Name: Maciej Pisarski
Hometown: Surrey, United Kingdom
University: Richmond – The American University in London
Degree: Business Management and Finance
Languages spoken: English, Polish (fluent)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: June 2017
Claim to fame: Throughout high school, Maciej competed in multiple debate competitions at Harvard and Yale. Wonderful to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Growing up, I moved a lot between Europe and the United States. In my travels however, I’ve never been to Asia or experienced a culture that was vastly different from my own. UBELONG provided me with the opportunity to go to a part of the world I’ve never seen before, and, at the same time, to do it for a good cause.
UBELONG provided me with a unique opportunity because it wasn’t just like going on vacation. In my experience of moving around, I learned that I get the most out of a trip if I interact with local people and try to immerse myself in their culture as much as possible. By volunteering for a local organization, I was hoping to fully witness and be a part of the dynamic of the culture and the city. I was lucky enough to have that experience thanks to UBELONG.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
My volunteering project consisted of teaching Vietnamese students English. Personally, I find that speaking is the most important aspect in learning a language, and, I felt, it was an aspect I could most help the students with. As a result, my goal was to get the students to speak English as much as possible, whether that was with me, or with each other. Since I lived in the United States for 11 years, I speak with an American accent. I figured that the best way for me to contribute was just to talk to them, since, it’s not everyday that they will be able to speak someone with my accent.
What were your major challenges?
Surprisingly, I really did not experience any major challenges with adjusting to the culture and the different environment. In many ways, I found Hanoi to be just like any other city as it had many of the same food chains, stores, and brands. With that said, there were more than a few challenges that I faced when I traveled to Vietnam. The most distinctive one, and one that may seem like a rather minor issue but at the time wasn’t, was with the food. About a week into my trip, my stomach got really upset because it just wasn’t used to the food. That was a prolonging issue that eventually went away.
Another challenge that I sometimes faced was with organizing and structuring the class. Over a period of time, I found it difficult to come up with new ideas for a class. However, with enough pondering and help from the local volunteers, there was always a lesson plan ready on time. The students were incredibly helpful in that they always seemed eager to learn regardless of the lesson plan or the topic.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
Most of the locals were very kind, welcoming, and most notably very curious about who I was and where I was from.