I couldn’t have asked for a better gap year experience. One of the great things about choosing Oyster as a smaller company for my gap year meant that I personally knew the individual staff organising my trip and who were responsible for my well-being in Tanzania. They were extremely helpful, both pre-departure and whilst I was based in Tanzania (especially when I decided to extend my stay by another month because I was having such a great time.)
I chose to undertake a teaching placement, which I think does make you feel like you are being thrown in the deep-end a bit in a foreign country, but because I was sharing a house with other people having similar experiences we were always able to support each other when we had difficult lessons or children constantly misbehaving. By the end of my placement my classes were much more attentive, and it had become both rewarding and a joy to teach them (well most of them at least!) We also had the chance to set up after school clubs, which we created in music and drama, and the kids really enjoyed learning songs with actions like ‘London’s burning’ with us. One of the great things about the placement was that we had the opportunity to do extra things like this, which were always gratefully received. My housemates and I bonded with the teachers at our school, who invited us for meals, and we really felt like part of the school community. So much so that two of us climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money to buy textbooks and start a small library in the school.
As well as teaching and volunteering in Tanzania at a local orphanage and an amazing place called ‘Plaster House’ which provides a home for Tanzanian children undergoing corrective orthopaedic surgery, we found time to explore the country. We visited Moshi and the amazing waterfalls, Zanzibar and the beautiful beaches, and went on Safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. We had to organise these trips ourselves but it was fairly easy to do in-country, and the previous volunteers gave us tips on what bus/tour companies they had used. We were also lucky that our in-country contact worked in the safari business so Oyster helped organise our safari trip at a great price for us.
There’s a great sense of community with the other volunteers. I met some fantastic people, and being split up in a few houses around Arusha meant that we explored the city and met regularly for social events, both going-out and meals, which you could take part in as little or as often as you liked.
The experience I had with Oyster in Tanzania has been pretty formative in my career choice – I’ve been working for international development and human rights charities for the past year, and am undertaking a law conversion course in September with the aim of becoming a human rights lawyer. I’m not sure I would have ended up on this pathway without my incredible Tanzanian experience, and I’m so grateful to Oyster for making it possible!