“This was one of the best experiences of my life.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Marta Cardoso
Age: 22
Hometown: Porto, Portugal
Nationality: Portugal
University: Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics
Masters: Business
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English (fluent)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: July 2016
Claim to fame: Marta studied abroad for a semester in the Netherlands and is now studying abroad again, this time in Firenze, Italy. Great to have you in the UBELONG family, Marta!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
Having an international volunteer experience was always on my plans, I always liked to knew new people and to experienced new cultures and there is no better way to it than with volunteer, you not only meet other volunteers but also local people which just turns your experience more complete. Also, there is nothing more regarding than help others, of course you don’t change their life but see them smiling or that at least they learn anything with you, makes you very happy and there is no better feeling than that. After deciding to go on with this experience I decided to talk with some friends that recommended me UBELONG and after an online research I found out that UBELONG had the best reviews and even the destination that I wanted Vietnam. I really enjoyed volunteer with UBELONG, they are very well organized, they provide us a mentor that is available for all your questions and it is very trustful. Also, the project that I was allocated, teaching English, was very well organized and I was able to teach in a Hanoi local school.

What did you find most rewarding from your volunteer experience?
For me the most rewarding thing was being able to teach all type of students and feeling that they were engaged and seeing improvements on their English was the best thing. I was able to teach in three levels of English, from children to the advanced level that was mainly composed by university students. Being able to know locals was incredible good, because you not only teach them but you also are able to see how the society works and how people with similar ages than you live in a total different culture. The classes environment was very good and different depending on the level that I was teaching, with the children we not only teach them but we also played different games with them which were great for them to learn. By other hand with the more advanced levels we not only teach but we also discussed current topics, shared stories and ideas, for me this was one of the better parts of teaching because seeing them so enthusiastic, engaged and open minded was great, it was an opportunity to see how people with similar ages with a total different culture think.

On the other hand, was the relationship that I was able to create with the other volunteers, the house environment is tremendously good to make new friends, and being able to meet people from total different nationalities with the same purpose than you are what makes you love even more your experience. In general, I can say that my experience was rewarding since the first until the last day, I would recommend everyone to do it and I would do it again without hesitate.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG volunteer?
My first advice is to be as open minded as possible, you cannot forget that you will travel and be in touch with a total different culture that the one that we sometimes are used to. So do not say no to new experiences because they will be valued and will be a story to tell, try all types of food, accept all the invitations. This way you will be able to meet new people and embrace the culture.

Secondly, don´t be scared if your expectations are not happening, it is normal to create expectations and sometimes they do not correspond, but you will see that in total different way they will be fulfilled in a better way, and if you reflect you experience will be even better that what you expected. For me, it is fair to say that until now this was one of the best experiences of my life.

Finally, do not complain about anything and try to reflect on your experience, you will see the lucky that you have in being there, unfortunately not everyone is able to have this type of experiences so, enjoy it and transform it in an awesome story. Also never forget that there is always someone in a worse situation that you and you will definitely see that in Vietnam so just enjoy your stay and I can say that you will be very well treated and happy there.

Related post:
Meet Stephen Frey, a University of Michigan undergrad, who volunteered with UBELONG at the education projects in Merida, Mexico.