Lina from Germany has decided to volunteer in the picturesque city of Léon in Nicaragua. Today she talks about her tasks and why she would like to come back to Nicaragua soonagain!
Even though my stay unfortunately ended much earlier than I had planned due to the current circumstances caused by the corona virus, the three months that I spent in Nicaragua were a great time. Of course, when I arrived I was very nervous both in the host family and in the project, but I was warmly welcomed everywhere and felt very involved after just a few weeks.
Lina volunteered in the “Minibiblioteca”. This project is committed to making children and adults want to read, and offers pre-school tuition and afternoon and free time programs for children whose parents work full time.
One of my tasks was to help out at the Montessori preschool in the mornings, which is attended by 3 to 5 year old children. The children and I got on very well and I learned at least as much as they did in the 3 months I was there.
I will never forget this great experience and will try to come back to Nicaragua soon.
Lina from Germany
Here you can find all information about Lina’s volunteer project.
World Unite! participant Carina from Germany made a conscious decision to stay in Myanmar during the Corona pandemic and to continue her volunteer work. In our blog she tells about her everyday life in Myanmar during the pandemic and why she decided to stay in Myanmar.
I got to know Myanmar in April 2019 as an open and friendly country for tourists, and was quickly fascinated by the Burmese culture. At the time, I never thought I would come back as a volunteer a year later. However, I would never thought that there would be a global pandemic like the Corona virus either.
In a nutshell: I quit my job at the end of 2019, sold my car and sublet my apartment because I needed this hard cut to start my new adventure freely and without any responsibilities back home. This was one of the reasons why I chose to stay in Myanmar during the Corona crisis.
Carina volunteers in Yangon, Myanmar with the organization “Thant Myanmar” in the area of environmental protection and plastic recycling. You can read more about their job site here.
I arrived in Yangon on March 4th, 2020. The country was still corona-free, so to speak, and I slowly started to navigate my way around in the city and at work.
A month later I found myself preparing loads of copies of my passport and my visa! Many things had changed because of the corona pandemic and as a foreigner I had to register with the local immigration office as soon as possible. Many things related to the pandemic happened within a very short time here, and decisions and formalities had to be made and dealt with very quickly.
The beginning of Corona and the flood of information
At the beginning I only heard rumors that the country would close its borders in late March. When you are new to the city and do not speak the local language, it can sometimes be quite difficult to get information. All I knew at the time was that there were no confirmed corona infections in Myanmar yet, and that an official government conference on Coronavirus had been announced to take place in the following days.
A colleague and her boyfriend were the first ones I knew to leave the country in a bit of a rush. They were in contact with the Danish embassy, which recommended that all Danish citizens leave the country immediately. I then registered with the German embassy, just to be up to date and so – should any measures be taken – the embassy would know that I was here at all.
The following things then all happened within a week: The German Embassy sent emails almost daily asking German travelers in Myanmar to end their stay early. In my apartment, which I had just moved into, I was now alone because my roommates had already traveled back home.
I was particularly unsettled by the fact that the advice from my surroundings changed almost every day: from the well-intentioned advice that you should leave the country as quickly as possible to the information that you could actually stay, I basically heard everything. One can imagine that this back and forth and the flood of information can be very unsettling.
A decision is pending: leave or stay?
Knowing that there are only a few flights back home and you don’t know when you can go back was a big factor of uncertainty for me.
In any case, one thing was certain: I had to find out for myself whether I wanted to stay in Myanmar and continue my volunteer work or cancel my stay, and best of all before the borders closed and the German Embassy carried out the return flights.
I then spoke a lot to my family and friends, informed myself about the current situation in Germany, considered my options and spoke to many people in Yangon. In the end, I decided to stay in Myanmar, no matter what.
Some of you might think that my decision was brave, I don’t see it that way. I simply feel very safe in my apartment on the 8th floor, I can walk to work, keep a good distance from other people and if I feel uncomfortable, I can stay at home and work remotely.
In Germany where I no longer have a job, I would have to move back in with my parents at the age of 28 – during the quarantine period, when you are forced to stay at home and avoid direct contact with people outside the household.
