Name: Avani Patel
Nationality: United States
University: University of Michigan
Occupation: Tutor at Cardinal Scholars
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (advanced), Gujarati (fluent) and Hindi (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Medical Assistance in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: May 2015
Claim to fame: Avani traveled to Guyana for volunteering purposes before joining the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program in Ecuador.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I knew I wanted to volunteer for about a year, but just couldn’t figure out the best program or opportunity. I attended a UBELONG presentation and was captivated by the stories of previous volunteers, the variety of locations that were offered, and the surprising affordability. I knew that I had to look into UBELONG and once I did, I was set on taking a trip. This experience was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I have ever had. I began as a medical assistant and ended up doing both the teaching English project and continuing my medical assistant project. Although I was working very full and busy days, the people whom I met really made it feel fun and exciting. I learned so much from the people around me, I was continuously intrigued in the culture. One of my closest friends became the gynecologist I worked very closely with in the clinic and not only did she have me sit there and observe she engaged me in her work and explained to me how the medical system works in Ecuador.
What did you take from the experience?
Living with volunteers from around the world, taught me a great deal about the world and how although we came from such different places, a lot of us had very similar outlooks on life. Our routine every day included playing endless games of cards over which we would discuss a variety of topics making for a very enriching experience.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
For anyone considering volunteering I would highly suggest it and greatly recommend UBELONG. The family and community you are a part of don’t end with your assignment. The key to having a great experience is being open minded and accepting. I found that the less I held onto my views about the world, the more I was able to learn from others. Never be shy and open up to the friends you’ll make because only then will they open up to you as well. Always care for others and their experiences because although everyone comes from such different backgrounds, we are all here for the same purpose: to make an impact.
Best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
Fitting in with the local culture then becomes very easy. Go in with a fresh slate and no previous opinions and you will become engrossed in the culture and feel as though that place has become your home.