In the UK we have just enjoyed an unusually long spell of beautiful sunny weather. However, as this abruptly came to an end at the end of last week with rain and thunderclouds, and I had to retreat inside from my sunbathing garden spot I was very thankful that I had thought ahead and planned to go to France throughout August. When making these plans I faced the same problems that I’m sure many students will face; that I wanted to make the most of the long university holidays but at the same time, being a student, I had very little money to do so! I had agreed with three school friends of mine that we would do something together. We are all very close but being scattered around the country at different universities each with very busy weekly schedules made it impossible to see nearly enough of each other throughout the year. So we were in agreement that we wanted to spend a length of time with each other over the summer but that an expensive holiday abroad was out of the question.
It was once this resolution had been made that we stumbled across a website called HelpX which seemed the perfect solution to our needs. On this website people advertise volunteer work across the globe asking for various size groups to do different work for different lengths of time in a range of environments. This could be from volunteering on a cattle farm in Australia to helping to looking after children and teaching English in Madrid to helping a family with a renovation project in the South of France. The work is not paid but in exchange for your efforts you are given food and lodging and depending on the placement a few perks. This was great for us because we wanted to get away from England and see some sunshine but did not want to treat ourselves with fancy hotels and expensive days out. However, we were initially concerned that our requirements were too narrow to find anyone to match. We wanted a French host who would take on 4 girls in the month of August. In spite of this there were a number of hosts for us to choose from who matched our criteria from the pages and pages of HelpX hosts.
Without much hesitation my friends and I signed up and sent round some initial emails to host whose requirements we suited. We were surprised by how quickly the replies came in and how easy the whole process had been. In a short space of time we had gone from deciding to go away with each other to having a place at a chateau hotel in the Loire Valley where we were to work and stay for the duration of August! All we had to do was to book the Eurotunnel, pack our bags and we would be ready!
Therefore as I wait to go away in a few days’ time and escape the English rain there is not much for me to do in terms of preparation. I am particularly looking forward to spending some time in France, which I have not done since the odd Brittany holiday when I was younger and practising my very rusty French! Of course I cannot wait to spend time with my closest friends and I also think it will be an important break and change of scenery before it is time to throw myself into my Second Year at university in September.