The backing from home as a motivator to stay in Myanmar
What finally consolidated my decision was the support of my family and friends. No matter how I decided, they would always be by my side – a very important factor for me. During my time in Myanmar so far, I have often heard that the reason why many expats to finally return to their home country is because of pressure from friends, colleagues, families, companies, organizations, embassies, authorities, etc.
If my volunteering organisation had asked me to go home, what would have kept me in Myanmar? If my family lived in fear for me every day, would I still have stayed? If the most important group of friends is gradually leaving and you suddenly feel alone, should you still stay? I think that many expats and volunteers were confronted with similar experiences, even if they originally intended to stay in Myanmar. I know from stories that some of them later regretted their decision to leave because of Corona.
Sometimes I also wonder whether it was the right decision to stay in Myanmar, for example when locals are suddenly afraid of me, since in the beginning the media mostly spoke of infected foreigners or returnees. Or if you are mobbed on the street because you do not wear a face mask (even when you did not have to wear a mask).
What helps me to master the situation – my contacts
At this point I have to mention that I have done everything so well so far because I have an incredible amount of help from some very nice people here: my housekeeper Aunty, who always takes care of me and is always concerned about my wellbeing; my neighbor, who accompanied me on every visit to the immigration authorities and sometimes even helped out with translating and managing the bureaucratic jungle for hours, only to repair my air conditioning system the next day; and my colleagues from Thant Myanmar, who will always inform me of any new government regulations, give me tips on visa extensions and document applications and who will always help me translate if the Burmese language should give me a hard time. Fortunately, there are great people all over the world.
Covid-19 in Myanmar vs. Covid-19 in Germany
In the past few weeks, I have become particularly aware that there is not much of a difference between a Covid 19 infection in Germany and an infection in Myanmar. In Myanmar, medical care and the health system are clearly not at the same level as in Germany, and of course I hope that I will not have the coronavirus and will not have to go to a hospital.
But you will catch the virus the same way in Myanmar as in Germany, through contact with infected people. The most important rules here are the same as everywhere else in the world: avoid crowds, stay at home if possible, wash hands and wear masks outside the home to prevent others from being infected.
So I’ve been working from home in my apartment since Thingyan (Burmese New Year) and only go out to shop groceries every now and then. Sometimes the quarantine does of course drive me crazy. Especially when a pick-up drives through the streets every day and announces new curfews and government regulations in Burmese through the megaphone and of course I don’t understand anything. Or when a cleaning team moves through the streets and sprays a mixture of bleach and disinfectant, which you better keep away from.
But even on those days I remember that I am not alone. That friends, family and colleagues are in a similar situation and also have to wait in quarantine until the situation improves again. That when I’m sitting on my balcony I’m not the only one sitting out there at the same time looking at the empty street. And that I can still move around freely here as a foreigner and call my friends and family via video call whenever I want.
We all have to get through Corona, regardless of whether we are in Germany, Myanmar or elsewhere. That is why I decided to stay here in Yangon and continue my adventure!
Carina volunteers with “Thant Myanmar”, an organisation dedicated to the reduction of plastic waste. Her tasks include the support of social media channels such as Facebook and YouTube. This includes creating weekly posts, analyzing social media reach and the website. In addition, Carina, on behalf of Thant Myanmar, is involved in World Bank Surveys, which records and evaluates pollution in various parts of Yangon and also helps with office structuring.
Diana from Germany volunteered at a horse ranch in South Africa for 3 weeks at the beginning of 2020. In today’s blog, she shares her experience volunteering in South Africa, and about living and working on a ranch.
I volunteered for three weeks at a Horse Farm in South Africa earlier this year. The farm is owned by Sarah and Kos. 11 horses, 5 ponies, 5 dogs and 2 cats live a good life at the farm and make the farm life vivid and fun.
I shared a pretty and well-equipped cottage with another volunteer, with whom I got on very well and we became friends. We were equipped with ingredients for meals and had the opportunity to go into town almost every day to do some shopping as well.
Despite my modest experience with horses and my basic riding skills, I was given the opportunity to volunteer, work on the farm and participate on the trails.
