Spain, Edinburgh, Zambia | Hopeful, Doubtful, Raring

By Virginia Arroyo Armenteros

After one year living in a different country called Scotland (sorry if I make geographical mistakes) where the people and the culture are different to my own, it was the moment to think about the next step in my life.

My name is Virginia; I am 25 years old and I am from Spain. I’ve spent most of my life living in Madrid where I was born, but since very young I’ve had a beautiful, important and growing curiosity to know more about this world and the different cultures of this planet called Earth. I studied History at the Rey Juan Carlos University. After graduating and without anything special to do in my country, I decided to travel to the highlands to learn English and of course, to absorb the culture from other the Scottish people.

In Scotland, I lived with a family from New Zealand. They were the best people I have had ever met in my life. Especially my host mum Trace Ward, she has been an important person during my ICS experience as she discovered this opportunity, told me about it and most importantly, she gave me the confidence to do it. Scotland, without a doubt, made me much more satisfied with life, it has made me more mature and especially a better person.


Before I knew about the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme, I was thinking about doing a masters degree to improve my professional academic qualification but, it was true, that I couldn’t stop thinking about travelling abroad to do volunteering work. Trace knew all of this and she thought it would be a great idea to get more information from Challenges Worldwide Employee and ICS Alumni James Montgomery at the Ambition and Growth conference at Dynamic Earth, in Edinburgh, and she showed it to me.

After thinking a lot about it, I decided to apply for a position as a “volunteer business support associate” with Challenges Worldwide ICS in April of this year. At the beginning, I was unconfident to start all of the processes in another language different to mine. I had a lot of doubts about myself because it was a big challenge for me, (all of my life, since I was really little, I’ve struggled with English). Despite this, I have to say I was raring to do it because challenging myself is one of the things I most like in life. It makes me feel alive! And obviously because the programme sounded AMAZING!!!

A few weeks later, I had to choose what agency I wanted to go with and I had chosen Challenge Worldwide for different reasons. Firstly, James Montgomery was so kind and helpful answering me the entire questions for the process to become a volunteer that gave me much more confidence and support. Secondly, Challenge Worldwide offered a nice programme including business training, which was going to allow me to gainknowledge in business. Finally, Challenges Worldwide ICS is currently focusing its efforts in Africa.  I had the feeling to go to this continent, and normally, I trust in my intuitions.


The assessment day and the pre-training were very important to me as I felt myself growing in confidence because I could go through all the different tests with the rest of the team. However, the days doing the pre-training in Edinburgh were especially challenging because a lot of important information was presented every day, talking and thinking all the time in English and being surrounded by people for who English is their first language. This means that sometimes I got lost and became frustrated for missing information. However, I have to say thanks very much to the Challenge Worldwide team because they were so kind and supportive during these days, especially Nicola, James, Georgia, Adele, Kasia and Gurpreet. They were so professional and sensitive people. I believe that Challenge Worldwide has got a wonderful and professional team.



Finally, I can say, the day I got accepted was one of the best and happiest of my life, I achieved it! One of my dreams was going to become real, to go to Sub-Saharan Africa… I believe this opportunity was the best thing that could happen to me as it gives me more experience to really know what I want to do in my life. Also, Challenges Worldwide ICS is providing me with a lot of confidence as a professional person; I was able to cross all the process that are necessary to become a volunteer.


I know it is going to sound a bit exaggerated but the day when Trace showed me the Challenge Worldwide brochure, she gave me something more than a simple brochure, she gave me the amazing opportunity to develop myself as a professional and I’ve become gladder about life as these three months are being AWESOME to me.

Thanks-a-lot Trace and Challenges Worldwide ICS.

Virginia Arroyo Armenteros


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