Two weeks to take-off!

Andrew O'Dea's mantra for preparing for his overseas volunteer project? "Optimism!"

Ready or not, here I come! No, no one has to run and hide from me this time (although hide-and-go-seek was definitely one of the best games on the go as a kid). Actually, I'm talking about the preparation for my overseas project to Cove and John, Guyana.

I think one of the biggest hesitations about doing an overseas project—or any working holiday—is all of the prep-work that is initially involved. There are appointments, phone calls, fundraisers, e-mails, tickets, packing lists, vaccinations and a whole heap of other stuff that all needs organizing before you can actually start into the meat of your project during the overseas portion.

Don't stress! There is no way you can anticipate exactly what your overseas volunteer project will entail as every project has a different focus for different communities and for different people. Accepting this, I was allowed to be much more relaxed and therefore probably more productive. I found the best thing to do was to make a list of absolutely everything that needed to be done and then subdivided that list according to similarities and started working from there. Can you say fun? (Just to clarify, that was not sarcasm. Every time I would finish a task and cross it off my list, I'd get that much closer and that much more excited!)

One of the biggest things that I had to face was the large fundraising initiative. Fortunately, family and friends were extremely supportive as well as local businesses and organizations. From large corporate sponsorships to recycling small plastic containers, I tried to exploit a range of resources, which seemed to work well for accumulating funds. As the total goal that I had set got bumped further and further down with each donation, the task became much less daunting.

Word of advice: Optimism!

I found that approaching things one at a time made everything much more manageable. Now I feel much more confident that I’ll be ready to face whatever is thrown my way.

What could make preparing for this experience harder? Well, I chose to do some pre-project travel. Good decision? Bad decision? I think it was neither—although it did make for some extra careful planning. I know a lot of people incorporate travel before or after their international volunteer projects and since I endorse any opportunity to travel, I have to say that it is worth it. However, it is definitely challenging because they are usually two very different travel experiences. Personally, I chose to accept the challenge, but it was definitely an added stressor.

I think that there is no way that we can be ready for everything and anything. So for now, I have my Band-Aids and my weather-appropriate clothing and I’m keeping an open mind. I think that is the best way that I can prepare myself and I can’t wait to see how badly I failed or how well I succeeded in my prep work. Oh well, this is a first for me, and definitely a learning experience. I’m sure I’ll be back with a critique to how I could have better prepared myself, but for now, wish me luck! Cheers!

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Andrew O'Dea

Andrew O’Dea is a 20-year-old from St. John’s, Newfoundland. He's currently studying at Memorial University, working towards an honours in Biochemistry. He loves getting to know the world through travel, which is why he’s volunteering in Guyana with Youth Challenge International.

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