Name: Melissa Maodus
Hometown: Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Summer Constituency Assistant at the Canadian Government
Languages spoken: English
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Strengthening NGO Capacity in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 5 weeks
Start month: November 2016
Claim to fame: Melissa has worked at a woman’s shelter and crisis center. She assisted in many immigration issues while working as a Summer Constituency Assistant. Welcome to the UBELONG Family, Melissa!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
As a recent University grad, I had completed my Summer job and was having trouble finding another job in my desired field. Having studied Global Development in University and always having the desire to volunteer abroad, when I found UBELONG I knew it was the right fit. I was finally able to apply all that I had learned in school and that was an excellent feeling. After researching UBELONG, I honestly thought the organization was too good to be true. Money allocation, placement options and how comfortable I felt when arriving made me very appreciative.
What did you take from the experience?
Although this was a volunteer placement, I gained invaluable skills that are definitely transferable to any future employment I secure. I developed intercultural competence as I worked alongside the local community as well as operated within a country and culture drastically different from my own. I made a friend that I know will be in my life for many years to come and gained immense confidence in myself and my abilities.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
At first, you will be nervous and maybe even a little frightened or uncomfortable. However, it is important to understand that in order to grow and become your true self, you must get outside of your comfort zone. Throw yourself into the experience and I promise that you will gain more than you thought you would. Be willing to ask questions and show your interest. If you are nervous about living with the other volunteers and worried about making friends, understand that everyone else is in the same boat and at one point thought exactly what you’re thinking now.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
UBELONG does a great job of providing you with cultural advice, such as what to wear, proper body language etc. However, it is also important that you do your own research. Once you have this knowledge please remember to practice it. As a volunteer working with and for the local community it is important they feel like you respect their country and culture. For example, in Cambodia it is cultural practice that women do not show their knees or shoulders. You’ll see tourists maybe wearing shorts and tank tops, and think that it is okay if you do that too because others are. This is not respectful. You have the proper knowledge so please use it. Also, do not be judgmental. Not everyone practices the same things or acts the same as those in the Western world. Try to view the world with an open mind and your experience will be better than ever.