Living in a developing country is not as easy as living in Australia. It can be a challenging and, at times, an uncomfortable experience. However, it goes without saying that living and working in a developing country is a very rewarding experience, and gives you the unique opportunity to contribute actively to the development needs of the region.
So take the time to do some research before you apply and read up on the challenges (and tips on overcoming them) below.
In your workplace (Host Organisation) and out of hours, your way may not be the only way or even the 'right' way and communicating across cultural and, in some cases, language barriers can be frustrating. You will experience cultural beliefs which may be very different to your own, from varying perspectives on gender, different working styles through to prominent and pervasive religious practices. The AVID program can give you some tools and training to understand these differences and tips on how to deal with any discomfort, but in the end it comes down to you - your flexibility, adaptability and understanding of your new environment.
Tip #1 - Investigate the country you are applying to before you go - understand the importance of religion, the status of women, hierarchy/social structures, common work practices etc.
Regardless of whether your assignment is in an urban, industrial or rural area, you should expect basic accommodation. This could quite likely mean limited electricity and hot water, shared facilities including bathroom and toilet, and probably mosquitoes and other 'wild' life. You may have to do without some of the entertainment you are used to - DVDs, downloading, pubs and bars. Entertainment may revolve around sporting activities, shared meals with friends and colleagues, occasional local festivals or time spent catching up on those books you always meant to read.
Tip #2 - Think of entertainment or luxuries you cannot live without and prepare before you go, for example, take sporting equipment, a fully loaded e-book reader, bed sheets or 50+ sun cream.
One of the most important things to consider is whether you can survive without your family and friends. You may have varied access to communication tools depending on your location. If you can't bear the thought of being separated from your family, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend for months at a time then you need to consider whether the AVID program is for you or think of other ways in which you can get support while in country.
Tip #3 - Get involved in country with new support networks - join sporting groups, attend social events with colleagues from your Host Organisation, engage in regular catch ups with other volunteers and take advantage of the 24-hour-a-day psychologist support service provided by the AVID program.
Just like starting a new job, working in a new Host Organisation will be a new, exciting and sometimes daunting experience. There may be different working hours, a relaxed approach to meetings and policies, informal communication styles, a lack of resources, more responsibility than you are used to and complex social issues such as gender inequality and corruption. In Country Orientation will provide you with some tools to deal with these differences however a flexible attitude will also go a long way.
Tip #4 - Ask lots of questions at In Country Orientation on how to deal with any challenges, research the country and Host Organisation, and understand that capacity building involves working within the current environment - not changing it overnight.
Getting sick is a part of living and working in developing countries. A lot of support is provided before, during and after your assignment to ensure you stay as healthy as possible (vaccinations, personalised medical kits, check ups), however getting sick - even with a bout of diarrohea - will likely still be a part of your assignment.
Tip #5 - Ensure you follow health advice provided at Australian Volunteers Briefing.