Name: Halle Hendrickson
Hometown: Edmonton, Canada
Languages spoken: English, French (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)
University: MacEwan University
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting Community Development Organizations in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 16 weeks
Start month: September 2017
Claim to fame: Halle joined UBELONG in Hanoi for 16 weeks and is now doing another 16 week placement with UBELONG in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Wonderful to have you in the UBELONG Family, Halle!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer for a number of reasons. Primarily, I was eager to get involved with an NGO abroad in order to volunteer in a new and exciting environment, while gaining valuable personal and working experience. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of Vietnam as well – acquiring cultural and social knowledge in an exciting city like Hanoi. The ability to travel throughout an amazing country is a nice perk too!
What were your major challenges?
A major challenge during my volunteer placement occurred at the beginning of my project. I struggled to understand what my role was at my NGO. I wasn’t sure how specifically I could contribute my experience, education, and skills to best serve their mission. In order to overcome that, I learned that it was important to remain flexible and open, and most importantly, to ask lots of questions.
What did you take from the experience?
I learned a lot from my placement in Hanoi. I gained valuable working skills, developed many connections, travelled throughout a beautiful country, immersed myself into Vietnamese culture, and had lots of fun. Most of all, my experience of volunteering in Hanoi changed me personally. Being able to live, travel, and work in an unfamiliar and complex country over multiple months increased my self-esteem and confidence in unexpected ways. Volunteering in Hanoi helped me to grow and mature – not only as a volunteer, but also as a person. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience!
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
Just jump in – life is too short to let fear, embarrassment, or discomfort get in your way.