Volunteer Stories

Volunteers 1

Steffen, Youth Hostel & National Office Volunteer

My name is Steffen, I am 21 years old and come from Bochum, a town in the west of Germany. I have already studied two semesters of constructive engineering just after school but realised that this is not what I want to do in the future.

The SYHA has given me the opportunity to spend a volunteering year in Scotland, which includes working in different hostels; Glen Nevis, Aberdeen, Rowardennan and Edinburgh Metro and in the National-Office in Stirling. This has helped me to choose a personal path regarding studying or starting an education and to use this as a chance to think about my interests and wishes for the future.

At the beginning I had a few problems understanding the Scottish dialect because there are so many different accents and you cannot compare it to the English we get taught at school in Germany, but I have now already got used to it and expanded my vocabulary with the help of my colleagues.

On my days off I try to travel around as much as I can, which requires much of my own initiative, and until now I have seen lots of different places like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, and I have done a biking trip on Skye and Raasay, I would that recommend to everyone. By living in the hostel like other guests I have met people from different countries all over the world which is very interesting and furthers my chance to prove my English skills.

If I could summarize my first three months in this country I would say I have learned a lot about myself, already improved my English, met very nice work colleagues, recognized the beauty of this country with its contrasts of big cities and untouched nature and recommend volunteering with the SYHA.”

Hauke, Glen Nevis Youth Hostel Volunteer

I am Hauke and I’m 21 years old. I am going to work as a Volunteer at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel until the end of August and I am looking forward to experiencing the beautiful Lochaber area!

I had never been to Scotland before but I am very keen to get to know the people and the atmosphere of this northern country. I was already very impressed by its stunning countryside when I came up the West Highlands by train!

I have enjoyed staying in several Youth Hostels in Germany and the UK and it has always been a nice experience as the special environment Hostels make is very unique. Moreover I support the charitable idea of Youth Hostels in general and I think staying at Glen Nevis will not only gives me a deeper insight into the Youth Hostel´s life, but also into the Scottish life!

I really liked the atmosphere at the Youth Hostel and pretty much all of the people have been very friendly and always good for a chat. On one of our busy days three Belgians even helped Patrick and me with our laundry. Many like-minded people all in one place, I think that is what makes a stay at a Youth Hostel so special.

From the friendly atmosphere among the staff, the varied job and the exciting things the Lochaber area has to offer it has been all in all a rewarding and great time! Thanks very much SYHA and Scotland!

Lena, Youth Hostel & National Office Volunteer

My name is Lena and I am 19 years old. I live in a small town called Ettlingen which is near Karlsruhe, in the South of Germany. Currently I am living in Scotland and volunteering for the SYHA for one year.

Volunteering with the SYHA gives me the great opportunity to live and work in Scotland, as well as help me to improve my English, which are the main reasons why I chose to volunteer for the Scottish Youth Hostels Association.

In the youth hostel I do the same work as all the other members of staff. That means I work at the reception, help with the cleaning and housekeeping as well with the catering. In Stirling at the National Office my main task was to update our membership database and send Memberships to customers.

As I am living in the youth hostel itself, I get to know people from all over the world. That is very interesting and I learned a lot about cultures and countries. And chatting is of course a great way to improve my English! But working and living at various youth hostels didn’t only teach me about work and life in Scotland but also about myself.

When I first came here I had no idea what to do after this year, where I wanted to go and what to do with my life. Working and living away from home showed me where my priorities are and what is important to me. Now I know that I want to study molecular medicine at university and hopefully work in research one day.

I can recommend volunteering for the SYHA if you want to do something completely different, improve your English and explore the beautiful country. It is a good chance to learn a lot and to get to know yourself better.

Volunteers 2

James, Glen Nevis Youth Hostel Volunteer

I spent a month and a half volunteering at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel on the West coast of Scotland. Coming from a large city on the South Coast of England, I was filled with awe and respect for the breathtaking rugged beauty of the Highlands. The Youth Hostel is located at the base of Ben Nevis three miles from the town of Fort William.

