"One of the best parts of the experience was living in a place so different to what I'm used to"

Alumnus Jolyon Hedges on an alternative path after University: volunteering with ICS – International Citizen Service

Jolyon Hedges studied German and Spanish at Exeter, graduating in 2014. He spent his year abroad in Northern Spain as a British Council teaching assistant in a secondary school.

On completing his studies at Exeter he chose to apply to volunteer overseas through ICS.

ICS is a UK government-funded development programme that brings together 18 to 25-year-olds from all backgrounds to fight poverty in overseas and UK communities. To volunteer overseas with ICS you don’t need cash, skills or qualifications – just the ambition to make a difference.

He shares his experience and offers tips to fellow recent graduates.

I applied for the ICS during my last month or so at Exeter after hearing about it from a friend. The programme is partnered with six charities running projects across Latin America, Africa and Asia. I opted for Latin America because of my Spanish and I was placed in Honduras on a project that focussed on promoting environmental sustainability. Working alongside other young UK and Honduran volunteers, I did a lot of organic coffee farming, produced organic fertilisers for farmers and raised awareness of environmental issues.

One of the best parts of the experience was living in a place so different to what I'm used to. The communities we worked in were extremely poor and the majority of people relied on farming their own land to feed themselves so it was really eye-opening to see and hear first-hand how climate change was already affecting them and their livelihoods. Our job was to help spread a message that encouraged organic farming and self-sufficiency and warned against contamination and deforestation. It was difficult at times but really rewarding and lots of fun.

As well as giving me loads of experience interpreting and translating, it also helped me to develop confidence, initiative and the ability to work with a real mix of people. It was vital first-hand experience in the development sector, which I'm interested in pursuing a career in.

My advice to recent graduates would be to look into the ICS! It's a fantastic chance to help people in poverty on the other side of the world, while also a great experience for your own personal development and employability. If you don't feel like getting a grad job in London it’s a great option.”

  • The ICS programme covers flights, visas, travel and medical insurance, vaccines, food and accommodation and a minimal allowance while overseas. Volunteers receive extensive training and support to achieve the development outcomes of the programme.
  • Volunteers are asked to fundraise as part of their journey and receive professional support to help them meet their goal.
  • Find out more at http://www.volunteerics.org/

Date: 27 July 2015

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