Sarah is a very patient, humorous and loving person who responds to the well-being and prior experience of every volunteer and guest. She really lives her passion for horses and animals! The well-trained horses have individual personalities and fit different riders. I came to the farm with very little previous experience and would say that I have greatly improved my riding skills and learned a lot from dealing with the horses (also that you should avoid horse feet, which otherwise can get painful).
The trails along the breathtaking beaches and riding through the yellow and golden dunes was just fantastic! I also learned a lot from Sarah’s extensive knowledge of the landscape, which she loves to share with volunteers and guests. Thanks to Kos, all these memories have been captured photographically!
Sarah and Kos also organized fantastic trips for us! Amazing experiences were the visits to the penguin and lion sanctuary and a shark diving tour.
I thank Sarah and Kos for the wonderful and unforgettable time I had! This made my dream come true and my love for the wonderful animals grew even stronger. I recommend everyone to volunteer and to experience this!
Before I started this unforgettable journey, I searched the internet for these kind of projects at a very short notice. I came across the site of World Unite! and found a volunteering placement that seemed tailor-made for me. After sending a short email request, I received a very informative reply from Claudia from World Unite!. No matter what question I asked, the World Unite! team always answered quickly and in detail. There was also a Skype preparation meeting with Katharina from World Unite!, where she informed us about important issues and we were able to discuss cultural differences with her and to clarify open questions.
Only a few days later I started my journey. Even when I arrived at the airport in Cape Town (South Africa), Claudia immediately inquired about my well-being. Everything went really smooth. I was warmly welcomed by Sarah and Kos, the owners of the horse farm, who took me to the farm.
I would like to thank the World Unite! team for the absolutely fantastic organization. The staff is extremely friendly, dedicated and always answer questions in detail and very quick. I felt to be in good hands and can only recommend them! Thank you very much for everything!
Diana, from Germany
Read more about the Horse Ranch in South Africa and how to apply!
Without a doubt, being in lockdown is difficult: Whether we lack the personal contact with our friends and families, feel controlled by exit restrictions, or reading the news makes us feel sad or overwhelmed. Although it’s becoming less easy for many of us every day, it is important now not to lose heart! Here are a few tips on how not to lose optimism in lockdown.
Acknowledge your feelings
If we are at home for a long time, negative feelings like fear, anxiety, concerns or even depression can quickly arise. It is all the more important that you and your family members or roommates keep a positive attitude so that everyone can get through this difficult time. The first step in the right direction is to acknowledge your negative feelings rather than trying to ignore or suppress them. It is helpful for some people to write down or draw their feelings. That way, you’re helping your mind to structure your thoughts and develop an awareness of what is bothering you.
Practice a healthy lifestyle
The opportunities for spending the huge amount of free time many of us have during the Covid-19 measures are, to be honest, limited. To still make the most out of it and to help your body and mind to stay healthy during the lockdown, maintain a healthy lifestyle. Try out new healthy recipes that you didn’t have time to cook before. It is also recommended to maintain a structured daily schedule with enough sleep. When you sleep, your brain and body regenerate and you give yourself the opportunity to process negative news and events of the day. Considering the amount of negative information we all have to digest at the moment, right now sleeping is essential for our well-being!
Exercise and sport can help you reduce stress and anxiety and also help you sleep better. All of this ultimately leads to an increased physical well-being even in times of crisis. No matter if you go for a walk outside, for a run, or do a home workout – keep moving! Many sports studios currently offer online courses. You can also find lots of sporty videos on platforms like YouTube.
Practise mindfulnessand relaxation
Take 10 minutes everyday day to meditate or exercise mindfulness on your body and mind. To do this, sit in a comfortable position or lie down flat. Close your eyes and just concentrate on your inhalation and exhalation. When outside noise distracts you or your thoughts start to wander, this is quite normal. Just calmly direct your thoughts back to your breathing. This exercise can help you to relax and to reduce stress and anxiety.
