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Volunteering and Exploring Mexico – Why & How

Small Beginnings

At age 20 I’d never been abroad or on a plane, same goes for my brother, sister, mum and dad. From the age of 16, priority number one was earning and spending money on rent, food, college and accommodation.


I got accepted for an EIL Explore Travel Award to work and live in Mexico for 8 weeks. EIL Explore looked at all my skills, interests and hobbies, and had an interactive interview day looking at how we work with others, communicate and feel about different issues (they even did the good cop bad cop routine). From their network of places like Ecuador, South Africa, Vietnam, Nepal and Guatemala I got matched with a small fishing village on the east coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero called Barra de Potosi. 



EIL Explore funds overseas intercultural learning opportunities which challenge participants to become better global citizens. They give the chance to travel, learn and change. Barra de Potosi was matched with me because of my personality, they felt I’d be useful in helping running and maintaining a library for learning, in running activities and football games alongside some work around the village.

Going abroad for partying and drinking never appealed to me. Going to explore and integrate into a culture was what I really wanted. I remember reading Tim Ferris’s best selling book, the 4-hour workweek when I was 17, and how he’d travel around the world and living in different places absorbing their language, sport and culture. He’d even come to Ireland to learn Irish and play hurling (2 of my favourite interests). To obtain self-understanding, I feel I must better understand others.


Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. Culture shock, voluntourism, deadly disease and animals, and even a warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Transport saying “The security situation is particularly volatile in the south western Pacific states of Guerrero and in the northern state of Tamaulipas. We advise against non-essential travel to these states”. Very reassuring to know there will always be risks.

I’ve taken small steps towards speaking Spanish, I’ve managed expectations and am prepared to work hard for both myself and others.

EIL Explore is more than just going abroad and volunteering, a core part of it is an action project. Where we build a project to spread awareness, to teach and promote the place we’ll be going. I also hope to continue to work with EIL, to build their network and continue the collaborative effort they do to enable people like myself to learn from cultural experiences as well as giving small rural communities vetted workers and volunteers to contribute.


Opportunities from DCU and Access

Opportunities have been in abundance at DCU, and being an Access student in DCU (programme giving ‘access’ to 3rd level education for people with social, cultural or financial disadvantages) opened the door for me to explore new places, people, jobs and roles of leadership. I think this is the greatest value University provides, particularly a new forward moving one like DCU.


Grab life by the balls…

Older people say how lucky I am to have these opportunities while I’m young. I don’t intend to waste them. I’ll take my camera, my hurl and all my positive energy to Mexico. Mexico are also in the World Cup, and since Ireland aren’t, I hope to share in the ecstasy of their celebrations. I’m looking forward to supporting the Mexican football team and being apart of their football culture.

I can’t wait for what I might hear, see, do, smell, taste and feel there. I aim to work selflessly and hope to be introduced to their amazing culture by an always interesting people. VIVA MÉXICO!


Cathal McGivern

Cathal McGivern

My name is Cathal McGivern. I'm a digital marketer by trade, able to design websites and promote online. I'm an aspiring photographer and videographer. I'm hungry for challenges and change...

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