Hi, I’m Fiona – with a background in Nutrition and Health Promotion, I went on to study a master’s degree in public health. Most recently, I’ve been working as a Multicultural Health Promotion Officer for NSW Health in South-Western Sydney. I’ve always enjoyed travelling and especially enjoy trying different cultural foods.
I came across Challenges Abroad when I was looking for an overseas volunteering experience that would align with my studies in my final year at uni! I’d always dreamed of visiting India and it just so happened that Challenges Abroad were running a volunteer trip in India for the Health Promotion Challenge on ideal dates. I booked with just over a month to spare and prepare. I was so glad I didn’t have to wait any longer, I was so excited!
I connected into the online pre-departure meeting via Skype and this left me feeling very well prepared and with a clear picture of what I was in for. It was great to be able to meet the in-country staff – even if just virtually – and have the opportunity to ask questions about what to bring for our volunteer program. As the rest of my group were interstate, this also gave me the chance to check in with them and exchange contact details.
The best part of my volunteering challenge was my team, our group leader and the students at the schools we visited. I loved that every day was different and whilst we were essentially there on a mission – we had plenty of time to re-coup and explore India. I loved that we had the chance to build a relationship with the school community we visited, and despite language barriers, we knew each other by name. Each day the children waiting eagerly for class as we arrived and the heartfelt thank you letters we each received at the end of our time together are memories I will treasure forever.
I think the funniest moments were a mix of the reactions we received teaching through song and dance to the students, trying to teach animal/monkey safety as per request (I mean what!) and the many cultural misinterpretations. Each day, as a group, we shared many laughs and formed friendships that will last back in Australia too.
For me, I truly believe this volunteer experience played a fundamental role in securing my first role post-graduation. Funnily enough I actually came across the job advertisement during my last week in India, knowing I would graduate upon return. Luckily, I had bought my laptop with me because applications closed before my return to Australia!
My volunteer program in India provided me with examples to draw upon in my interview and landed me my dream role as a Multicultural Health Promotion Officer. This included delivering health promotion – from planning through to implementation and evaluation, working with a range of age groups and developing an understanding of culturally appropriate health education. Each day in my role, I draw upon the tools I used in India and reflect on the journey and all that I learnt. I’ve now been fortunate to work with a diversity of cultural groups and continue to learn.
I would (and have!) recommend Challenges Abroad to all students, particularly in the health field. As there is likely to be a vast number of graduates with your same degree on paper – this is the perfect opportunity to set yourself apart. The experience was one I will hold dear for life, the Challenges Abroad team and my peers made the trip one to remember.