Name: Karin Baumgartner
Hometown: Nanaimo, BC
Languages spoken: French, German (fluent), English (fluent) and Spanish (beginner)
University: Vancouver Island University
Degree: Event Management
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Strengthening NGO Capacity in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: October 2015
Claim to fame: Karin backpacked through Bali.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
North America’s culture strongly encourages youth and communities to support and to get engaged with volunteering (starting at a very young age). Having been living in Canada for the past two years, I have been surrounded by volunteering opportunities and received a proper introduction to the industry through friends as well as university. As a tourism management student, I have always had a passion for travelling and discovering new cultures. Therefore, the main reason why I decided to become a UBELONG volunteer is that I had been wanting to go travel for a while but at the same time wanted to discover and learn from other cultures while also still giving back in some way. This is what directed my interest towards volunteering and UBELONG had been strongly recommended by several of my friends and peers.
What did you take from the experience?
My experience was definitely eye-opening! I got a better and deeper understanding of what volunteering truly implies and how happiness is not always how we/I perceive it. Humanity needs to understand that what is good and works for one community/culture does not necessarily work for another. This signifies that when engaging with a new culture, it is essential to listen and learn from them what is functioning well – not ignorantly compare to our own culture (which lies within a completely different environment) while focusing on its defaults but highlight and further there culture/communities asset, helping to grow and develop around these.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
Be well prepared but have no expectations. Remain true to your personal values and beliefs but be prepared to discover, experience, and embrace an entirely different perspective and philosophy. Take initiatives, be patient, and remain open-minded.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
Listen carefully and once having identify its assets, encourage the development and growth of the local culture thanks to them, while closely collaborating with its leaders.