Alexandra Linnell - Roving Academic Support Coordinator/ Student Learning Support Coordinator, Papua New Guinea

What inspired you to volunteer/apply for the programme?

I wanted to use my knowledge gained throughout university while also having the opportunity to learn practical skills. It was at a time where I had no major commitments or responsibilities back home and you never know if you’ll be in that position again, so why not! I also knew that VSA was a great organisation to volunteer through – not operating as a volunteer tourism agency and providing valuable support throughout the process.

What did volunteering give you?

Volunteering in Papua New Guinea has given me an appreciation of a warm, generous and welcoming culture. I hope those are qualities that will stay with me wherever and whatever I end up doing in the future. 

What did you give volunteering?

Volunteers have a larger impact in the community than we may realise. Despite the challenges we face which can make us feel disheartened at times, simply our presence at our partner organisation and within the wider community goes a long way. For example, I’ve had students say to me they are amazed that I’m a young female already finished university and now teaching in a different country.

What was your assignment highlight?

Getting to know the students and staff at my partner organisation. Learning different backgrounds, characteristics and stories all in one place, the diversity of PNG continues to amaze me! It’s unlike anything you would experience in New Zealand, so we are very lucky to experience a small piece of that.

What did you find most challenging?

As I started working at my partner organisation I learned about what was happening – and not happening – across the organisation, so I found myself getting involved in different projects that I wasn’t aware of before I arrived. Don’t be afraid to stray from your assignment description, you may even find other activities end up linking back to your assignment goals.

Did your assignment change after you arrived? How?

My UniVol assignment was a fantastic platform to be challenged by unpredictable factors which pushed me to learn and develop more and more every day. Often having to jump straight in the deep end, you figure it out as you go. I quickly learned and practiced new skills I needed, and now look back and wonder how I ended up teaching a science course!

What is some advice you would give to future UniVols?

Don’t underestimate yourself and the skills you have – even if it feels like you don’t have any! You will be surprised by your ability to help people in a number of ways.

Make the most of your time on assignment, before you know it, you’ll be counting down your remaining days.