Julianne Whitney - 2018 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I am from a very small town and I had small town fever. I knew that I needed to experience a different culture so that I could not only understand the world a little better, but also to have more appreciation for the opportunities I have.

Why did you choose International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)?

I've always wanted to go to Africa, so when I saw the video of Victoria Falls on IVHQ's website, I knew I had to go.

Girl carrying young boy on her back

Playing with the kids at the school

What was your favorite part Victoria Falls?

My favorite part was seeing the poverty in Victoria Falls. I know that may seem like an odd favorite, but it really put a lot of things in perspective for me. I have a newfound appreciation for the small things and life and I take less for granted. I also now have the ability to educate others on how lucky we really are for the small things that we take granted for, like indoor plumbing, and pens and pencils. 

What made your experience abroad unique?

I don't think I can specify one thing that was unique my experience. The entire trip was unique.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was amazing. I know that I now have a second home in Zimbabwe. I miss my Zim family so much and I only left four days ago.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have taken more time to soak in the trip during my second week there. Two weeks is not long enough!!! The first week I was getting used to everything, the second week I had an idea of what was expected and I let it fly by. Next time I go I want to be there for at least a month. 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

The best part this program was that every day was different. On Mondays you do game drives to observe animals, Tuesdays you clear roads, Wednesdays you garden at the school and watch the sunset, Thursdays you camp, Fridays you do a tracking and alien vegetation removal. Even with that schedule, sometimes they switch it up!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

During my free time I spent a lot of time getting to know the other volunteers. I know that I have friends for life and I can't wait to visit them soon. In addition, the Ecologist on the reserve was made available to teach us more the wildlife and reserve. I cannot believe how much I learned on this trip!

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best it?

The accommodation was even better than expected. You get your own bedroom and have cleaners come every morning to check for spiders, snakes, scorpions, etc. and they make your bed.

View of trees in front of sunset

The food was way better than anything I can make, and they were willing to work with me being vegan and gluten free! The best part the accommodation was knowing I didn't have to worry as much the spiders, snakes, and scorpions. It was comforting to know someone was checking for those.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Go for at least a month. If you are going for the right reasons, two weeks is not long enough. I cried so much when I had to leave because my trip didn't feel finished. Also, no matter how hot you think it's going to be, bring pants. Trust me, there are lots of prickly bushes you'll be working with and they will make you bleed.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

My life is completely different. Almost all my loved ones have told me that they don't know who I am anymore (in a positive way). I feel more alive and happier than I have ever been. In addition, my work ethic is 100 times better because I am already saving to go back.

Would you recommend IVHQ to others? Why? 

I would 100% recommend this program to others if they like the outdoors. Why? Where to start... Nakavango has become a second home to me. My heart will always ache to go back. It has changed my life in the best possible way. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. The staff is AMAZING! And so friendly. The food is excellent (they do serve western food, so nothing crazy). The accommodation was great. I got everything I wanted and then some from going to Nakavango.