Name: Abigail MacWilliams
Hometown: Olean, New York
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (fluent) and French (intermediate)
University: St. Bonaventure University
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 12 weeks
Start month: July 2015
Claim to fame: While in high school, Abigail traveled to Spain and Italy with her high school Spanish Club. She also studied abroad for three months in San Jose, Costa Rica. We’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Community, Abigail!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
After researching numerous volunteer organizations I chose UBELONG because it is a safe, highly reputable, and very affordable organization that is dedicated to making a positive difference around the world. From my first email inquiries to checking in during my project, my UBELONG Mentor was always there to help answer all my questions and make sure I was well prepared for my trip. My goal was to spend time helping others while also experiencing and learning about a new culture, and volunteering with UBELONG allowed me to accomplish this goal.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
During my three months in Ecuador I spent time volunteering in a day care and at a school teaching English. I met so many children over this span of time that I was unsure of how much of an impact I would be able to make, but I soon discovered I had more of an impact than I thought. I was unable to walk around the school without being bombarded with hugs as the children would eagerly tell me how excited they were to see me. It’s an awesome feeling to know that the work that I did there made children excited to learn a new language. It was an equally enjoyable experience for both the children and I as I was just as enthusiastic to hear them using skills they learned as they were to demonstrate them.
What were your major challenges?
One challenge I faced during my time volunteering was cultivating and maintaining an interest to learn a new language in the classroom. Many students would get distracted or bored quickly so I learned to be innovative with my teaching style. I tried to keep the children engaged in the lessons and eager to learn with games and interactive activities. It was awesome to see all the children having fun and working together to win a review game or act out a new verb in charades.
What is your favorite memory?
I had so many great memories during my time in Ecuador that it is difficult to pick a favorite! One of the best moments was on the last day of a beach trip I took with my host family and two other volunteers. We had just spent an exciting weekend taking a road trip to the beach and we were getting ready to drive back home but we all decided to relax on the beach for a little while longer. All of us were chasing waves and enjoying the beautiful sunny day and in those moments I realized how happy I was to be in that place. That day I felt so grateful for all the incredible people I met and all the adventures I had while volunteering. It can be intimidating to decide to live and volunteer in a foreign country but for me it has been the most worthwhile and life changing experience and I will always be grateful for it!