Name: Laura Smith
Languages spoken: English
University: University of Winnipeg
Degree: International Development Studies, Pre-med
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Vang Vieng, Laos
Duration: 12 weeks
Start month: April 2015
Claim to fame: Has tutored children from lower-income and recent refugee families. Great work, Laura!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I’ve always had a passion for travel and experiencing new cultures, but on this trip I wanted to really immerse myself in the culture and community instead of just passing through. I came across UBELONG and the English-teaching project in Vang Vieng, Laos and saw an opportunity to give, to learn, and to be more than someone looking from the outside in. Teaching those kids, getting my hands dirty at the farm, and living for three months in Vang Vieng gave me a priceless and unique glimpse into Lao culture that will always have a special place in my heart.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I had the chance to teach the sweetest group of Lao kids. I saw how my native language could be a doorway of opportunity for many youth and adults looking for work in the blooming tourism industry or for youth working towards scholarships for university.
Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
On and Ved always impressed me. They are as cheerful and sweet as you could imagine, and they aspire to become English teachers and to carry on the local projects. They worked hard to improve their English and could always make me smile!
In a sentence or less, how would you describe local life?
“Here and now.” The local people were so grounded and valued people above anything else. They weren’t caught up in the past or the future like so many of us are, they were very present in the moment, and didn’t take that moment for granted.