By Richard Hyland
After months of preparation and planning our bags are packed and we are finally about to embark on what is certain to be an extremely exciting and rewarding experience for all involved. We jet out for Laos tomorrow afternoon.
Although our trip is only ten days in duration, we will take part in two very important community development projects which will enable us to use skills we have developed through our business degrees in helping remote and underdeveloped communities in a part of the world vastly different from our own.
Aside from the anticipation of travelling and the richly rewarding opportunities it in itself can provide, the projects we will be taking part in promise to provide a firsthand insight into different cultures, religions and political systems.
We also witness life from an entirely new perspective, highlighting just how differently people in other parts of the world live their lives.
From our first day in Laos, we will hit the ground running and will be busy contributing our time and knowledge to the local communities we visit, conducting a needs analysis in the village of Sop Jak.
Later we will be supporting existing work being carried out by the wildlife conservation society in Vieng Thong. Previous volunteer experience helping less fortunate individuals within my own local community has been extremely fulfilling, so the chance to assist remote villages and play a part in a project which promises to have a lasting and meaningful impact on their communities will undoubtedly further this.
Having travelled to many different countries previously, the idea of another overseas adventure is of course appealing, however the opportunities created by taking part in this type of volunteering project will be unlike previous travel I have undertaken.
I am looking forward to sharing the experience with our group of other like-minded students who will also be able to share their thoughts and experiences throughout our time in Laos.
As a mature-age commerce student, this kind of experience will have an impact on my future career by providing a chance to apply what I have learnt in my studies to a unique real-world setting.
Beyond this, it will give me invaluable experience working with people of other backgrounds, and overcoming challenges including the obvious communication barriers of working in areas with very limited knowledge of the English language, and working in an environment of vastly differing practices and expectations in terms of the work we are planning on carrying out.
I believe that, above all, the project will provide a broader view of the world in which we live, and what I plan to achieve within it on both a personal and professional level.
Richard Hyland will update his blog from Laos