Name: James Ingham
Hometown: Singapore, Singapore
Nationality: United Kingdom
University: University of Exeter
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (Advanced) and Japanese (Beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: December 2016
Claim to fame: James worked in Japan and Spain teaching English, and he has volunteered in many countries across South East Asia. Welcome, James!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
It was the most viable choice in order to teach English in a place like Cambodia. Interestingly, having lived in Singapore, you would expect a lot of companies offering exciting deals for teaching English in Cambodia but I found hardly any. UBELONG stood out as they are not only world-wide acclaimed for setting up great projects but all volunteers who apply are the best volunteers.
What did you find most rewarding from you volunteer experience?
Just being there. The volunteer house was located in the center of rural Phnom Penh. The “real way” to live as a Cambodian. Despite Phnom Penh being really hip and trendy for tourists, the volunteer house was full of individuals who wanted to make a difference. You get caught up in the environment you are in. You start to have more discussions than you usually would, you would go on more adventures and fundamentally, you would start to develop a “yes-man” attitude. I was asked to play football with the orphans rather than coach. I was also asked to teach all English classes. I put myself out of my comfort zones at times and this allowed me to feel good.
UBELONG encourages the best volunteers to put themselves into a zone of discomfort by trying new things but the feeling is remarkable. It makes you want to do more things.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?
- Yes-man – Have a good attitude. If someone asks a favor of you or if someone asks you to travel with them during a weekend in order to explore, say yes!! If you don’t interact with others outside your work time, life as a volunteer can be quite lonely. This is not to suggest that they won’t talk to you again if you say no once in while, but if you keep resisting the company of others, they will start to think you prefer to be alone; say yes!!
- Give it a chance – The place you will stay in the host country will shock you, there’s no hiding away from that. For me, the most irritating aspect when i arrive in a new place is getting to know your surroundings i.e. when is breakfast, who do i share with, am I really going to be here for a month? It’s not very pleasant to have culture shock but try to look for the good in the place if first impressions are bad. I like to scout around an area before I make a judgement. I would take a walk, ask a fellow volunteer for a couple of drinks in a bar or even just chill out and read a book. Give the place some time and it will adjust within 2-3 days (trust me).
- Be yourself – In my opinion, I love to talk to people chatty. But if you are not then don’t force yourself too much. There’s one thing being a yes man and another being someone else. If you are tired then say you are tired! Volunteers come from all over the world and are interested in each others backgrounds. My advice to anyone is be proud of your background and personality and you will enjoy the experience more.