5 Minutes With… Nicole, our Retail Volunteer
We caught up with Nicole our Retail Volunteer in the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre to find out a bit more about her and her work at the site.
Q.1 How did you begin volunteering at GC?
I study Travel and Tourism at Ulster University in Coleraine, and the course includes a placement year. I wanted to make sure I found a placement that would allow me to learn more about the industry and there’s no better place to do so than the Giant’s Causeway. I’m from the local community so I have always felt a connection to the Giant’s Causeway, which has only become stronger through working here.
I started in admissions which was really interesting and then moved over to the retail team which allowed me to really engage and interact with tourists who travel from all over the world to see the World Heritage Site
It is really insightful when we get to chatting as I can learn about what is important to them as a visitor for their experience and also understand their reasons for visiting the Giant’s Causeway.
Q.2 Why did you chose the GC for placement?
As I have always lived in local community I already had a good understanding of how popular the Giant’s Causeway – as Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO site - is as a tourist attraction. Living close by, I always noticed the many visitors making their way through the village to see the famous stones, and I wanted to learn even more about what makes it so special.
Growing up here the Giant’s Causeway was always a key vocal point; it’s so central to all the businesses in the local area and a real hub for the community.
Q.3 How have you found your role so far?
I joined the National Trust team in June 2019, just before the summer season, so I was thrown in at the deep end, but it has been amazing to see how the Giant’s Causeway comes alive during the summer, with such a wide range of visitors.
I knew it was popular with tourists, but I didn’t appreciate quite how far people actually travel to visit the Giant’s Causeway. It’s always amazing to hear people say that visiting the stones is on their bucket list, which made me realise it’s easy to take it for granted when it’s on your doorstep!
I feel like my confidence has really grown since starting my placement. Being able to communicate with people from all over the world has strengthened by ability to start a conversation with anyone.
Q.4 How do you overcome the language or communication barriers that can arise as there are so many different people visit the Giant’s Causeway each day?
I’ve learnt that you need to adapt quickly when you are communicating with someone whose first language isn’t English. That means taking the time to slow down and speak clearer. There are lots of staff in the Giant’s Causeway who speak other languages, so they are always on call to help. We are proud to be able to say ‘hello’ to people and thank them in their own language.
I also know a little bit of sign language which I have found to be useful – it really makes a difference to someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing when you communicate to them in sign. Making the effort – even if it’s just to say ‘thank-you’ – is always hugely appreciated.
Q.5 What advice would you give to anyone thinking of volunteering here?
Just go for it! You’ll learn so much and meet so many different people. For me, it has been a brilliant opportunity to explore the travel and tourism industry which is so central to this part of Northern Ireland.
I was nervous at the start but now I feel comfortable talking to anyone, which I never thought I would say. I even pass on my own stories and a bit of local knowledge to the visitors I interact with from all over the world.
Q.6 What does the National Trust mean to you?
The protection the National Trust gives to special places like this make me feel confident knowing they will always be around. I know that it’ll be here forever and for me that’s really important because I associate the Giant’s Causeway with home.