The different traditions, morals and cultures throughout the World have always fascinated me and it inspired me to travel, which led to completing a volunteer scheme in Fiji. Most associate Fiji with its natural beauty and whilst this did amaze/initially attract me, my fondest memories over the two months are centred in my host village and house where I treasured the contrast to British culture.
In Fiji, it is considered an expectation of walking into someone’s house unannounced for food/tea, and when you do come, they give you all the food they have because there, if you are fat you are healthy. Yet in Britain, such an open-door policy is an offence, the normal idolisation is to be skinny (this contrast appealed to me though as I rather like cake and that was the Fijians speciality), despite having the money and resources to provide far more than the Fijians do.
The cause of our visit was to rebuild a community hall blown away in a hurricane and to teach/provide extra-curricular activities to a local school and it was through these experiences where I learnt the most, yet felt the most guilt. Here, teenagers relished on the idea of completing work at school or winning ‘House Cup’ (weekly competition between houses at the school). When I was their age, studying was a chore and the immediate reaction to winning something was “what’s the prize?”.
Along with this, the amazing volunteers sculptured this experience for me. They valued the beauty of this other culture just as much as you, challenged you and picked you up when you were ill from drinking the unfiltered rain water/bored of using a bucket for a shower – it was extraordinary. This trip was by far the highlight of my gap year; it reminded me of how important the essentials are in life: friends, family and love – everything else is a luxury which no one should take for granted.
Erika Mantoura studies BSC Business Management at Southampton Business school. The views are those of the author. This article is part of our ‘How I Learn’ series.