Susanna's Bali Adventure

Combining Teaching and Turtle Conservation in Bali

Last September, I decided to use my gap year for something meaningful. That’s when I made the decision to go to Bali as a volunteer. The project I participated in focused on teaching English at local primary schools. I am so happy I went abroad as this decision turned out to be the best of my life as it enabled me to experience a great adventure in an amazing country.

Arriving on Bali

After arriving at the airport in Denpasar I was picked up by my organisation and taken to my accommodation. Already during the first evening I got to know other volunteers from all over the world such as Australia, Finland, Sweden but also a lot of people from Germany. To get to know each other better we played card games until late at night. The accommodation itself wasn’t luxurious but definitely sufficient and suitable. I shared a room with five other girls from various different countries with whom I got along very well! Already during the first evening I felt very welcome and had no problem to become part of the community. The next morning started very nice as well due to the breakfast buffet that was provided to us by the organization - not just that day but every morning! Everyone indulged in toast, coffee, all kinds of fruits and pancakes.

An exciting introduction week

After breakfast, the actual introduction week began which was aiming at bringing the Balinese culture closer to us which definitely made it way easier to get accustomed to everything. We also learned a few words in Bahasa Indonesia, the official Balinese language, to facilitate the communication with the kids in the project. In addition, we went to a typical Balinese market, visited the famous rice terraces, got to know typical Balinese food by participating in a cooking class and took part in a batik course. The week was packed with exciting things to do and I really got the feeling that it helped me get a first insight into the culture and the country in general.

My achievements in the project

In week 2, I actually started working in the project. It was such an exciting experience for me since the schools looked so different from the ones I had known in Germany so far! The classrooms didn’t have electrical light and were furnished in a rather simple way. Moreover, a lot of the kids didn’t have proper school bags and actually used trash bags instead. Yet: the kids welcomed us with a huge smile on their faces every single day anew. They were very focused during class and appeared to be the most thankful children I have ever came across. Every day, I was so happy to know that I would see them again the next day. We soon knew each other’s names by heart and ended every school day by playing games with the whole group. The best thing about working in the school project: I got to witness the progress concerning the kids’ English skills which made me very proud. After three weeks, the fourth graders were able to name all animals as well as living room furniture and talk about their hobbies as well as daily routines. On the last day, a huge surprise awaited me at school: when I entered the classroom the kids came running to me with farewell gifts, all individually wrapped up saying “Miss Susanna” in a scrawly handwriting on them. When I opened the little presents I was so touched. They had gifted me bracelets, small plastic roses, a little mirror and a lot of sweets. In return, I gave sweets and colouring books to them which I had bought a couple of days before. Saying goodbye was very emotional for me and I couldn’t hold back the tears. 

Working at a turtle conservation center in Nusa Penida

After finishing teaching at school I decided to volunteer in another project. I asked the organization on site whether it was possible for me to also work in the turtle conservation center for a week - and they said yes! I had to pay an extra fee since I hadn’t booked the program prior to my arrival but the organization was very flexible and spontaneous and therefore able to organize everything on short notice. 

To join the project I traveled to Nusa Penida, a small island located South of Bali. I had a little culture shock when I arrived: although the island looked stunning and I loved the atmosphere, the power didn’t work at all during the first day. My volunteer colleagues and I didn’t mind it that much though and opted for keeping ourselves entertained with things that didn’t need any electricity such as card games. Already on the second day I started working in the turtle project. The tasks were very diverse and included feeding the turtles, cleaning their pools as well as cleaning beaches on the island. Especially the latter gave me a really good feeling: we collected the trash that the flood had washed ashore and it was so great to take a long look at the beach afterwards and see how clean it got.

My achievements in the project

Apart from the projects, which I liked very much, I absolutely fell in love with Bali as a country. The people were so open and friendly in a way I had never experienced before in Europe. In addition, the nature was beautiful: the mixture of the beaches as well as the fascinating rice terraces offered a breathtaking view. I, moreover, especially enjoyed myself on the island since I love doing yoga as well as eating healthy food - both things that are very popular on Bali. 

After I had finished the projects I travelled around the island with another volunteer I had met during my time as a volunteer at the primary school. We travelled to hidden places all over the island and got to know the country even better, learned to surf and relaxed at the beach. I had the greatest time and would always do it again!