The Ocean Stars charity was established after the tragedy of a Tsunami, which devastated parts of Sri Lanka in 2004, with the aim of rebuilding communities and families that had been shattered by this catastrophic event. At the age of 16, I was given the opportunity to travel across the world to teach Sri Lankan children in chosen partner schools. Planning for the trip was intense as we participated in sub teams to raise funds, create lesson plans and organise the equipment needed for the trip. However, nothing could prepare us for the culture shock that we experienced when we first arrived.
Leaving our technology and home comforts behind, we immersed ourselves in the diverse sights and sounds of Sri Lanka by visiting temples, elephant orphanages and tea plantations. When we finally arrived at our partner schools I was overwhelmed by how welcoming the host schools were. We were greeted by parades of students who placed handmade flower garlands over our heads.
I took responsibility for documenting the trip, realising that our families at home were relying on our daily blogs and photos so that they could be reassured about our safety and wellbeing. This task was challenging in an environment where internet access was limited and where electricity was intermittent. However, we successfully met all our blog deadlines apart from one occasion when a storm cut out all power for 24 hours.
I was amazed by how differently society in Sri Lanka functions compared to British society and how relaxed and tranquil the atmosphere was across the island. This has changed the way I view the world. By teaching in a country that I had never visited, by working with students that I had never met, I developed confidence, resilience and self-belief.
Sameena Ramsden studies BSc Marketing (with placement) at Southampton Business School. The views in this article are those of the author. This article is part of the ‘How I Learn’ series.