Looking to take a year off but not sure what to do? We spoke with Megan Meo, currently a student at Hampshire College (www.hampshire.edu), about her experience with World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF). Meo found an answer in this organization, which combines volunteering, travel and learning about different cultures and organic lifestyles.
Read on to see if WWOOF could be the next step for you!
Q: What initially interested you in the opportunity?
A: Upon graduating high school, I knew I was not ready to go straight to college and decided that I wanted to take a gap year. I knew that if I went straight to college, I would most likely be studying for another four years and would not have the opportunity to travel. I realized that this time between high school and college was the best time to head off for several months because I had very few commitments at home. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do besides traveling to a Latin American country to improve my Spanish. As I began researching, I learned about the WWOOF program. WWOOFing seemed the most accessible and would provide me with the opportunity to not only improve my Spanish and to become immersed in the Ecuadorian culture but also as a way to learn about organic agriculture.
Q: Where did you WWOOF and for how long?
A: I spent my first three months of my gap year at Rio Muchacho Organic Farm on the central coast of Ecuador. After traveling around Colombia, I came back to Ecuador to spend another three months with a couple in Estacion Carchi in the northern part of Ecuador. I spent time working on their farm as well as helping out at the elementary school.
Q: Can you explain a little about your experiences and day to day living?
A: When I arrived at Rio Muchacho, it was my first time traveling alone to a country where English was not the primary language. However, I immediately felt welcomed and comfortable at the farm because I was surrounded by about 10 other WWOOF volunteers. I very quickly got into the routine of life on the farm. We would wake up at 6 a.m. to feed the animals and then head to the main house to eat breakfast. We spent the next several hours either working in one of the gardens weeding, planting, or harvesting, doing maintenance on the buildings on the property, or working on our own independent projects. At the other farm, I spent a lot of time with the couple I was living with planting seeds and harvesting. Because they were in a very rural area of Ecuador, they had a very specific way they farmed, which I was able to become familiar with. It was an incredible experience to become so involved in where my food was coming from. I was the only volunteer and person my age in the town, which allowed me to get very close to the entire community.
Q: What did you gain from your experience WWOOFing?
A: Taking a gap year and WWOOF was an incredible experience. I was able to take a step back from academia and to really take the time to think about what I wanted to pursue in college. It gave me the opportunity to live freely and independently and to grow in a way that I would not had been able to if I went straight to college.
Marissa MacKenzie Longstreet is a former intern of NextStepU Magazine and is a freelance writer based out of Rochester, N.Y.To learn more about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, visit www.wwoof.org.