Name: Eva-Maria Odorfer
Hometown: Vienna, Austria
University: Ferdinand Porsche Fern Fh
Degree: Business Psychology
Languages spoken: German, English (fluent), French (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Care and Teach for Children from Poor Backgrounds in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: July 2016
Claim to fame: When she was 17, Eva spent three months in an internship in Larnaca, Cyprus. This gave her the opportunity to travel around the country, which sparked her desire to travel abroad. We are excited to have you on board, Eva, welcome to UBELONG!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was very lucky concerning the environment I’ve been born into and this year I felt the desire to give something back. Volunteering in Cambodia seemed to be a great way to do so.
What is your favorite memory?
I remember my first day at work very clearly. I came to my school and I was unbelievably nervous, because I still didn’t really know what to expect. But as soon as I entered, I was surrounded by ten to twenty kids. They were hugging me, saying “Hello teacher!” and looking at me with their curious big eyes and warm smiles. Throughout my time there, it was incredible to feel their openness, their strength and their eagerness to learn. The kids’ attitude motivated me to do my best every day I was at the school. I really wanted to help them although it wasn’t easy and I had to try and learn so many things myself. But I got rewarded by their thankfulness: for gestures as little as a pencil, colored paper, a new game or a song.
What did you take from the experience?
My project in Cambodia gave me insight into a world I didn’t know. To be in a developing country taught me two key points:
There is a way different than the one I know and it’s working too.
Traffic for example: when I arrived in Cambodia, I was enormously scared when I walked out on the streets. It seemed crazy to me and I tried to figure out what kind of rules they’re having until I came to the conclusion: they probably don’t have any. It took me some time but when I had recovered from the first shock I could look at it from a different point of view. I realized that even though they are driving without blinking, without stopping at crossings (except for the really big ones) and sometimes on the opposite lane, they are so slow, that there aren’t more accidents than in western countries.
I’m definitely not saying that there’s not room for improvement, but for their current situation they’ve found a system – and it’s working too.
I was reminded of how grateful I should be for my living conditions at home: politics, infrastructure, school systems, insurance and everything else I take for granted when I’m in Austria – it’s not.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe local life?
Kindhearted people are managing their lives in a somehow functioning chaos.