1 week to go!


This time in a week I will be on a plane to begin my long journey, starting the next chapter of my life. I will be leaving from Dunedin and go Wellington for the night. Then in the morning to Sydney for a stopover before Bali where I will stay overnight before flying to Timor Leste, my home for the next 10 months. Ever since I found out about getting into the UniVol program I have had so many questions. Where’s Timor? Why are you doing that? Ooh aren’t you scared? 10 months is a long time! Hopefully this post will answer these questions everyone seems to ask!


My name is Sam and I am moving to Timor Leste for the next 10 months to volunteer with Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) in their UniVol programme. I have recently graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Science majoring in geography. I thought this would be a great opportunity to get some life experience and to take a break from University while I tried to figure out what I want to do.


So here goes nothing!


For those of you who don’t know, Timor Leste (East Timor) is a small country in South East Asia which is about an hour by plane from Darwin, Australia. Don’t worry even I had to look this up! The country occupies the eastern side of the island of Timor. It is ringed by coral reefs which are teeming with marine life. The capital, Dili, is where I will be living which has a population of around 200,000 and is home to the famous statue of Cristo Rei. The country has struggled for independence from Portugal in 1975 and then Indonesia in 2002. The population is around 1.2 million


All throughout my school years I have always been interested in helping people whether that be other students in academic assistance or the wider community collecting money for charity. I thought it was time for me to bring this out into the world and help some more people who are less fortunate. I think VSA do a great job at giving kiwis the opportunities to help in different means in the wider pacific. So many people can find a position that suit their skill set.


I will be working in the Xanana Gusmāo Reading Room where I will help to expand their customer base and support the everyday running of the library and museum spaces. The Reading Room was established in 2000 by Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the wife of Timor-Leste’s first post-independence President Xanana Gusmao. As founder and patron, Mrs Gusmao has been involved in its operation ever since.


Am I scared? Yes of course. The people who I’m leaving behind is the hardest part. Not getting to see my wee niece grow into a toddler, and trying to keep a relationship with my wonderful boyfriend. Though as hard as these moments will be, I know that looking back in five years if I had passed on this opportunity there would always be the question in my mind what if? Opportunities like this are not readily available and I know it is one not to be missed!


Although I am scared I am also very excited! I look forward to learning new skills in my job, and life in general. I am excited to meet a whole new bunch of people and exploring new places with them. All the challenges that I am going to face will help me to grow as a person. I will give my all to the community in every way that I can. I know that this will be the hardest time of my life but will also be the most rewarding. I am going to try my very best to make a difference in some way over the next 10 months.

Be sure to follow this blog and my Instagram (@samalexknowles) for the latest updates on this adventure!







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