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#5: Living & Volunteering in Nepal – why ICS? | Application Process

10th January 2020.

So far, the longest flight I’ve ever been on was probably to Cyprus and the longest time I’ve been away from home on my own was for 7 days.

Now it’s 21 days until I catch a ~13-hour flight from London to Kathmandu, and my return flight home won’t be until 3 months later.

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Panoramiv view of Muri, nepali traditional village, in Annapurna region, Himalaya. Dhaulagiri circuit trek, Nepal.

Last September I was researching different things I could do on my gap year and all I knew for certain was how badly I wanted to travel and volunteer. At some point I came across ICS – the International Citizen Service – and I thought 3 months sounded like a long time and that living with a host family for all that time seemed daunting, but I wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity. That night I applied online, and 3 days later I received an email asking me to call them so that we could move my application forward. I found out I had been passed onto Raleigh (as I didn’t have a preference as to which of the ICS organisations I went with) and just 3 days after¬†that, I got an email inviting me to one of three assessment days at the Raleigh International office in London three weeks later. (3 really must be the magic number…)

The assessment day was great – not very formal, plenty of time to chat to the other applicants and a pretty friendly atmosphere. It’s important to know that you’re not in ‘competition’ with the others, because even if everyone got accepted, there would be enough spaces on the programme. We were split into two groups of about 12. The half that I was in did our interviews in the morning (which I was happy to get done and dusted) and then assessed group activities after lunch. We were there for just under 7 hours altogether, which sounds long but it was absolutely fine. The interview was pretty long in itself, but I felt like it flew by so fast! The assessed activities that we did in groups were more fun than you’d think and the thought of doing a presentation in front of everyone seems much worse in your head than in practice.

My assessment day was on a Tuesday, and on the Thursday of that week I received the email to say I had been successful! Amazing feeling. This was also when they let me know that I was on the Nepal placement – and since they were mainly recruiting for Tanzania, Nepal was an unexpected surprise.

The next step was the 3-day pre-departure training event (PDT) which was based in Conisbrough near Doncaster. It was a stressful journey for everyone to get there because it was the peak of the floods – but we made it. The activities weren’t bad at all – some pretty thought-provoking – and even the presentations were quite relaxed. I didn’t find them the easiest few days, but the times when I felt really comfortable and at ease made up for any low moments I had there. I met people that I got along with really well and the whole weekend was scattered with ‘energiser’ games and group discussions which, even in the moments where none of us felt we had the energy, always helped us get going again. A few standout moments were exploring the whole activity centre one evening, having a laugh doing a yoga session and having to open up to each other about pretty deep things (which proved to me how freeing it feels to be even just a little bit vulnerable)!

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That was in November last year. Now we’re here in January, frantically fundraising and trying to tick things off the kit list and fitting in the last couple of vaccinations. And, of course, getting more and more excited by the day! Living with a host family in rural Nepal for 3 months and working with the community on a water sanitation & hygiene project is one of those things you can only imagine – because no matter the amount of preparation, I won’t truly have a clue what it’s like until I’m there in the thick of it. I can’t wait to be in discovery mode now!

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophiekrol

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#4: To Travel, Set Goals.

 
photo of woman walking on seashore
Photo by Darya Chervatyuk on Pexels.com

This week marked the end of my exams! I’ll be honest, it’s been a long time coming. And yet, the last few days have been OK – they haven’t been euphoric. No, they haven’t been constant celebration and no, I haven’t actually felt much more free than I felt with my head in a textbook.

Suddenly exams come to a halt and so does revision and, if you’re not careful, goals.

It’s made me realise the importance of continuously having goals. That’s not to say we should go overkill and each week bury ourselves under the weight of a strict deadline – I’ve had my fair share of those during exam season and need some down time – but having something to work towards every day is invaluable. Have nothing to aim for and it’s natural that you’re probably going to default into couch potato mode if you’re anything like me.

You have to find a middle-ground.

It’s a little surreal to me that I’m now on my gap year. I suppose I had specific hopes for the person I would have become by now and for how I would feel upon starting my gap year, but I don’t precisely fit that mould of expectations as of yet.

I no longer have the same 5- or 10-year life plan I dreamt up when I was 16 – in fact, I no longer really have one at all. I have been setting myself some goals, such as figuring out travel plans, completing an online short-course in biochemistry and getting my Italian up to scratch, but the issue is that I need a bigger purpose behind such goals. I feel the need for a destination; an ultimate dream towards which these smaller goals will pose promisingly as stepping stones.

Take the plunge or build your confidence.

There are two ways to achieve goals that your comfort zone hasn’t yet expanded to. Imagine a scenario where there are two different people wanting to try solo travel, but whose fear has startled them and almost stopped them in their tracks. One person decides they need to stop overthinking and over-planning and books their flight to SE Asia before they change their mind. The other decides to do it in small steps: firstly travelling with someone else and tagging a couple days of solo travel onto the end of it, and then solo travelling to a couples of cities not too far from them for long weekends, before they take that step to travel solo to SE Asia.

They both got to where they wanted in the end and they both achieved their goal.

The difference is that the first person took one giant leap of faith, far out of their comfort zone. Perhaps this caused them a lot of anxiousness at first until they naturally adapted to the solo travel lifestyle, but because they had managed to muster up sufficient courage, they achieved their goal fast and with minimal hesitation.

The second person took a number of more manageable steps first, stretching & growing their comfort zone with each one, so that once the time came to jet off on the big solo trip, though still nerve-wracking, it was not miles out of their comfort zone like it would have been initially, so appeared less daunting.

So it won’t really matter if we step or if we leap; the key is that we don’t allow ourselves to get paralysed by the fear. Instead, we acknowledge the fear and move forward despite it.

GO THE GLOBE

#1: The Journey Begins Here…

Currently with no idea what the upcoming couple of years of my life have in store for me, welcome to my gap year!

We have nothing to lose and a world to see. – Unknown

For the last couple of years, my mind’s been in wanderlust mode. It’s been generating countless ideas for me – some pretty modest, some daunting and some just ridiculous. Having thought up, bottled up and saved for later each one of those dreams, this next year (or more) of my life is dedicated to finally making them happen.

My readers are going to get the chance to live these adventures alongside me as I provide you with my experiences, clue you up on the do’s and don’ts in different countries and let you in on what the guidebooks don’t tell you – all while keeping your bank account happy.

There are a couple of things set on the agenda so far: another trip to Paris (expect tips on how to explore it like a local), an Italian summer getaway and then maybe further afield…

I cannot wait to get started and help you make the absolute most out of your ventures too.

GO THE GLOBE

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