Natalie Cleverly and Raj Aryan were on placement together for 10 weeks, staying in Tamil Nadu, India. They interviewed each other during their last week of placement. Among the last ICS India volunteers, they reviewed their experience.
Q: What have you learned from your placement?
Raj: Before coming to ICS, I had already worked on social issues. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to speak in public and that it might be difficult speaking with young people.
But I have volunteered before with Restless Development, where I faced the same problem. At the end of ICS, I am able to communicate with internationals, as well as nationals confidently.
I’ve boosted my confidence.I feel confident to speak about anything. Through ICS, I’m able to communicate better.
Natalie: Before I came here I was quite worried about how the communication would be between internationals and nationals and how that may impact us working together as a team. I didn’t really expect to have forged the strong friendships I have. I guess I didn’t realise just how far nonverbal communication could go!
Q: What’s been your biggest personal success during placement?
Raj: As time passed, I found it very easy to communicate and interact with everyone. The more confident I got the more willing I became leading sessions.
As far as my confidence is concerned, if I feel I can do anything!
Natalie: My biggest personal success has been public speaking. I felt apprehensive before I first came as I know it’s always been something I’ve struggled with. But I found it was easy to overcome because I was in an encouraging and welcoming group. I delivered sessions with a lot more confidence than I have done in the past.
Q: What have you learnt most from this experience?
Raj: I’ve learned how to work in a team and how to take leadership. I feel I have grown my communication skills and my confidence has been boosted.
Natalie: I’ve learnt how to adapt to different roles in the group that I wouldn’t normally take. But also my ability to encourage others in the team and support each other.Q: What has been the biggest team success?
Raj: There were lots of cross cultural differences.. Despite these difficulties we managed to work together to create social awareness.
Natalie: I feel our group dynamic has worked really well. We all seemed to have distinct roles right from the get-go. We have a good mix, so often our session planning runs smoothly and we make a lot of progress. There’s never really any conflict so we’re able to really encourage each other, too.
Q: What has been the team’s biggest challenge?
Raj: Sometimes I felt there was a cross-cultural challenge. But as the placement went on I found it easier to communicate.
Natalie: The biggest challenge was how internationals adapted culturally and to ways of working.
Our work always seemed to come together at the end; the nationals are amazing at pulling it all together and being patient with us. We always had have faith in the nationals to guide us when everything seems a bit lost!
Q: What has been your favourite memory?
Raj: My favourite memory was when I got the chance to speak about youth empowerment before the national and international volunteers at foundation training. Everyone appreciated my talk.
Natalie: Mine was International Menstrual Hygiene Day when our team set up a stand at the bus stop and encouraged conversations about menstruation. We set up a sheet and red paint for people to print their hands in red as a pledge to end the stigma around menstruation.
A lot of men and women discussed the importance of menstrual hygiene awareness, which was encouraging.
Q: What has been your favourite topic to deliver on?
Raj: I have been apart of menstrual hygiene awareness activities with Restless before. I already had lots of ideas on how to raise awareness.
We did one session where we delivered a menstruation session to male students. When we spoke to them they began to understand for the first time what was happening to their friends, their mothers and their sisters. It meant a lot for me to help them understand.
Natalie: The career sessions. We delivered a CV workshop to 70 young girls at local schools. They were really engaged during the session and were starting to think about their own career paths.
Raj: Our first meeting with international volunteers. I got the opportunity to interact and work with people from the UK. I have taken all these memories in my heart; we are like a family.
Natalie: Learning so much about Indian culture. It helped me realise a lot about English culture, too – things I didn’t even realise were part of our culture until I came here.
Q: What have you learned from each other’s cultures?
Raj: I learned a lot. British people are very polite – whenever you ask anything they’re always friendly and polite. They are also very punctual. In India it never happens, if you call for someone at ten o’clock and it always ends up being half past ten! Also I have learnt if they are discussing something, it isn’t right to interrupt. It’s a skill I’ve learnt from the volunteers.
Natalie: I’ve learnt a lot about the generosity of Indian culture. It’s a really giving country. Everyone always seems to be sharing things with each other. Small acts of daily kindness is normal. I think we all could learn a lot from that back home.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone about to go on an ICS placement?
Raj: We are young people, we can do anything. We can think positively and change the world around us. We have to do lots of work in our communities, in our society, in our country, so we need to keep going even if something goes wrong.. As young people we have to think like a team, and go forward as a team.
Natalie: It’s really hard to predict what your experience will be like, but just keep an open mind. Adjusting to a new culture can be hard, but if you throw yourself into everything with all you’ve got you’ll gain much more from the experience.
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