FOR this pasty white Aussie, my time here in Fiji is quickly coming to a close and as the trip home to Melbourne comes closer, I feel it necessary to reflect on my time here in Fiji.
Nearly six weeks ago, I flew into a beautiful Nadi sunrise, wide-eyed and excited to experience everything Fiji had to offer.
In my first week I was placed here at The Fiji Times as an intern reporter by Frontier, my host co-ordination program; an international volunteer organisation which places volunteers in various projects across the globe.
In my first few days here at The Times I was thrown in the deep end, putting my two years of university studies in journalism and photography to the test.
I was put on the news beat and in the first few days covered a number of back to school stories, interviewing people on the streets in downtown Suva.
Since then I have covered all kinds of stories ranging from car accidents to press conferences and everything in between.
I spent a fair bit of time in the first couple of weeks in particular shadowing other journalists here at The Fiji Times, learning the tricks of the trade from the professionals, a hugely valuable experience from which I gained a lot.
Everyone here at the paper has been so accommodating and willing to take me under their wing and teach me new skills, as well as helping me develop my existing skills and knowledge as a young budding reporter.
Whether it be skills in researching, writing, interviewing or taking news photographs I have learned so much and I am very thankful to all those involved.
Throughout my time here I have also been encouraged to bring my own ideas to the daily staff meetings and have written a few stories on issues I have discovered and researched myself.
One such story was on a day trip I took to a village on the weekend with a few friends.
The feature story received a double page spread with around 10 of my photos in The Sunday Times.
It is such a great buzz seeing my name next to a published article or photo in the daily paper and being able to show my friends the work I have been doing.
A few highlights of my time working here have been the trips I have done outside the office.
The first of these was a trip up north to Rakiraki with two feature writers, Anare Ravula and Avinesh Gopal, to interview the descendants of the infamous cannibal Udre Udre.
The experience of sitting in the house of his descendants listening to the other journalists interview them was like nothing I had experienced before. Being on the forefront of uncovering new information with such unique historical significance was such a thrill.
I also did a couple of other trips in my time here.
One was a day trip to the area around Sigatoka with reporter Shalveen Chand and photographer Jone Luvenitoga, when the floods swept through that area.
Seeing the aftermath of the floodwater and witnessing how the stories of the affected villagers we found were covered was a real hands-on experience from which I feel I gained greatly.
My highlight however, of working at The Fiji Times, was a two-night trip I did with Anare Ravula, to the village of Nabutautau in the centre of Viti Levu.
There we became the first two media persons to see the sight where the body of missionary Thomas Baker was thrown down a ravine to a cannibal tribe who then cooked and consumed him.
We also interview the villagers, descendants of Reverend Baker's killer and saw a number of other historical sites.
I even had the privilege of holding the original axe used to kill Baker.
Another great aspect of my time here has been where I have been living. For the last six weeks I have been living in two home stays in Suva with amazing Fijian families, near The Fiji Times office.
The Fijian people are some of the friendliest folk I have ever met and living with Fijian families and experiencing the daily lives of the people living here in Suva has been an honour.
I have felt so comfortable and welcomed by everyone I have encountered and I am so grateful for that.
It has made living here a true blessing and a real joy.
The time here though would not have been the same without the other volunteers from various projects organised by Frontier such as healthcare, teaching and marine conservation, I have got to know.
We have spent a number of weekends away at various resorts along the Coral Coast, soaking up the sun and relaxing, living together in the home stays, eating out, going to church, seeing movies, enjoying a cold drink after work and just experiencing Fiji together.
I now have many lifelong friends from all over the world.
Not everything has been easy and there have been some tough times.
One of the biggest challenges with work has been the fact that nothing is familiar here in a foreign country.
Almost everything I have encountered, from people names to ways of communicating has been new.
At times I have felt frustrated or lost but I have also learned that you shouldn't feel ashamed to ask the dumb questions or to seek help or guidance.
It has forced me to step up and take the initiative and say when I don't understand something or need help; a valuable lesson for all aspects of life.
As I prepare to leave this incredible country and all the people I have met I feel sad to be leaving but thankful for such a great experience here in Fiji.
This country really has something special, such a beautiful place with beautiful smiling people.
I'm already looking forward to the day I get the chance the return.