The Hostelling International Exchange Programme sees staff and volunteers of YHA travel abroad and spend time at partner hostels. Exchange participants have a fantastic opportunity to travel, learn and explore on their exchange; they learn new skills, work on their language, and meet new people. Rob, a volunteer with YHA, travelled to Hostel Altamar in Vigo, Galicia, to volunteer for two weeks in November 2015. You can read about his experience below…

I returned last week from my time in Spain and Portugal based around two weeks working in Vigo hostel and it has been a magical month full of wonderful memories.

I don’t know when YHA changed their mission statement from love of the countryside etc to the one now of opportunity for adventure, but the new one certainly sums up my aims when I go away.

There is always an element of being prepared to be open minded about what you face when you take on something like this, and I’m not sure what I was going to expect when I arrived at the hostel, apart from the fact that I was probably going to be working in the kitchen. I had some direct communication with the hostel beforehand and had obtained a kitchen health and safety certificate online before I went.

However I was given a shared room with a lovely German lad doing nursing who was on a one month exchange with the local hospital. I got board and lodging, good food, and was asked to work mornings only Monday to Friday and the rest of the time to explore myself. The people I worked with were great fun and we communicated in Spanish/English and Galico. The students in the hostel and people of Vigo in general were very helpful and friendly.

Not only did I have a chance to explore the city and surrounding areas, I was able to fit in my football matches as weekends were free, and I went with two friends beforehand and stayed around Coruna and afterwards spent time on my own in Guimaraes , North Portugal, before flying home from Porto.

I think it is important that people that have these opportunities. Do think beforehand what they would like out of the experience and be aware that it can be something very different to what they might expect. If you have somewhere to stay and you are fed then you have the basics and everything else is a bonus.

My stay was so much better than I could have hoped for and it wasn’t just because of the fact it got to 20 plus degrees every day apart from the two before I came home on Nov 24th!