My International Guiding Experiences!

Written by Caroline Gay

Why go on an International Trip?

I have been lucky enough to go on two international trips with Girlguiding and to experience very different styles of trip (and two extremely different cultures). I am convinced that travelling with Girlguiding is the best way to explore new countries- I would highly encourage everybody reading this to apply for a trip! Travelling with guiding genuinely gives you friendships that will last a lifetime. I am still in touch, not only with the girls from my trips, but also some of the people we met abroad too. You become closer with the girls you travel with, as you are living together the whole time- so it’s no surprise that some of my best friends are the people I travelled with (we still meet up around the south east of England!). You find you are like-minded individuals with a passion for travelling and guiding.

I couldn’t imagine my life without the incredible people that I met, both on my trip, and in the countries that we visited. Furthermore, the skills you gain from going abroad are ones you will not get anywhere else. They stand out on CVs/university applications and the best bit is, you’re having fun whilst developing them! Skills such as teamwork, time management, fundraising and organisation are all very valuable skills for your future. Fundraising for your trip is no easy task, however trust the process and little by little, the total does slowly add up! There are lots of grants available to you too, so apply for them all! I truly believe coming out of my international experiences, that I’m a better person. You experience things nobody else in the world, except you and the girls you’re with, will get to experience. Volunteering abroad not only changes the lives of the people you’re helping, but it also changes you. You see first-hand the difference you’re making and it’s the greatest feeling in the world. On both of my trips, I kept thinking: when else would I be able to see and do this?! So that is why I would recommend applying, as you never know when you might get the chance again, where it may take you or influence your life choices.

How do I get on an International Trip?

To apply for international trips, the best place to start would be to ask your leader as they’ll know about all the available events and the selection days. There is a jamboree next year, for which there is an application form on the LaSER website and you don’t even need a selection day. For other trips, however, there is some selection involved. This could be a weekend (or in my case a day trip). They’re lots of fun and are really there for leaders to get to know you. Don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get offered a place the first time around, as there is always another opportunity and at least you’ve had an enjoyable weekend/day. For local, smaller scale trips, it is usually just one selection weekend/day and then you wait to hear back if you’ve been given a place or not. For the longer LaSER Volunteering Expedition trips, if you are successful in your local selection you’ll be invited to the Girlguiding LaSERIO weekend in September, where the teams for the region expeditions will be formed (the leaders essentially work out who works well together, so that groups for the trips can be decided). These expeditions then depart the following summer. This weekend is a chance to meet as many new people as you can, while the leaders see who is compatible together. After that, you have a year to fundraise for the trip as well as attending fun and busy training weekends to get to know everybody. By the time you get to your destination, you will know everyone quite well!

The fundraising can seem quite daunting, but every little penny adds up, and trust me the effort is beyond worth it. The whole process is so rewarding, and when it’s over you’ll wish you could do it all over again. In terms of applying for trips, the final thing I’d say is to keep your eyes peeled and ears open about any opportunities available. The LaSER website is very good at updating all the regional opportunities coming up- if you’re interested in more local scale trips then ask your leader or check your local website if you have one (do bear in mind, due to the current situation, some trips have been cancelled or postponed but you could always start applying and planning for one in the future!)

My Experiences

In 2016, I was lucky enough to travel with girls of all different ages, from different areas of London, to Croatia and then Slovenia. I was 13 years old with a backpack almost the same size as me… I couldn’t have asked for a better first guiding international! We spent 11 days backpacking and staying in hostels to see some incredibly beautiful places. We visited lots of beaches, bell towers, lakes and met many Slovenian and Croatian scouts. My first taste of going abroad with Girlguiding was incredible and left me with the bug for wanting another adventure. Two years later I couldn’t resist applying for another international. This time, I wanted to do more than be a tourist, so I decided to go to my local selection day for the LaSER International Expeditions. I went to the day with an open mind- I had already been to one selection day for my previous adventure so knew what sort of things to expect. The day was lots of fun and I got to meet new people who had similar interests to me, but I was also aware that having already been on an international trip, the chances of me getting to go on another one were very slim. Regardless of whether I would be given a place or not, I enjoyed the day. I was accepted as a reserve, which meant I would still get to go to another training weekend with the chance of filling a place. That weekend rolled around and a few other reserves were offered spots to go on expeditions to Malawi, Cambodia and Ecuador. Unfortunately I was not one of them- the older reserves were given the chance to go on these trips, as they would have less time to re apply for a trip, unlike myself. Once again, I really enjoyed the weekend at Gilwell and didn’t come home too disheartened- I knew the reality was that there aren’t many dropouts, as these trips are opportunities of a lifetime.

Anyway, I forgot about the trips for a couple of months until one night I got a call from the lady who organises the expeditions. Sadly due to illness, a Malawi place had become available... and was offered to me! Obviously, I couldn’t let the chance slip through my fingers so I said yes immediately. At first I was apprehensive because I had never travelled outside of Europe before, but throughout the year we had training weekends (and vaccinations!) to ensure that by the time we arrived in Malawi, we were prepared for our itinerary. We visited schools to teach children English and work with ‘Project My Girl’. We also planted trees, built boreholes, created clay ovens as well as much, much more. Three weeks in Malawi flew by and I’d do anything to go back again. It truly was an experience I will never forget. I came back a completely different person- a person who didn’t take anything for granted because seeing the children who had absolutely nothing (except the smiles on their faces) made me realise how lucky we are.

Despite the fact the two international trips I’ve been on were extremely different experiences, they were both absolutely incredible. The people you meet and the memories you make will last a lifetime! Now I’m a guiding international trip addict, I’ve applied to go to the European Jamboree in Poland. This is, again, going to be a very different experience but I already know it’s going to be brilliant! Currently, it’s been postponed until 2021- so there are still spaces available to join us. If you’ve ever thought about maybe going on an international trip, do it! This is your chance to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, experience different cultures and genuinely have more fun than you’ve ever had before. Guiding trips are safe, great value for money, fun and well organised ways to travel with awesome people. Get filling your applications!

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