In 2013, I travelled to Tamil Nadu with Lassalian Projects to help RTU build new safe, secure houses for villagers who had previously lived in precarious huts and shacks. My time in India changed my life. This is my story.

The summer holidays are days for recreation, time away from exams and study. As the years progress, we end up doing the same things, year in, year out. Watching repeats of 'Friends', shopping for hours and constantly tweeting our celebrity crush hoping they might reply. I wanted to make a change. So I swapped my phone for a shovel and went to work on a volunteer project in India.

My journey began when I met the eleven other people I would be spending five weeks with, a diverse group from England and Scotland. Before, I would never have been able to speak to strangers, but thanks to each and every individual, bubbly personality, I have come out of my own little oatcake-loving Stoke bubble. Although I do get a lot of funny looks now when I ask for a 'wee' oatcake!

Shelby Rebecca Poole

Travelling. Ask any of my friends, I hate aeroplanes. But you know what? I made it. I got to my destination. One taxi, two planes, one stay in a room with a giant insect, a extremely long and late train and a bus later, I arrived in India. Living in confinement, away from our accustomed culture was definitely a bigger shock than expected. It all seemed so far away. The distance from our favourite foods, our family, our friends, our iPhone, our cosy bed and that thing I never even thought I'd miss... the westernised toilet. Drop holes, especially on trains, are a hazard for losing a sandal.

The work began. Alongside local builders, we helped to put up ten solidly-built cement and cinder block houses in the villages of Genguvarpatti and G.Kallupatti, although to the families who are now living in them - and who themselves also took part in the construction process - they are so much more. They are homes. A home, a shelter, a sense of security for their family. A gift. I was sometimes ill, always tired, I gained a scar across my knee and there was, to say the least, a lot of sweat. However, giving a family that gift was much more rewarding than a lie-in.

The day we finished the first house was a wonderful day. To see one of the men, whose new family home we had helped to construct, smile the way he did really was a highlight, not just of the project, but of my life. Something I'm proud to say that I helped to do.

I learned a lot during my time in India, and not just about building houses. Spending five weeks living, eating, working and learning the Indian culture, I realised the importance of family and of love.

One of the many things I miss now that I am back in the UK is the lack of connection a town can have. In India I could go out and instantly have someone smiling and waving at me, something you would never get at home. I miss the neighbouring love. On weekends we went travelling to different parts of the South. Swimming, visiting temples, learning about Gandhi and tasting some of India's finest beer in the midst of a blackout. Throw in a 90's themed party and being bathed by an elephant after a being escorted up a hill on the beautiful animal - it really was an experience. A brilliant, once in a lifetime experience.

Before going, I panicked. Why am I doing this? What made me think I was strong enough to do this? I barely knew the people I went with. I knew I would be ill. I knew I would be homesick. However, now I would encourage anyone to seize an opportunity like this. To help others whilst also growing as a person.

I thought I would cry because I was away from home, my bed and my family, but I never thought I'd cry because I had to leave the children of RTU. I never thought that two months down the line, I will still be talking about the great experiences I had in India. Not just the obvious like the elephant ride or the amazing temples, but the little things, like daily tea scrans with my Lasallianers, playing with the children in the Children's Village near our guest rooms every day and even sleeping under a mosquito net (which fell down many times). I miss and cherish every second of India.

Despite the pain and hard work, despite the tears and the blood from cuts, I want to leave you with a quote that embodied our experience. Something that now means a lot to me: 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world' - Mahatma Gandhi.