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Why do I want to work in nature conservation?

Why am I dreaming of a life in Africa, when I have everything I could dream of here in The Netherlands and in Norway? Why would I give up all the luxuries we have here in these ‘rich’ countries? Why do I want to move so far away from my family and friends? Why do I want to start all over in a new country, that is far away?

It hasn’t always been like that. When I was a kid I never had the dream of going abroad for anything else than holidays. I grew up with a father that made a 3-week trip each year, so it is clear where I got the travel gene from. But nobody could have known that it went much further than wanting to go on (long) holidays. During my childhood, when people asked me what I would like to do when I am older, I always had the standard replies. I wanted to become a mom, a teacher, a midwife and I even wanted to become a clown.

During high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore. All of the previous options didn’t seem so nice anymore. I did like sports and though maybe I can study to become a personal trainer. But I didn’t really see myself doing that in the future. Because I was so unsure about what I wanted to study, together with the feeling I wanted some time off before going to college; I decided to take a gap year.

Madagascar, the start of my dream

My gap year started in Juli 2014. And for the first 5 months, I mostly worked. I saved up all the money that I earned for one thing. To go abroad and to do volunteer work. And I wanted to do this in Madagascar. I wanted to join the ‘pioneer project’ from SEED in south-eastern Madagascar. The pioneer project was a combination of social work, nature conservation and building/construction. At that point, I did not know I wanted to work in the nature conservation, I was just somebody who enjoyed spending time in nature. On 5th January 2015, I left for Madagascar, 18 years old and my first trip abroad by myself.

I stayed in Madagascar for 10 weeks and had many different activities, in the start we helped to build a school in Mahatalaky; we mixed concrete for the floor, we painted the walls and we build furniture for the children to sit on. There we also gave English classes to the children. In Sainte Luce we build a shed for a stitching business connected to the organization and here is also were the nature conservation activities were. We did several research projects in the rainforest; we studied lemurs, both day and night species, we studied frogs and geckoes. Also, we gave lessons about wildlife at the local school every Saturday.

Besides the work activities, there was also free Sunday with plenty of fun activities. And the days we were moving between Fort Dauphin – Mahatalaky and Sainte Luce were filled with many adventures. The truck would get stuck uncountable times and broke down more often than you can imagine. But even those moments I look back on with pure joy and laughter.

Tropical nature

Me with a couple kids in Madagascar, showing them how the camera works and themselves.

The 10 weeks flew by in an instant. Before I knew I was on my plane back home. But when I came home from this trip, where I learned so much about myself and the world. All they say about doing volunteer work after high school is true. I would always advise people to do the same, see how the world really is and see how you can fit in. This trip was the start of something new. What I also learned is that I wanted to work in nature conservation, but not any nature… I want to work in the tropics. That is how I decided that I wanted to start a career in nature conservation. Soon I will tell you about all the other steps I have taken on my road to Africa.

The first step after this amazing trip was starting my studies. I started my bachelor in Forest and Nature conservation which took me occupied for 4,5 years. This does not mean that I spend all those years at home in the Netherlands. The complete opposite, I spend about half the time of my bachelor abroad. And soon I will tell you everything about this and all the other steps I have taken on my road to Africa.

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