The idea of leaving your life for three months is a strange one - before I even left, I knew I’d come back to missed memes, new songs on the radio, different adverts on the tube and plenty other more personal things having changed!

So I’m going to get personal now, because my experience is very much my own. When I’d initially told my boyfriend that this was something I wanted to do, to be an ICS Team Leader, he was overwhelmingly supportive, and I can honestly say that his support was one of the things that got me on that plane to Honduras when I was feeling a lot more scared about actually doing it. 

Josie and her team at a British Embassy event in Honduras

The actual act of living away from him, of missing him and missing out on things we’d normally do in our daily lives in London was really hard. I won’t sugar coat or say it was easy, but it was also a really valuable experience; to reconnect with myself and to remind myself that I’m not defined by the relationship (or our Netflix addiction!).

Josie on the head table at an event in Honduras (far right)

Sometimes it was hard for the smallest reasons, like being reminded of a stupid joke we have and not having regular WIFI to text him about it. Sometimes it was hard for bigger life-changing reasons. These are the things you have to be prepared for when getting ready to go on placement; you don’t know what’s going to happen in any of your loved ones’ lives while you’re away. Not being there for friends, family or your partner when they need you is incredibly painful; but you have to understand that they’ll still be there when you get back.

Josie with the UK volunteers from her team in Honduras

I have always said to myself that I’d never let the fact I was in a relationship stop me from doing things I wanted to do. It may sound like a cliché, but who cares; a good relationship should be just as much about the lives, ambitions and desires of each individual as it should be about your joint life choices. In fact, this experience has strengthened us both as individuals, as well as made it clearer that we’re happy together, not out of habit and routine, but out of choice. Yes, we really missed each other, but knowing he was there to come back to when I arrived back in the UK was a rock for me when I was thousands of miles away. 

Josie giving a presentation at the Returned Volunteers Event in the UK

As I mentioned, I can only speak from my own perspective, so can’t claim to know how the experience would be for other people. That said, I’d recommend the ICS experience to everyone, and I’d say that if you’re in a relationship and you feel nervous about the idea of leaving your partner to go on placement, that’s a really healthy and normal feeling to have! But the rewards of going on ICS can be incredibly valuable to figuring out or confirming what you want from your relationship - as much as any other part of your life!

Written by ICS UK Alumni Team Leader Josie Martin (January - March 2016, El Carrizal, Honduras)