Back in the early 2000s, travelling was somewhat of a luxury for a family of five with one bread winner. Hence, it was quite unexpected when in the summer between her first and second year of sixth form, Maria, then aged 16, got to travel for the first time after winning a scholarship. The scholarship financed students to discover the Spanish language and culture whilst travelling to Latin America and Spain, along with another 300 participants.
In line with this appetite to learn more, Maria has mostly travelled for volunteering, exchange programmes and work purposes, focusing more on the ‘doing’ rather than simply sightseeing. These three reasons for travelling seem to give greater opportunity of learning, doing and understanding the authentic day-to-day lives of the locals.
Being an active member of Żgħażagħ Azzjoni Kattolika (ŻAK) for the past 12 years, Maria had the opportunity to participate in numerous exchange programmes both as a participant as well as a leader. She finds that such programmes are not only fun and great at making new friends and getting to know new people. They are great opportunities to widen and sharpen one’s skill sets, such as being independent, working under pressure and learning to be committed towards a particular project or cause.
Having built confidence through her previous travelling experiences as well as being curious whether she had what it takes to live abroad on her own, Maria decided to travel as a teaching assistant in Valencia (Spain) in 2015, and more recently for a similar post in Granada (Spain) in 2019.
Obviously, working and living abroad for an extensive period of time (9 months in both cases), was different from the fun and excitement that a 10-day exchange programme brings.
Nevertheless, all these experiences built you up in a more resilient, open and adaptable being.
Maria states that: