Volunteering is a great experience for you both spiritually and career developmentally, add travelling to another country to volunteer and you have a double experience! So how would one adjust to a new culture, new language and location.
Here are our sure fire Dreams to Reality tips to help you adjust:
Read about the recent history of South Africa before you arrive
Today South Africa is a vibrant democracy. Up until 1994, South Africa was governed by a system of apartheid- where people of different ethnic groups lived separately and ‘non-white’ people did not have basic human rights such as voting, education and employment opportunities. The legacy of apartheid is still apparent today, where people are still conscious about human rights, racism and inequality. It would be helpful to be conscious of these facts when you enter your work environment. In general, you will be impressed by the warmth and openness of South African culture.
Allow people to get to know you and where you come from
Sharing information about your country and culture will help people to understand you and your own background. Bring some photos of your home town or a local delicacy to share with your workmates.
Allow yourself to be a bit of an ‘observer’ when you first arrive
Observe how the day to day running of the organization works and how people relate to each other. This will give you an idea of what is expected of you. For example, the informal, social side of the work environment may be just as important as the formal, task oriented side. Or, it may not be. Take your cue from those around you.
Give yourself some time to settle in
Allow yourself time to adjust to your role and to figure out what is working and what is not working. If you find that there is something you would like to change, approach your employer respectfully and make constructive suggestions. Try to focus on the work that you are doing rather than the functioning of the organization as a whole. Be sensitive about being critical regarding how things work as there may be many reasons for this that are not immediately apparent to a new person.