Picture this, January 2016. It’s dark, it’s drizzling and everyone I know has scuttled back to their “absolutely amazing” universities to continue having the “best time” of their life. However, I have not taken my place on the London Paddington train and nor joined the annual migration of half of Surrey to the depths of Southern England.
Instead, I’m nestled in the corner of my bed. Laptop perched dangerous on my knees I press play on yet another ‘Sex and the City’ episode whilst failing miserably to save my sheets from a slow dribble of coffee. After the title screen flies into view and I have few wistful moments dreaming of being able to pull off a pink tutu and persuade my hair to look as wonderfully wild as Carrie’s, my eyes drift to Facebook. And there it is; tucked away between the endless fresher’s or ‘Asia 2015’ photo albums sat a slightly different set of photos. This album showed a friend surrounded by school children, living with a Ghanan family, presenting to the local community and most importantly looking ecstatic. Almost immediately I got in contact, asking her who and what and where – a stream of all the usual questions. After listening to my babble she patiently sat me down and described how she had done a scheme called International Citizen Service (ICS) where she had worked with VSO in Ghana. International Citizen Service, she explained, is an overseas volunteering opportunity for 18 – 25 years. Funded by the Department for International Development it is completely free and works to create sustainable development. This means you’re not flown out to build a quick orphanage or help in a tiger sanctuary, instead you live and work in a community for three months helping carry out and continue international development strategies.
Stuck at home with a lack of any definite plans for the next nine months (long enough to have a baby I teased my mother, who gave me such a horrified look I don’t think I’ll be bringing that up again until I’m 30) this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I wouldn’t have to completely ruin my savings (hello living off baked beans for the next three years at uni) or have to embark on some solo exploration. Instead, I would be working in a team and doing something that actually helps people. This was ideal. Before my friend had even finished her explanation I’d already set my heart on it.
The ICS pre-departure journey is actually a very lengthy process. Much more so than I had naively realised, somehow I’d idolised sending off my form in early January and jetting off midway through February. Instead, all applicants go through a series of interviews, application forms and an incredibly intense selection day before being approved. Whilst I whipped myself up in a typical Ruby-esque ‘there’s no way they’ll choose me’ panic, just a few weeks after my selection day I received a call. I was off to Uganda!
So, in precisely a month’s time I’ll be bombing up the M4, family in tow, ready for a typical rom-com airport farewell, before I travel six thousand miles to Kampala, Uganda.
I might not be quite where I pictured myself this time last year; aka not smashing a degree whilst dancing to dawn every night, but for the first time in a pretty long while I’m excited, inspired and, of course, terrified, and let me just tell you it feels amazing.
If you have any spare change check out my JustGiving page where all money goes direct to Restless Development, the charity I’ll be volunteering with in Uganda.