Name: Stephanie Wong
Hometown: Glenroy, Australia
University: The University of Melbourne
Degree: Accounting and Economics
Languages spoken: English, Cantonese (Fluent), Mandarin (Intermediate), Japanese (Beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Middle School Teaching in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: January 2017
Claim to fame: Stephanie works around 30 hours per week and studies full time. This has driven her to be organised, diligent and self-motivated. Thank you for your service, Stephanie. We’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Prior to applying to UBELONG, Komal and I had done extensive research about various volunteering organisations and their projects. We found that UBELONG had an exceptional reputation, very flexible and affordable programs. In particular, we liked that we could choose to stay with a local host family, which was something we wanted to experience. We were informed of the school terms for Ghana and we were able to select our start date and the duration of our stay.
UBELONG had a strong emphasis on making an impact, which made it distinct from some of the other organisations. I wanted to be sure that I would positively contribute to an ongoing mission that I was passionate about.
What did you take from the experience?
After my two weeks in Ghana, ‘experience of a lifetime’ is no longer a cliché phrase for me. I feel that I truly made a difference in the lives of people in the community – from something as simple as explaining what ‘sushi’ is, to telling students that I too, once struggled with learning English and that it is possible to improve with practice and perseverance.
Navigating a suburb that didn’t use an address system was an unexpected challenge. I had taken so many wrong turns that I was nicknamed, ‘Steph the Left’. I now have invaluable memories of the most hospitable family and local volunteer team, the most smiley and friendly locals and most determined and inspiring students. I can confidently say that I’ve become a more globally-aware, compassionate and grateful person.
What advice would you tell a future UBELONG Volunteer?
Don’t hold back; do everything that you think will make a positive difference and do it instantly. I kept telling myself that I would ask a student why she was caring for her brother during class time but by the end of my project, she didn’t go to school. The missed opportunities are my biggest regret and I hope future volunteers maximized their experience and impact.
In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
Watching Princess, our six year old host sister, sing and dance to ‘Work’ by Rihanna!