Avoid information overload
In times of Corona we are bombarded with news 24/7, most of which are not good and increase our fears and worries. Whether on news platforms, on the radio or on social media – for many of us, the virus currently dominates our daily news reception. Digital detoxing – turning off your phone for a while and not keeping up with the latest virus numbers for a few hours – can help you calm down and focus on your life still being more than just the virus.
Practice physical distancing instead of social distancing
Right now we need social contacts more than ever, even if we can’t meet in person with our friends and families. The term “social distancing” is currently on everyone’s lips and refers to the fact that we have to avoid unnecessary contact with other people. Correctly, however, we should practise “physical distancing” and not “social distancing”: We can and should still talk to each other! Use options such as WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom to have video calls with your loved ones, or take time for a physically-distant chat with your lonely neighbor from balcony to balcony.
Don’t lose heart!
Covid-19 won’t last forever. Try to think future-oriented: what will you do first when the lockdown is over? A crisis is always a good opportunity to set your own priorities, such as seeing your friends and family more often. What about the trip you always wanted to take but always put off? Perhaps “right after Corona” will be just the right time! Try to think how your future You will look back on the lockdown in a while, and how you might even link some positive thoughts with it, e.g. that you have called your family on the phone more often, had more time for yourself, or lived a more relaxed and slow-paced life.
If you are looking for travel inspiration for “the time after”, visit us on our website or our social media channels. Our dedicated team will keep you up to date on current travel regulations and travel security in times of Coronaright from their home offices! 🙂
For three months, World Unite! participant Burkhard from Germany volunteered to support children and youth in the city of Cochabamba in learning mathematics. In his internship testimonial he tells about his tasks and his time volunteering in Bolivia.
In September and October 2019 I volunteered at the Casa de Amistad. This is an afternoon care center for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, where I offered homework tutoring in maths for students mainly at secondary level, i.e. at the age of about 14 – 16 years.
With the beginning of the riots after the presidential election on October 20, 2019, the Casa de Amistad was unfortunately only able to open sporadically, so that I completely transferred my volunteer work to the Nuevo Conocer school and stayed there after the riots.
Many of the children who go to this school are often left to their own devices because both parents have the have to work all day. A regular working day in Bolivia often goes beyond 8-10 hours, otherwise the income is not enough to sustain the family.
I was very happy when the children had adapted to me as the new teacher after a few days and showed interest in my lessons.
I taught math at Nuevo Conocer as a volunteer for classes 1-6, always from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The classes are often divided into groups of 10 students, depending on their level of knowledge and ability, or even in individual lessons. For example, the school offers individual tutoring in mathematics until 04:00 pm in the afternoons.
Of course, the lessons do not take place continuously and there are also breaks. Basically, however, I can say that the required level in mathematics in Bolivia is much higher than in Germany, e.g. fractional calculations are already carried out in the 2nd class. Only a few students can do it though.
In one-to-one lessons, I often taught children from disadvantaged social backgrounds or with family problems that I had to take special care of. My impression is that the children benefit enormously from the individual lessons. I highly credit the school for making this possible!
In September I will be back in Cochabamba and teach math there for at least 11 weeks. On the whole, my volunteering was a great success, so I really look forward to coming back to Bolivia!
Burkhard from Germany
Here you can find all information about Burkhard’s placements.
The Coronavirus has spread a lot of fear among travelers: With the increasing number of Corona infections worldwide, many international travelers have returned to their home countries as quickly as possible. But some of you have made a conscious decision to stay in their host country – whether you have a job abroad that you can’t quit easily, or simply feel that your volunteering organisation does now need you more than ever. You can stay healthy during travel by taking the right steps to protect yourself and others from becoming infected with Covid-19 (Coronavirus).
You can reduce the risk of infection by:
Hand hygiene: We’re sure you’ve heard it a million times but feel that we can’t repeat the seemingly obvious often enough: Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, or the use of alcohol based hand rub is essential to reduce the transmission of viral infections. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and for a time period sufficient to inactivate the virus (minimum 20 seconds, but ideally 40 to 60 seconds). 20 seconds correspond to singing „Happy Birthday“ two times. If you use hand rub, make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands first with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Respiratory and cough hygiene: “Catch it, bin it, kill it”: When you cough, sneeze or blow your nose, use disposable, single-use tissues. Used tissues should be disposed in the nearest waste bin immediately after use. Don’t forget to clean your hands (using soap and water or alcohol based hand rub) after coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose.