When I arrived I was given a warm welcome and introduced to all the youth hostel staff. The other staff were kind and friendly and helped to show me the ropes as I was settling in. My arrangement with the SYHA involved working four days at the hostel and in return I was given a comfortable room and three days each week to explore in the Glen and surrounding areas. The work was fairly relaxed and involved cleaning and doing the odd D.I.Y job. Although the cleaning could be a bit repetitive I found it gave me time to plan my next adventure and to get to know the other staff.

Living in the Youth Hostel enabled me to feel more connected to the area and I was able to learn a bit about the culture and history of the Lochaber region. By using the Youth Hostel as my base camp I was able to roam up mountains, travel to unspoilt islands, go to Scottish Folk dances and visit ancient Abbeys. I sampled some of the best downhill mountain biking in the U.K, basked on the glorious silver sand beaches of Morar and soaked in the majestic grace of Iona Island.

Volunteering is a great way to meet open minded adventurous people who know the area well and can show you remarkable places off the beaten-track. I have also stayed at other SYHA youth hostels on my days off such as Loch Ossian, Oban, Isle of Mull and Glen Coe.

Working at Glen Nevis has given me time for reflection and growth whilst surrounded by enchanting woodland and craggy peaks. I have been inspired to take up new hobbies and projects at home and feel more confident to undertake long treks and cycling trips down South. I have been able to nurture my sense of adventure, refresh my spirit and escape from the concrete monotony of urban living.

I would highly recommend volunteering with the SYHA as a fantastic way to meet new people, explore exciting landscapes and experience Scotland beyond the tourist trail.

Elsa, Inverness Youth Hostel Volunteer

I chose to volunteer with SYHA because I viewed it as an excellent opportunity to discover Scotland, its culture and beautiful landscape whilst practising my language skills.

Having never worked in the hospitality industry before, I was looking forward to getting an insight into the inner workings of a Youth Hostel.

My stay in Inverness is now coming to an end and I can say that my hopes have not been disappointed in the slightest. The staff here in Inverness have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and show me the roles of the many varied tasks they have entrusted me with.

I will miss the friendly atmosphere and the many travellers I have met and exchanged stories with. Thanks to their wide network, I have also been able to visit the surrounding area and will be bringing home many wonderful memories of Scotland's dramatic scenery and vibrant culture.

In a nutshell, this has been an amazing experience and I would warmly recommend it to anyone who wishes to travel, make new friends and learn new skills.

Yannick, Tobermory and Glasgow Youth Hostels Volunteer

I worked in two completely different hostels during my volunteering year. On one hand Glasgow Youth Hostel and on the other Tobermory Youth Hostel, one big city hostel and one small but very busy hostel. It couldn't have been better to go from a big bustling city to a colourful and tiny harbour town.

I worked in catering for most of my time in Glasgow. It was great to serve coffees and sandwiches, milkshakes and muffins as well as burgers and other evening meals. I also had the chance to prepare dinners for big groups and had a lot of fun. There is nothing better than full, happy customers who are telling you how good their dinner was.

As a volunteer you receive free accommodation and live in the hostel. You have a lot of contact with customers; the majority of them are nice so it's good fun. You have the opportunity to chat with your guests and are introduced to other cultures and traditions. Eat and cook with them, go for a drink or become friends if you like. A steak from an Aussie, a walk with a German, goulash from a Bulgarian, wine and cheese with French guys, drinks with the Irish and a kiss from a Glaswegian girl.

This is just a sample of my experiences in Scotland. I could go on for ages about it! You can have a lot of fun with guests and make contacts all over the world. If you are planning on travelling in the next few years you will have accommodation everywhere!

I worked on reception at Tobermory Youth Hostel and the contact with customers was more intense than in Glasgow. You have more time to chat with customers whilst you are working on reception and this is great from a customer service point of view. My English language and knowledge improved so much whilst volunteering and I could even understand the Scottish colloquialisms! With only 1200 inhabitants in Tobermory I found that I got to know everybody quite quickly and vice versa. I loved going to see live music acts in the local pubs as it was really good music and we don't have this back home.

I don't regret my decision to come over and volunteer for a year with SYHA Hostelling Scotland and would do it again in a minute, it was incredible……Now it's your turn!

