Name: Marissa Chong
Hometown: Petaling Jaya
Languages spoken: English, Malay (intermediate), Mandarin (intermediate), Japanese (beginner)
High School: Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Care and Teach for Children from Poor Backgrounds in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: July 2015
Claim to fame: Has a grade 8 piano certificate. Outstanding!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I wanted to volunteer abroad to step out of my comfort zone and explore new places. I found UBELONG through a volunteer abroad review website and saw the projects it offered; I thought it was absolutely perfect for someone like me who did not have much experience in teaching. UBELONG has many countries to volunteer in and I chose Cambodia because it was close to home.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
Few of the kindergarteners I taught, from ages 3 to 4, at first did not understand the alphabets well. They were just singing along to the song but couldn’t recognise many of the alphabets. I taught them one on one in the afternoon and sang the song as I pointed out the alphabets. Some knew the alphabets but did not know how to pronounce it correctly. It was a tiring but extremely rewarding one. The best part of all this was the smiles on their faces when they finally understood it and them trying to show off their new skills to me!
What were your major challenges?
Getting the students to understand what I was saying to them. It was hard as I did not speak the Khmer language hence communication was limited to mostly hand movements and me relying on the local teachers to translate for me. Whenever they don’t understand the material, it was hard for me to translate from English to Khmer so I rely on illustrations for them to understand better. Another was getting the students to pay attention to me. Since I was a new teacher, they did not really listen to me for the first few days. Some of them did but most just play around even when I am teaching. It took a week and a few days before they started warming up to me. It was challenging but a memorable experience.
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
Getting stuck in the middle of the ocean for 45 minutes in a small boat. Good times!