In the past few weeks, dual student Lena completed a volunteering assignment in The Gambia as part of Austrian Airlines' AIRcelerate Operations program. Today she shares her impressions with us and takes us on her journey.
Hello, my name is Lena, I am a dual student in the Austrian Airlines program "AIRcelerate Operations". In this training program, theory and practice are optimally combined and you get a unique business education worldwide, which optimally prepares you for a career in Austria's largest airline. The course also includes a 4-week Help Alliance volunteering project abroad. I completed this a few weeks ago in The Gambia and am happy to introduce you to the country and its people.
Info about the project
The project in The Gambia was initiated by the "Sabab-Lou" Foundation and is supported by helpalliance, the aid organization of the Lufthansa Group. It is a school for agricultural training. Young people are trained here to become independent in the agricultural sector. During our time there, we were able to teach subjects such as team building, entrepreneurship and economics. During this volunteering assignment, we were a total of five dual students. Together with me, Tobi and Freddie arrived. After three weeks, we handed over to our colleagues Felix and Lasse.
Before leaving, I had mixed feelings - respect and fear. Through stories of other volunteers, we knew that, for example, there is no running water around the clock, it is extremely hot and the food will be a challenge. I had already been abroad for several months and was able to have exactly these kinds of experiences there.
We flew via Brussels to Banjul via Dakar. After a total of 10 hours of travel, we arrived in Banjul. After a 4.5 hour drive, we arrived at the camp. We made a short stop in Farafenni to buy a few things in the supermarket. Getting out of the cab, I felt the first culture shock. People everywhere, donkeys, motorcycles and cars and the use of the horn was not lacking. It reminded me a bit of Bali, just pure traffic chaos. I was very happy when we finally arrived at the camp.
There we were - somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But we received a very warm welcome, which made it easier to arrive. Nevertheless, in the next few days, I had to get used to the fact that there was no running water around the clock, that the toilet had to be flushed with a bucket and that from now on rice was on the menu every day. The food was, as already mentioned, not an easy matter for me, but nevertheless much less challenging than expected. In the morning there was baguette, either with omelette, margarine or beans. At lunchtime, rice was always on the menu, and in the evening, salad with pasta. I almost never ate anything at lunchtime because it was simply much too hot for me. At first, we newcomers couldn't keep up without a nap. But we got used to the heat and at some point it was okay.
Work on site
We taught different modules such as Team Building, Economics and Entrepreneurship. The classes were from Monday to Saturday. There was an advanced class and a beginner class. At the beginning of the classes, I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to best teach the material, but after a few times, the three of us were a cohesive team and made good progress. We started with team building to get to know the group better and to promote team spirit. We continued with teaching about SWOT-analysis, SMART- Goals, 4P's etc. And of course, we had to do math problems. The teaching of these tasks challenged us the most. Here there were also very big learning differences between the students.
Apart from the school activities, we also spent a lot of time with the young people. Be it harvesting in the field, in the chicken coop - always with full commitment collecting eggs, playing soccer, playing cards or having a cup of Ataya tea. There was always something going on in the camp and it was never boring. The young people involved us everywhere and showed us new things, which I really liked.
Visit to Duta Bulu
In Duta Bulu we made Baobab juice together with the local children. Okay - you don't know baobab. It is a fruit that grows on the so-called baobab tree. The taste of this fruit is very sour, I didn't like it that much. And this is how you make the juice: use your hands to loosen the seeds from the fruit, dissolving the fruit in water. Then the juice is strained, mango powder, condensed milk and a lot of sugar is added. Taste sensation at the end: sweet! By the way, the diabetes rate in Gambia is very high, the question why is self-explanatory. After a long day, we went back to the camp. I was totally exhausted from the many new impressions.
My summary of this special trip
After this time I naturally ask myself the question, what I have taken with me from this time? Here I don't really know where to start and just write on it: From the first thoughts when I arrived in The Gambia "Where am I here and when can I go back home?" to my current mindset "What am I doing in Germany and when can I go back to The Gambia?", there are a lot of thoughts, emotions and impressions. I have never met such loving and friendly people while traveling. The time will resonate for a long time. Many of my attitudes have changed permanently and I am very grateful for every single experience I was able to have. I have become most aware of how small my "first world problems" actually are and that I should remind myself much more often how grateful I can be to have the life I have.
Many things often get lost in our daily lives and we forget to appreciate the little things. My stay in The Gambia gave me the opportunity to think about many things, which challenged me at the same time. I needed this challenge in order to now consciously live more gratefully.
The AIRcelerate program
Are you interested in business administration and do you share our fascination for aviation? Are you looking for an English-language Bachelor's degree that optimally combines theory and practice? Then AIRcelerate is the right choice for you! A worldwide unique business education that optimally prepares you for a career in Austria's largest airline.
Are you interested? Apply here until 20.04.2022 (Website in German): AIRcelerate Dual Students Aviation Management (m/f/divers)