From Rome to Scotland…volunteering at Culzean Castle

Hi, we are Gemma, Ilaria and Silvia, we come from Italy and we did an internship as Learning Assistants at Culzean Castle from April to June 2017.

We’ve been here only for a couple of months, but it’s not easy to describe this experience in just a few lines or paragraphs because it has not been just an internship for us, but so much more. We graduated in Italy at the end of 2016, two of us in Languages and one of us in Tourism, and we came to Scotland with the hope of improving our English and professional skills, learning more about working in Tourism and Heritage and developing new aspects of our personality. Despite this, we didn’t really know what to expect from our volunteer work at Culzean Castle. We were excited and scared at the same time, afraid of staying in a new country, far from our habits and families, the three of us living together for the first time; afraid of speaking a different language and finding ourselves in a working environment completely new for us; afraid that things would not be as good as we hoped. But, guess what? It was simply INCREDIBLE!

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The first challenge was, of course, speaking English, since we had to cope with the Scottish accent, which is “slightly” different from the one we had studied at school…just a wee bit.

We spent the first couple of weeks at Culzean shadowing the guides in the Castle: a group of people completely different from one another, some serious, some funny, some sweet, but all extremely welcoming and generous. They made us feel part of the their team from the very beginning, encouraging us when we were afraid of talking to visitors and always ready to help us with anything, from answering our questions about history to giving us a lift home. Thanks to them we realised that being a guide and staying entire days in a room can be really fun and it was actually the thing that made us more confident and helped us grow on both a professional and a personal level. The funny part was that the only thing we were sure of before our arrival was that we didn’t want to be guides and relate to the public at all…Now we even love dressing up and doing costumed interpretation!

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Along with learning a lot of facts about the Castle, the Kennedy family and the history of Scotland, we spent some time with the Learning Officer and worked with her in organising events, workshops and activities for children and creating social media contents.

We will never forget days such as “The Glamorous Georgian” and “The International Fairy Day”, where we had the chance to help organise these events, to carry out all the activities personally and learn from the feedback we received. In this way, we understood how to operate “behind the scenes” of such a big tourist attraction and how to coordinate and approach people of different ages. In these two months, we also tried to go around Scotland as much as possible and to get a closer look to Scottish culture. Some of the people we met during our stay made it possible for us to reach some hidden corners and beautiful places of this country that we probably would have never seen without them. It was great to have someone we could ask the craziest questions or the simplest things about life here.

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For all these reasons we would like to thank all the people that have been part of our experience: the guides in the castle and the volunteers, the staff at the front desk, at the pay box and at the shop, the Learning Manager and Learning Officer. You showed us that working in a good team can really make the difference!

To conclude, this experience taught us that it is important to have passion for what you do, to learn from your mistakes and, most of all, to be up to the challenge.

Our favourite Scots phrase: ‘haste ye back’! We most definitely will…

Gemma, Ilaria and Silvia

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