November 17, 2017, by Jackie Thompson

What Teaching Nursery School in Zambia Taught Me

By Isabel Bos, second year, sociology and social policy

Are you interested in undertaking work experience in another country, but worried about cost?

If so, the International Work Experience Grant can offer up to £750 to support you.

Designed to help students take up work experience opportunities they might not otherwise be able to afford, the grant will support expenses such as accommodation, travel and visas, living costs and vaccinations.

In this blog, we meet Isabel Bos, a recipient of the grant currently studying towards a degree in sociology and social policy. Isabel self-organised her placement with the Tukongote community project, through the Waterberry Zambezi Lodge in Livingstone, Zambia.

Can you give us some details of your placement?

I travelled to Zambia where I worked on the Tukongote community project as a pre-primary school teacher.

My role involved encouraging more creative ways of teaching to engage students at the local primary school, moving away from traditionally strict local teaching practices.

I ran reading sessions and worked on several projects including the ‘freedom pads project’ which involved supplying girls with reusable sanitary towels and educating them about menstruation (a taboo in local culture). In addition, I helped run school trips with the deaf unit to Victoria Falls.

How did you discover and secure your placement?

I decided to organise the placement myself rather than arranging it through an organisation, which made the trip much less expensive for me. Some companies charge lots for these kinds of activities!

I contacted a lodge in Zambia which I knew supported their local community, asking about volunteering opportunities. As their first-ever volunteer I had to be flexible about the roles and tasks I took on.

My next project is working on setting up a volunteering scheme with Tukongote community project where participants will pay a contribution to the project and volunteer over summer.

What was your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement was setting up a water wall in the pre-school, which I constructed using materials I’d sourced. The children had so much fun playing with the water and exploring the different paths it took.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was taking pre-primary lessons with no training or preparation and being able to spontaneously put a lesson together for a class of children who didn’t speak the same language. It was a challenge both for me to communicate with the children, and for them to understand me.

To overcome the language barrier I organised art activities, visual tasks and step-by-step demonstrations which were easier for the children to understand. We also played games like ‘Simon Says’ that were easy to pick up.

How will your placement help you get a job after graduation?

I’ve gained considerable life experience from living and working in a different country for an extended period of time. In addition, I feel I’m able to understand other cultures better and would be able to quickly adapt to working with people from different countries with different norms.

I also understand the importance of providing sustainable support to a community through improvement projects like schools, rather than simply throwing money at a problem.

Which three top tips would you give someone else thinking about doing a placement abroad?

  1. Seek out grants like the International Work Experience Grant. Having financial help makes work experience much easier to complete.
  2. Try getting a bit of experience in the area you want to work in before travelling out. For example, if you’re thinking of teaching, go to a nursery or pre-school in this country to make the most of your experience when you’re out there.
  3. Don’t be afraid to organise work experience abroad by yourself. Taking the initiative to organise your own placement enables you to tailor your experience to what you want to get out of it.

Interested in pursuing work experience abroad? We have plenty of advice on where to look for opportunities and how to prepare before going.

Find out more about the International Work Experience Grant and how it could help you fund a placement overseas by visiting this webpage.


Posted in International StudentsInternational Work Experience GrantVolunteeringWork experience