Name: Madalyn Lupinek
Nationality: United States
University: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Degree: Environmental Science
Languages spoken: English, French (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at an After-School Center in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: January 2015
Claim to fame: Traveled to England, Spain, France and Italy during the summer of 2014!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was introduced to UBELONG through the Alternative Breaks program at UW-Madison. Throughout high school, I was always involved with some kind of service or volunteer work, so I wanted to continue that in college. The extra perk with Alternative Breaks and UBELONG was that I got to go abroad. I love traveling! I decided to become a UBELONG volunteer because of the ability to combine both my love for service and traveling in one.
What did you take from the experience?
Going to a developing country (Peru) as opposed to living in such a developed country (United States) really opened my eyes. Things were very different. Everything from the work/volunteer environment to ordering food in restaurants was a new experience. Despite this, getting along and interacting with people was essentially the same, even with a slight language barrier. At our volunteer site, the people that ran the after-school center didn’t speak English, and none of us spoke Spanish except for one person, who we relied on heavily for trickier communication. However, a lot of things could be communicated through hand motions, body language, etc. Learning how to work past language barriers and speak with “universal” languages (i.e body language, smiles) are probably the biggest and most applicable things I’ll take from the experience.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
I would tell a future volunteer to really read up on the country and culture that you are going to. It will make you feel a lot less foreign and like you have some prior understanding of what’s going on, rather than being thrown into a whole new world essentially.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
Keep an open mind to new people and experiences, educate yourself, and smile!