Name: Jessica Wyn
Hometown: Allendale, Michigan
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Arabic (intermediate)
Degree: Biomedical Science and Arabic
Occupation: Certified Nurses Aid at Heather Hills Care Center
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for children in need in Rabat, Morocco
Duration: 1 week
Start month: January 2018
Claim to fame: Jess studied abroad in Oman/Dubai, where she focused her learning on Arabic and business and was able to embrace actually living abroad. Very impressive, Jess!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I had been interested in global travel, especially in areas of the world where people live a very different life than we do here in the states, and face different problems as well as experience different beauties. I liked UBELONG above the other international volunteer programs because it was very flexible with my schedule as a college student and, more importantly, they worked with real organizations based in their locations, not US or European enterprises, but organizations build by the people, what they needed and how they needed it. That set UBELONG apart for me, because it meant the work I’d be doing would be what the people in Rabat actually wanted, not a project decided by a church or a group of people who had never even been to Morocco.
What is your favorite memory?
I loved the hammam. We went on our first day with our host family and it was incredible. It was basically a bathhouse where you sat on mats and washed yourselves in a big sauna-like room. It felt so unique and exotic and it immediately melted any boundaries between us and our host sister, because–after all–there’s no room for being shy and awkward after you spend 3 hours naked together. Sparing most of the details, my skin never felt so cleaned or so well taken care of.
What did you take from the experience?
When you leave your comfort zone, you simply have to accept it and work with it. Some of the new experiences will be fun and exciting and others may make you more grateful to your living conditions at home. It’s all part of it though. Whether dealing with communication, navigation, or just interacting with local people, there will be some parts that are great and some that leave you frustrated. But it’s all part of the package, and you learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of, and if you’re observant, you can learn a lot about where you are too.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
You’re never going to fit in. But if you behave respectfully and are observant to the people around you, you may find a lot of cool places and people you might have missed otherwise.