“Everywhere I turned I was impressed by people.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Bethany Bijonowski
Age: 20
Hometown: Illinois
Nationality: United States
University: Northern Illinois University
Degree: French/Spanish Translation
Occupation: Tutor at Northern Illinois University
Languages spoken: English, French (advanced) and Spanish (advanced)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English, French or Spanish in Rabat, Morocco
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: May 2015
Claim to fame: Last summer Bethany volunteered Peru where she taught English to schoolchildren.

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
Traveling is such an important part of life, but I didn’t want to be just another tourist. I love the idea of giving back to place and getting involved in the community. I think that the only way to truly understand a culture is to completely adopt it, and the only way to do that is to get involved. I chose UBELONG specifically because I had read excellent reviews of the programs and previous volunteers had felt like they were really making a difference. Having completed my journey with UBELONG, I count myself among those who had an excellent experience.

What is your favorite memory?
I had so many awesome experiences in Morocco it’s difficult to chose just one. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel on weekends so I got a taste of the country as a whole. I loved visiting the cedar forest in Azrou and I definitely recommend it to animal lovers! Surprisingly, there’s a large troop of rather mischievous monkeys who demand to be fed peanuts. I was also able to go on a camel ride through the Sahara and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I thought seeing the sun set in the dunes was incredible but seeing the sky full of stars afterward took my breath away.

Tell me about somebody you met who impressed you?
Everywhere I turned I was impressed by people. I was surrounded by people who had started their own non for profits because they wanted to see change in their country. I was most impressed by the lady who ran my project, a non-profit dedicated to providing kindergarten classes for families that cannot afford it on their own, so that these kids don’t fall behind when they enter mainstream schools.

What did you think about the food?
The food was indescribable. Between the mint tea and the tagine I was in heaven. I don’t think I encountered one dish that I didn’t like. There are a bunch of differences between Moroccan and western cuisine and eating habits and it shows how much more important food and family time is in the Moroccan culture. It brings everyone together to share one plate!

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Related post:
Meet Kristyn, an undergraduate at Indiana University from Illinois, who volunteered with UBELONG in Cusco, Peru on the caregiving and construction projects.