Epic New Zealand Gap Year

Jordan Oately was a volunteer in New Zealand 2017-2018 at St Kevin’s College, Oamaru, as a boarding hostel supervisor.

I was located on the South Island, in a place called Oamaru, at a coeducational day and boarding school. My main tasks as a volunteer consisted of:

  • Supervision of a boarding house of approximately 50, 13-18 year old boys, waking up/ putting students to bed, ensuring the students’ house duties were completed to a good standard and they were on time for their classes/hobbies. I also helped with organising sports and activities to keep them occupied during their free time.

  • Providing additional support in and around school for problems such as homesickness, arguments and homework.

  • Assistant teacher during the school day, working with the student support team and in particular two boys with additional learning needs. I organised extracurricular activities for them. These activities included sports and fitness, and life skills such as cooking and meal time etiquette.

I developed many skills whilst in New Zealand; however three stand out for me- independence, responsibility and teaching.

Independence: By travelling to the other side of the world I was thrown into the deep end with learning to live by myself. The main skill I learnt was looking after my money. I had to make sure I had the correct balance of saving enough money for my holidays, food, petrol and essentials as well as being able to do all the exciting and fun activities New Zealand has to offer.

Responsibility: Being a supervisor in the boarding house I had the responsibility of looking after 50 young boys. As you can imagine with teenage boys there were problems that occurred throughout my year at the school. I was normally the first point of contact so I had to act appropriately to this and carry out the necessary actions.

Teaching: Part of my role was as an assistant teacher. I had to help any kids who were struggling with their work. With this I had to learn how to teach students with various ability levels. It was interesting finding ways to teach each individual student.

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I enjoyed every aspect of my year and the bond I built with the students was very rewarding. I was able to create a relationship in which we could have a laugh and joke but also they were able to come to me with any problems or for my advice. I think this helped, as when I had to discipline them they respected what I said, and took it on board. Something else I appreciated was taking the students out to play different sports such as rugby and basketball, and organising activities in the house such as table tennis competitions. This was always good fun.

Where I was situated in the south island there was a large farming community. Through meeting different people and teaching my students, I noticed a few differences from back home. Firstly, I noticed how students would always help with work that had to be done in and around school doing tasks such as chopping wood, cutting the grass and other manual labour jobs. I believe this is because most of the boarding hostel kids had been brought up on farms so were used to working hard. Everyone seemed to enjoy a sporty/outdoorsy way of life. Each member of the community loved doing outdoor activities whether that was sports, hunting, hill walking, going to the lake/river/beach or just being out having barbecues. I also found out that the community was not as materialistic as back home. For example a lot of the cars in and around Oamaru were really old, dirty, and covered in scrapes and dents but this didn’t seem to bother anyone! Now, because of my experience, I am a lot better at interacting with new people, as while on my travels I came across lots of new people all with different nationalities, backgrounds and stories. In New Zealand I joined my first men’s rugby club. This experience helped me greatly as when I came back home I was able to join a new rugby club straight away and I wasn’t as nervous as I was before.

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Now I have finished my placement, my next step is to become a physical training instructor. Sport is my passion so this has been a goal of mine for a while. On my placement, I looked after a student with ADHD and I would do fitness sessions with him. This, alongside the sport I directed with the boarding school students, is what convinced me that being a physical training instructor is what would like to do as a career.