Name: Ali Tateosian
Nationality: United Kingdom
University: Michigan Technological University
Degree: Mechanical Engineering
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for the Elderly in Cartago, Costa Rica
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: January 2015
Claim to fame: While in university, Ali went to Honduras and helped to design a hurricane shelter for communities in need. Great work Ali, we’re proud to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I was interested in traveling after I graduated from college and before starting work full time but I wanted more than the typical tourist experience. UBELONG seemed like a great fit to experience the local culture while doing something positive. Traveling became more about a community than just about myself. It was also nice to have a reputable organization help provide travel information and recommendations to prepare for my trip.
What is your favorite memory?
I volunteered at an elderly car center in Cartago, Costa Rica. Several time a week, there was a scheduled dance time. Everyone got very into the music and always had a great time. At one of these dance sessions, they played the song “El Caballito De Palo”, which is a very upbeat song about a hobby horse, complete with lots of galloping and horse neighing sounds. This song really got everyone energized. We galloped around the room in a goofy manner. One of the men at the center even got on his hands and knees and trotted around. We all laughed together, one of the best laughs I’ve ever had. Despite the language barrier, I knew we were all having the same experience and enjoying it together.
What did you take from the experience?
One of the big take away points from my experience is the value of taking the time to connect with people around you. Before this experience I was studying Engineering in college. It was easy to get caught up spending a lot of time focused on studying and free time spent with peers. In Costa Rica I had the opportunity to spend time with people I would not normally be around. In taking the time to talk with them I learned a lot and got a different perspective on life. I also was reminded that it is alright to slow down sometimes and enjoy time with people around you.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
Friendly and helpful.