Name: Justine Chanthachackvong
Hometown: East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Laotian (advanced), Spanish (beginner)
University: Marywood University
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Luang Prabang, Laos
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: July 2018
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer because not very many organizations serve in Laos. Laos is very near and dear to my heart, and this little Southeast Asian country almost always gets overlooked. As a first generation American, with parents and grandparents who immigrated from Laos, I felt like it was very important to give back to my home country. Thanks to UBELONG, going back to Laos became possible for me. I did not want to go to visit Laos just on a vacation and do everything tourists do, but I wanted to be embedded in the culture and meet native Laotians during this journey. I met so many great people that I will have lifetime friendships with, including the volunteers, the teachers at the school and the many many students! I have no regrets volunteering with UBELONG, and will gladly do it again!
What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
We often think that us going to volunteer creates an impact on the people we serve, but on the contrary, they made an impact on me. The smiles, the giggles, the love… is just something I wouldn’t trade for anything. The kids loved seeing Western volunteers, they would take the time to talk to you and get to know you. They have made an everlasting impact on me and I will never forget that!
How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
When going on trips like this you definitely need to be opening minded and more outgoing than you normally are at home. To form close relationships with others you have to be invested and intrigued. This is where I felt like I needed to grow the most. I am a pretty friendly person anyways, but I for sure needed to step out of my comfort zone. We tried new foods, met new people from all over the world and had new experiences that many might not have.
In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?