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“Go abroad with an open mind, and don’t expect things to be as back home.”

UBELONG

UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Marte Mathisen
Age: 26
Hometown: Halden, Ostfold
Nationality: Norway
Languages spoken: Norwegian, English (fluent), Danish (fluent)
University: University of Copenhagen
Bachelors: Public Health Nutrition
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Assisting at a Nutrition Center in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: February 2016
Claim to fame: Halden is an experienced traveler and works hard to achieve her goals. We loved having her on the projects, she was kind, talented and just a joy to be around. Thank you Marte, great job!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a volunteer for several reasons. Firstly I wanted to do something meaningful, and when I had the time and the money- why not. Secondly, the nutrition-project was very spot-on my education, and it was a perfect way to get some hands-on experiences and travel at the same time.

For the choice of organization, the choice was not hard. I have been on a different UBELONG project some years ago, and I was so pleased with my previous experience that I did not even consider other organizations. UBELONG acts as one of the most professional actors on the market, and that is also one of the reasons why I became a UBELONG Volunteer in the first place.

What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
1. Go abroad with an open mind, and don’t expect things to be as back home.
2. Forget everything you ever knew about time, logistics and infrastructure. Waiting is a big part of the daily life in Ghana!
3. Enjoy it, and put on the YES-hat. By saying yes to the offers (ok, maybe not all of them) along the way makes your experience so much better and valuable.
4. Do not be afraid to be alone – being a single traveller have only made me stronger and I have definitely experienced more by traveling alone.
5. See solutions – not problems. What works in your home country does not necessarily work in the country you go to. It will not harm you to take a shower in cold water, and you will survive a day without WiFi!
6. Take your time. Some of the days in the field can be challenging, but it is totally fine to just take some out time to think and reflect.
7. Do it! Going abroad volunteering is an experience of a lifetime!

What is your favorite memory?
Ohhh my, only one? I have so many to chose from!
Anyways, my favorite memory was from the fieldwork in the villages. The days were long, hot and sweaty. One day after conducting several interviews the translator on my project asked if I wanted to see his farm. “Yes, I WOULD LOVE TO!”. He took me to his farmland and showed proudly everything he produced. He showed me all his crops, and explained to me all about his farming secrets. He cut down bananas with his machete, picked eggs and pulled up cassava. Afterwards he gave me the sweetest and most flavorful mangos I ever tasted. It was such a nice experience, and the stars in his eyes when he saw how much I enjoyed it- priceless.

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
The Ghanaians’ are very open-minded, and they love to approach strangers. Expect to be called “obroni” (white-man) several times a day.

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Related post:
Meet Laura Little, a San Francisco State University student, who volunteered with UBELONG at the Law and Human Rights project in Accra, Ghana.

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