If you feel sick, wear a face mask to protect others! If you feel sick, we recommend you to stay at home and to avoid contact with others in order not to infect them. If you can’t avoid contact with others, wear a face mask to protect them! When you talk, cough, or sneeze you may release tiny drops into the air that can infect others. Medical masks are currently scarce and we would like to advise against buying medical supplies which are at the moment urgently needed in hospitals to combat the corona pandemic. You can simply use a cloth or scarf that you pull tightly over your mouth and nose when you’re in contact with others. For everyone with more creative skills among us, there are numerous tutorials on how to make your own mask.
Don’t touch your face: Did you know that according to studies, we touch our face around 16 times per hour? Keep hands away from the eyes, mouth and nose! Your mouth and eyes are areas where a virus can easily enter the body. By keeping your hands away from your face you can significantly reduce the risk of a viral infection.
Keep at least 1,5 meters of distance from other people to avoid droplet infection. Avoid handshaking. Greet people with a wave, a nod, or a bow instead.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid crowded places and public transportation. Walk or use a bicycle instead. When using public transport or being in crowded places, use alcohol based hand sanitizer immediately after getting off.
Carry hygiene wipes with you all the time: Whether to clean your hands after getting off the bus, to wipe the handle of your shopping cart before using it, or to open door handles you actually don’t want to touch: Hygienic wet wipes are a practical all-rounder that should be in your pocket at all times during a pandemic!
Cleanliness and disinfection: Eugh gross! Studies revealed that laptop and computer keyboards are 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Hang on: Your phone isn’t much better either: It harbours 9,000 times the amount of germs found on a toilet seat! This means that also a virus can get on your keyboard or cell phone through smear infection. To avoid infection, clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Pay cashless: Paper bills can contain bacteria and viruses that can lead to the spread of disease. If possbile, pay cashless! We know that many of our host countries are cash-based societies. If you can’t avoid contact with cash, wash your hands carefully after handling money.
World Unite! participant Giovanni volunteered at the Mother Nature Camp Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Read about his volunteering activities in the camp and what made him feel at home in Tanzania!
This was the first time I travelled to Africa and I enjoyed the experience from the first day. The staff of World Unite! was supportive in any aspect and made me feel welcome even before my arrival. Once there, I met a lot of lovely people in Mweka/Moshi both among the locals and the other volunteers, and I really felt part of the community.
Surprisingly, during the Tanzanian winter season the climate can be quite cold and very wet, but dwelling right at the border of the Kilimanjaro National Park is an unmatchable experience. As for the camp, it has been newly settled and it is pretty comfortable, apt to host many guests.
The activities are of different types: taking care of the tree nursery, collecting seeds, planting seedlings, cleaning the streets, helping local farmers and more. Mr Sikievu, the local coordinator who leads the project in coordination with the World Unite! staff, is a great source of inspiration and will teach you a lot about the project itself and about the culture of the region.
Other local people work at the camp cooking, keeping watch and doing works of diverse kind; all of them really made us volunteers feel at home, and the connection we established was precious and sincere. Miriam and Adelina (my World Unite! coordinators) were of invaluable help and support, at any time committing to make you get the most out of your stay in Tanzania. I am so grateful of everything and definitely recommend this experience!
Apply now for volunteering at the Mother Nature Conservation Camp Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!
Rebecca from Germany volunteered at Sarah’s and Kos’ Horse Ranch in South Africa for 3 weeks. Looking back, what does she say about her adventure in the Western Cape? Read more here!
Sarah and Kos are amazing! They are lovely and funny people. They showed my around the area and included me in family activities all the time! The horses are amazing and Sarah’s riding skills are insanely good, she loves to teach and makes you improve your own skills! Sarah takes care of everyone individually so the trails are always different and fun so you don’t have to worry that the experience is gonna be the typical tourist experience.
I had a lovely time there and I definitely want to go back!
