Editors Note: This is an archived blog post from 26/10/2009.
Studying History at Manchester as an under-graduate ended in the summer of 2008. I thoroughly enjoyed being at Manchester but after finishing my dissertation, an examination of British public opinion on the civil war in El Salvador 1981-1983, and my final examinations I realised that the working world now awaited me, well not quite.
Throughout the final year my girlfriend and I had been planning and organising a volunteer grass roots development program in Zambia. The plan was to source funding for a fully plumbed sanitation block in a compound outside of Lusaka. It would if successful provide running water and showers for the students of the only school in a 35,000 person strong community. Between June and August Lizza and I worked around the clock to manage and organise the project. It was a tiring but unique experience. When our time in Zambia came to an end, we set off with a handful of dollars and a tent to explore some of this vast continent,
In the next 6 months we travelled north through the continent, visiting some of the politically contentious countries that continue to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A short stint in the Congo, Zimbabwe and Eastern Ethiopia/Somaliland re-iterated to me that you should never take what you hear at face value but instead you should research for yourself and experience it first hand. Passing through South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania on our journey north showed me how truly diverse this continent is. I left (temporarily I might add) Africa in late November with two afflictions: Malaria and a desire to return.
Returning to the United Kingdom after 6 months was an unpleasant experience; I was not at all prepared for the `reverse culture’ shock and the `formality’ of British life. However I knew that I wanted to go back to University and study at post-graduate level, well not quite yet.
I took a job teaching English in Zhuhai, China and left in late February. I am currently still here in Zhuhai teaching English and it is a thoroughly great experience. It is not about the money, or the lifestyle but what you can learn from being in a different place. I plan to return to Manchester to study History at post-graduate level in September 2010. Aside from a better understanding of Chinese, I feel I have matured quickly. I plan to use and channel my reflections from being abroad into pursuing an academic lifestyle. That is unless I get this job in Yemen….
Richard Ward (2008), Zhuhai, Guangdong, China