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Graham, Durness Youth Hostel Volunteer

I was looking for a new opportunity in Scotland during 2014. I work as a painter and decorator in West Yorkshire and am a keen walker and cyclist. When I saw a volunteer maintenance position advertised on SYHA’s website I applied because I wanted to spend a longer time in one place to experience life in a small community as well as explore the surrounding area. The position was in Durness on the north coast which is just about as far north as I could go without falling in the sea.

After a telephone interview I packed my walking boots and bike panniers for the train journey to Inverness then onwards to Durness. My stay there was made very easy by the friendly and accommodating nature of my managers, who made me feel part of the team, helping me to get the most out of my freetime as well as supporting me in my work.

The youth hostel was getting ready to open for the new season and needed a facelift. There was lots of painting to do but the results were a transformation very much appreciated by Youth Hostel Manager Mary Anne and of course the guests. Between decorating I had plenty of time off to explore Cape Wrath as well as go walking up the Munros; Ben Hope and Ben Klibreck and The Corbetts; Foinaven and Cranstackie. I also had a great time discovering local paths and tracks and watched the sun set over the sea from Faraid head.

My overall impression of volunteering with the SYHA is that it was a very positive and rewarding experience. There’s still some work to do and I hope to be back in spring 2015 to finish the job!

Nicola, Crianlarich Youth Hostel Volunteer

My name is Nicola, I’m 15 and currently I’m volunteering at Crianlarich Youth Hostel as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.

I completed the expedition part of my Award a few weeks ago; it was a challenging walk from Lecharrie, near Crianlarich, over to Brig O’Turk by Callendar. It was a lot of fun, but very hard and tiring! I just need to do a few more hours at the youth hostel and I have completed all the requirements for my Award.

I chose to volunteer at the youth hostel as I live locally and had heard a lot about the company through friends and family; it seemed like a great opportunity. It was also perfect because I was still in school when I started and being close-by it meant I could get here easily.

I volunteer with the Hostel Manager, Fiona and her team once a week for an hour. With the weather having been so lovely, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening at the front of the building; weeding everywhere and then planting colourful flowers that brighten up the entrance.

Sometimes I’ll help out with the cleaning – making beds, tidying up and just chipping in with anything that needs done. I really enjoy my volunteering, it’s something I’ve never done before and I’ve learnt a lot from Fiona about SYHA, hostelling and how to garden!

I’ve not been hostelling before, but would really like to when I’m a bit older and school is finished. I’ve lived in Scotland my whole life so I’d love to go abroad, stay at Hostelling International places and see more of the world first.

My time with Crianlarich Youth hostel finishes in a couple of weeks but I would like to come back if I get the chance. It’s been a great experience and I’ll definitely be recommending it to my friends and other people looking for Duke of Edinburgh placements.

Skye, Loch Ossian Youth Hostel Volunteer

As part of the Duke of Edinburgh Gold programme you must complete a 5 day residential and I am very happy that I decided to complete mine with SYHA Hostelling Scotland! I stayed in Loch Ossian Youth Hostel – I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had heard it was in the middle of nowhere, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However the surrounding area was beautiful as the youth hostel was situated right next to the loch, with mountains on all sides. There was also a lot of wildlife; the swallow family that lived above the shed with a habit of dive-bombing you when you tried to get to the cleaning equipment, the ravens and eagles from the mountains and a stag that liked to steal the bird food!

While I was volunteering there the kind of jobs I undertook were cleaning, doing the laundry, painting the doors of the youth hostel, planting flower cuttings and welcoming guests to the youth hostel. I learnt many new skills by doing all of this, and ones that I hope to use elsewhere.

Fortunately the weather was amazing during my stay so I was able to go out on some walks around the loch on my time off. The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful and I managed to take some great photographs.

Overall I would definitely recommend choosing to volunteer in a Scottish Youth Hostel for Duke of Edinburgh or any other reason. Everyone I met was really friendly, especially the manager, Jan. I had a great time during my stay and look forward to visiting a Scottish Youth Hostel again!