World Unite! participant Andreas from Germany completed a medical elective at the Bugando Medical Center in surgery and in internal and tropical medicine in Mwanza, Tanzania. In this testimonial he speaks about the insights gained into a different health system and a different culture.
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
Andreas’ Elective in Mwanza
From October 5th, 2019 to February 1st, 2020, I completed a four-month stay abroad in Tanzania. World Unite! supported me with the organization of my stay, as well as with accommodation and a language course. World Unite! was also there when it came to organizing leisure activities and trips through the country.
World Unite! arranged my elective at a hospital in Mwanza, in the north-east of Tanzania. I arrived a week before the elective officially started, got picked up from the airport and brought to my accommodation. For the time of my elective I lived in the “Serengeti Guest House” near the hospital. I had Witness, as a coordinator and contact person on site, whom I would particularly like to praise here. She showed me the city on my first days, explained a lot about the culture and the people in Tanzania and taught Swahili through a language course. I am very grateful to her for her commitment, which made my transition into this new situation easy.
I completed my elective from October 14th until December 8th 2019 at Bugando Medical Center. The circumstances on site cannot be compared with the standards that I knew from Germany, but that was precisely why the time there was an important experience for me and taught me many new lessons – both medically and above all socially.
I completed a total of 5 weeks in surgery and spent 3 weeks in internal medicine. Although you are legally not allowed to do a lot of practical work yourself, you still learn a lot about diseases that rarely occur in Germany, such as malaria, schistosomiasis, HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis. You don’t only get to know another health care system, but you also learn to appreciate your own significantly more. The fates of some of the patients can sometimes be very moving and unfortunately, you cannot help all, as only a small proportion of patients are lucky to have health insurance.
I was part at the ward rounds, meetings and trainings. The tasks in the OR were often limited to holding hooks or smaller wound sutures. At the ward I was able to carry out minor medical activities such as taking blood samples, placing catheters, etc. The classic physical examination plays an important role in Tanzania, due to often lacking diagnostic equipment. They are very well trained in this and you can learn a lot from the doctors. Especially at the internal medicine ward, I was heavily involved in the therapy planning and was able to interpret findings (EKGs, heart echos, chest X-ray, etc.).
For me, the elective was very valuable because it allowed an insight into a different health system, a different culture and the department of tropical medicine.
After my elective, I traveled for two months. World Unite! was also able to help me here. A Safari and tours to Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro were able to organize with Budget Safari. Here I would like to praise Adelina in particular, who coordinated all the participants’ activities reliably and was always available. I would also like to mention Ferdinand and his team, who enabled me to be part of breathtaking mountain tours. Tanzania offers such a very broad variety of experiences. You have the magnificent wildlife and beautiful mountains but also fantastic sandy beaches on Zanzibar.
The Tanzanians have a distinctly different culture to us Germans. Everything is a little more relaxed and a little slower (“polepole”) and often things simply take more time than we are used to. Nevertheless, people are very warm and hospitable when you open yourself to their culture. My time in Tanzania was an enormous personal enrichment and broadened my horizon immensely.
I can recommend a stay in Tanzania to everyone who wants to gain a different view on the world. The country and people are so interesting and I appreciate my time in Mwanza. World Unite! proofed to be a reliable organization at all times. I had a dedicated contact person throughout my stay, both during my time in Mwanza and afterwards while traveling. Particularly during these early days, I was very happy to know locals who showed me around and helped me organize so many things.
Rachel from the UK set out on her Working Holiday adventure in Japan. In our blog she tells us why she wanted to spend her 30th birthday in Japan and why she would definitely recommend doing a Working Holiday to anyone!
Japan has been a country I have wanted to visit for a number of years now and I have managed to fulfil my dream as well as spend my 30th birthday in this beautiful country. I have had so many experiences and met some wonderful people that I would definitely recommend doing a working holiday to anyone who wishes to spend a year immersed in a different country with a rich history and culture.
I was introduced to Japan when I started watching anime, although at the time I just saw it as a cartoon. My first anime was CardCaptors which is the American dub of CardCaptor Sakura when I was in primary school. Then I grew older and I watched shows such as Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing and various others. I still watch anime as well as re-watch them.
