelled a lot during my placement; I was very lucky to have a lot of time off to do so! Before my placement, I had only visited Spain and the USA. But during my gap year, I had visited 8 countries between September and the end of February! I was supposed to visit 14 by the end of June but sadly those plans were cut short due to COVID-19. In my time, I managed to see a lot of England, and visited Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Poland!
And what about your local community. Tell us more!
I had the opportunity to live in a very small village in the UK. There were a lot of farmers who were all very kind and lovely to chat to at the village pub! Getting used to the Yorkshire accent definitely took some time!
Due to how rural my placement was, in my downtime I spent a lot of it planning my next trip rather than going into town. Other times I’d work out or go for a walk or even go to the village pub with some friends! I really loved the food in England! Traditional Pub food is the absolute best! My only issue was with black pudding.
What were some of the highlights of your experience?
I met people all over the place! I became friends with some of the Lattitude volunteers and travelled with some of them! The staff at my school were amazing and I got really close to a lot of them and we are still in contact regularly. I made a lot of friends while I was travelling too, often we would spend just one day together on our travels, but I still talk to some of them regularly!
My favourite moment was when I was in Copenhagen Denmark, I was travelling with another volunteer and one of the teachers from my school! We were staying in this incredible hostel and met some amazing people. There was one night when we were all hanging out at the hostel and we were about 15 people who had never met before, we were all talking and getting to know each other, playing games and having the best time!
Can you give examples of any personal development you may have gained as a result of your experience?
I am a lot more confident in myself now than I was when I left for my gap year experience. I became a lot more open to new opportunities and people because of how much travelling forced me to put myself out there more! I became a lot more relaxed; I stopped being so worried and started just accepting that not everything goes to plan.
Finally, what are you planning on doing next, and has your Lattitude experience helped or influenced your path in any way?
Next, I’m starting the Nursing program at my local college! Lattitude has helped me see how much I love travel and living abroad so throughout my schooling I’m planning on doing clinical placements abroad and trying to see as much of the world as I can in my breaks! I can’t wait!