Name: Laura Hilsman
Hometown: Bad Sassendorf, Germany
University: Universität Paderborn
Degree: German Literature and German Language
Languages spoken: German, English (fluent), Spanish (intermediate), French (beginner)
Past-travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 8 weeks
Start month: June 2016
Claim to fame: Laura rode horses for eight years in Germany! Welcome to the UBELONG Family, we are so glad to have you on board 🙂
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG volunteer because I wanted to spend some time in a foreign country, but I didn’t only want to travel but also help people and make an impact. I looked for an organisation so long and when I finally found the homepage of UBELONG I knew that was the right one for me. You can decide between so many different projects and countries. Further more I think it is very good that UBELONG don’t let everybody be part in every project, you have to fulfill special requirements, for example having a medical education to work in a hospital. So they make sure you are the right one for the work you want to do.
What did you find most rewarding from you volunteer experience?
The people I met in Vietnam. I made so many really good friends, even better friends than I have in Germany although I only know them such a short time. We made so many different experiences together, had the same problems but also so much fun. One Portuguese guy even invited me to come to his birthday in Portugal last month and in December some of us will meet in France. Further more one of the teaching assistants in Vietnam became a really good friend of me and I hope I can visit her again in some years. Of course the work I did was great and travelling around in Vietnam but most rewarding are the friends I made there.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?
First of all: Do volunteering work on your own, not with friends or partners. You will meet so many interesting people there and you could miss a lot of great things if you only do things with people you already know anyways. Further more, don’t be afraid to speak another language, we had so many funny situations because I didn’t know the exact phrases in the English language, and you learn so many new things about other cultures you wouldn’t get to know if you didn’t talk to other volunteers. And the third advice is: Don’t expect things to be as you know them from your hometown and read the volunteer information form carefully! We had two women in the volunteer house who complained literally about everything because they expected kind of a luxury resort or so, they never tried the food, complained about the beds and about the times they had to work and who they had to teach. Things are possibly different from what you expect them to be but in my opinion it makes the time in another country even more remarkable. I expected for example to teach small kids only but then I had to teach teenagers and even adults too and I loved teaching the adults most! Besides, there is a lot of luxury in the volunteer house: we could drink tap water in one place, there was everyday a buffet and the cooks even took care if someone was vegetarian, by the way the food was great! The only thing I can complain about is that I didn’t stay there longer.