Two of my passions is history and reading. I read both fiction and non-fiction and in my final year in high school, I read ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden and I found the details of the locations brought wonderful images in my mind and I wanted to see these places for myself. I then watched the film adaptation with Ken Wattenberg and this just cemented this more in my desire to visit Japan. Although, it took me a while to get myself to Japan.
In October 2018, I was on holiday and I found myself feeling in a bit of a rut with life. I was turning 30 and I wanted to do something different. So I looked into Japan and getting work teaching English however most wanted degrees and I don’t have one. I am a horse riding instructor and I went to college to study horses then left to work at stables in London and Cornwall.
Did I give up? Of course not. I kept looking and I found the Working Holiday option which didn’t require a degree. So this made my day.
So I looked through different companies and I found BUNAC, a partner company with World Unite! and looked at the website. I was blown away with the amount of useful information on the site and I decided to go for it, although my biggest concern was the fact I was turning 30 and a Working Holiday visa was only for 18-30. I e-mailed them and arranged a phone call discussion.
I spoke with a member of the BUNAC team who cleared my worries about my age and was extremely friendly. This gave me the confidence to pay the deposit and start the process of filling out the paperwork. I handed in my resignation at work but gave them till after new year as I didn’t want to leave them short and I returned home in early January 2019.
I was getting excited when I found out that for the first time, they had given out the allotted number of visas for the current tax year, which is 1000 however they said they would re-open in April. This put a little hiccup in my plans as I had planned to apply in February to fly in April but I just moved things around. I planned to visit London early April and before the Easter holidays. I went to the BUNAC office in Kensington and met with some of the team who helped me organise my paperwork ready for the Embassy. I headed to the Embassy next and went through security and got a ticket and waited.
My paperwork was looked at and my passport was taken. I was handed a receipt which would have to be handed back when the passport was collected and I returned to BUNAC. I was nervous but they assured me that I had been successful as they would have given me my passport back otherwise. As I live in Wigan, which is a bit far and expensive to travel to London for overnight; I was relieved to find out that BUNAC pick up passports and then send them by next day delivery. Of course there was a fee and I paid it as it was much cheaper than the alternative. By the following Saturday, I had may visa.
Arrival in Japan
I landed in Japan 30th May 2019 at 12:30 pm about half an hour earlier. I got off the plane, collected my luggage and was directed through to customs. Those with the working holiday visa need to go to the left side and wait as this is where we get our work permit and residents card. I then went downstairs and my luggage was checked and I exited to the Arrivals area where I waited for Nozomi, a World Unite! team member from the share house I had booked to stay in.
Nozomi was very friendly and we took the limousine bus from Narita Airport. I was super excited and logged into the free Wi-Fi on the bus so then I could download Line. Line is like messenger and it connects us with the team as they offer support for the whole year even if we move around Japan. We got of the bus and I followed Nozomi who led us towards the Tozai Metro line and told us to remember our stop Kiba which is T13. We got off the metro and walked towards the share house. At the share house, I was shown to where I would be staying and given time to rest before the filling in of paperwork.
When the paperwork was done, I walked to the local my basket and picked something to eat and spent the evening talking to some of other residents.
The next morning, I met up with Nozomi and some of the others and we went to set up our JP bank account. Nozomi helped us throughout the whole process and once we were finished asked if we were going to head out for the day. I said yes as I was eager to explore. We headed to the metro and I gave her 1000¥ and she got me a PASMO card. I thanked her and headed out to explore.
My first stop was Nihombashi, only a few stops from Kiba and I had a wander around. I even went into a museum and looked at some interesting artefacts.
Kimono in a shop window in Nihombashi
There is also an induction meeting, which lasts about an hour and a half. This gives you important information on getting a job whilst in Japan. You can do various jobs such as teaching English, babysitting, work at a restaurant etc. They explain the interview process and how to accept a business card which is really helpful. This is how I found out about Care Finder. This is babysitting site where you set up a profile and then arrange a meeting with the Care Finder team who then verify your profile. This is a good way to generate some income. I have met some lovely people through Caret Finder and it has helped me to boost my income.
