Name: Jina Kim
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Korean (advanced)
University: University of Michigan
Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting in Public Health Education in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: July 2015
Claim to fame: Jina previously volunteered in Mexico rebuilding homeless shelters. Great work Jina, we’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Volunteer family.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Since I could remember, I had always wanted to volunteer internationally. I had the dream, just no idea how to achieve it. Prior to this trip, I had minimal international traveling experience outside of North America, so the thought of going by myself to a brand new continent characterized by a lack of resources and infrastructure was terrifying, to say the least. However, the idea had been planted, and when the right time came along I began to scour the internet for different organizations I could go through. When I came across UBELONG, I was inspired by the different projects being pursued in Ghana that I had never heard of before. What solidified my decision to volunteer through UBELONG was having the opportunity to talk to a UBELONG team member on the phone when I first called into the office. I grilled him with a bunch of questions and all of my worries about committing to such a trip. He was incredibly knowledgeable and great about alleviating all my concerns, and the support continued throughout the entire trip, whether it was my mentor who was always available through emails and Skype, or speaking to somebody when calling the office.
What is your favorite memory?
As I was walking home from volunteering one day, a Ghanaian girl who had been walking in front of me for a few minutes turned around and asked if we could walk home together. Delighted, I began asking her about her life story. She had just graduated from university and was spending her free time pursuing her love of languages. She shared that she was currently self-teaching herself Portuguese and Korean. I, being Korean American, was absolutely thrilled and we ended up meeting a few times afterwards so I could teach her some Korean and she could teach me Twi. It was such a great surprise and an amazing experience to share a part of my culture with someone on the opposite side of the world.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
I wish I would have learned a little bit of Twi in preparation for the trip. Although most Ghanaians can speak English, I felt like it was easier to have them open up and connect on a deeper level once I showed an interest in their culture and language. It helped to alleviate some of the ‘foreigner’ aspect, especially when working on the volunteer project, which included presentations to large groups of Ghanaians. In addition, it really brings a smile to everyone’s faces when you surprise them by speaking their language (albeit terribly pronounced).
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
There was a Zumba class in the gym behind my host family’s house, and the girls in the household were showing off their killer dance moves (while giggling at my lack of).