Name: Sydney Lalancette
Hometown: Williston, Vermont
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (advanced)
University: University of Vermont
Degree: Arts & Sciences
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Kindergarten Teaching in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: June 2015
Claim to fame: Sydney also volunteered with UBELONG in Cartago, Costa Rica for 12 weeks at the Caring for Disadvantaged Youth project.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer again?
I had volunteered with UBELONG a few months earlier in Cartago, Costa Rica for 12 weeks, and had such an incredible time! I’d wanted to travel to Peru for a really long time because their terrain and landscapes are so diverse and breathtaking, and also because of the rad stories I’d been told. I think UBELONG is an affordable program with integrity, that truly cares about the impact of their projects, and not “volun-tourism.” I was also interested because I knew volunteers in Cusco stayed in a hostel with a big group of other volunteers, whereas I was one of only 2 or 3 volunteers in Cartago, where I stayed with a host family. I loved my host family and other volunteers so deeply, but wanted to try mixing it up!
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I was an assistant to the teachers, rotating classes for a week at a time. In the classroom I helped keep kids on task and listening, taught a little basic English vocabulary, and helped with projects. Outside, during recess, I tried to bring in energy, optimism and a love for running and playing: it’s a nice change for the young kids (3-5 yrs.) to have someone active to run and chase and play tag or rocket ship-launch them in the air, as most of their teachers are older. Some of the kids were also eager to learn some words in English, so it was cool to have them run up to me and ask how you say “spider” or “house” in English!
What were your major challenges?
It was nice coming into the project with a fairly fluent level of Spanish, so luckily language wasn’t really a challenge… At times it was difficult to get the kids to focus and stay on task because they are so young and have a lot of energy, and some of them just saw me as a fun friend to play with and not an authority figure like their teachers. But their energy was so contagious and definitely let me re-immerse myself in the carefree nature of childhood.
What is your favorite memory?
I have too many incredible memories to even describe; I had the most unbelievable time and can’t wait to return to Peru! If I were to pick a memory from my project, it would probably be entering the classroom every day to an onslaught of screams and giggles and more hugs than you can imagine…That’s honestly the best way I think you can start your day.
If I were to pick a memory from one of my adventures, I would say the 4-day camping trek via Salkantay to Machu Picchu! We summited the highest mountain range in Cusco, and hiked between 10-12 hours every day. Between the enormous mountains, gorgeous views, and high altitude, I was literally left breathless.