Looking back on those first few days, I was glad that I went through a company like Bunac/World Unite! as they helped me get myself established in Japan. They also assisted me in getting a Japanese sim card, work, language school and a wonderful team that I can count on if I need assistance.
Language school and Work
One of the benefits of this programme is being able to attend language school. This is extra but it an opportunity to learn the basics of Japanese from native teachers but also a change to meet other travellers. I did the Hiragana and Katakana which is 4 weeks. I recommend this for those who want an introduction and basic foundation as there are lessons available at community centres.
As part of the support we get for the duration of our stay in Japan, we are sent job alerts through Line. I was alerted to a nursery job by Nozomi which was successful and my boss is keeping me on till end of March which is fantastic.
Another early job I did was one I found myself and that was as a waitress in a Japanese restaurant in Asakusa. I was wandering around and went to have lunch. As it was quiet, I got talking with the manager and left with a job. It was a wonderful place and I even went there for my 30th birthday. Unfortunately, the restaurant is no longer open.
I have also used Craigslist which does have some good jobs for freelance teaching English, schools, however, be careful as there are some that are not suitable for a working holiday participant. Although, my most recent job was one from Craigslist which is teaching English at a nursery/preschool. I love this place and began there in December 2019. I have met some lovely people and the children are fantastic. I work 3 days a week and will be working there till end of April 2020.
Experiences in Japan
I have experienced many things whilst in Japan so far and there’s still much to see and do. I have attended festivals which are wonderful celebrations for everyone to enjoy. I have worn a Yukata which is the summer kimono and it’s made of cotton. I also bought my own in Asakusa.
The Yukata in the photo opposite is the one I brought in Asakusa and I wore this on the last night of the festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita. This is held over 3 nights, 13th-16th July 2019. It was a wonderful evening and many people come to attend the festivities where people come to honour their dead.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my reasons for doing the Working Holiday was to celebrate my 30th birthday. I definitely spoilt myself as I had a lovely hair treatment and haircut at Nalu76 a hair salon in Omotesando. This is a fantastic salon as the staff speak English, very friendly and professional. I then went to Asakusa and had a meal with some friends I had met at the World Unite! share house.
The following day I went to Disney Sea which is unique to Japan. I am a huge Disney fan and this is definitely a place from me. I left early and there was already a long queue however once it opened at 8am we got in quite quickly. It was a lovely day and I had a wonderful time especially exploring Mermaid Lagoon and the Arabian Cost. I stayed for the till 9pm which was when the evening show had finished.
One activity I highly recommend is held on the 3rd November for Culture Day and this Yabusame; archery on horseback. I watched this highly exciting sport at Meji Jingu Shrine in Harajuku and as a horse rider myself, I can see the dedication and skill these riders have achieved. It is popular and challenging as they have to hit 3 targets at gallop. Those that make it through the first round proceed to the next where the target is smaller and when hit confetti is released. Those who have competed for a year are allowed to wear their family crest. It is exhilarating and something I would watch again and again.
Above one of the riders and his horse
Myself with some of the riders
In Novemeber, my mum came to visit for two weeks and we had a wonderful time. We saw Mt Fuji, went to Teamlabs Borderless and Odaiba onsen called Odaiba Ōedo-onsen-monogatari. It is a fun place to visit as you can play festival games, wear yukata, enjoy food and drink as well as various treatments. You are given a wrist band when you enter and you use that to buy with then pay when you leave.
Pictures are Mount Fuji, Mum and I at Team labs and at Odiaba Onsen.
As I reflect I see my time in Japan has been a fantastic experience and I would do it all again. I have learnt much and have met so many people who I hope to remain in contact with. This is something I think everyone would benefit from; to be able to experience a new country and culture is eye-opening. To be honest, a year is not enough and I wish I could stay longer, however I am already planning my next visit.
I wish to say a big thank you to the team at World Unite! and at BUNAC for providing me with this amazing opportunity and hope my experience will inspire others to do a working holiday visa.
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