Name: Shaelyn Kerr
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Nationality: United States
University: University of Michigan
Degree: Public Policy
Languages spoken: English, Swahili (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Kindergarten Teaching in Accra, Ghana
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: June 2017
Claim to fame: Since coming to college, Shaelyn has stepped out of her comfort zone and joined an intercultural dance team, she began studying Swahili and East African culture, and many of her courses have been dedicated to learning more about Africa and solving the economic and social disparities around the world. She has become heavily involved in many social welfare groups.. We’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
My journey with UBELONG first began when one of my academic advisors suggested that I intern in UBELONG in Ghana since I was already going to another program in Uganda immediately before. However, she had sent me around 5 different companies in Africa that my university partners with to choose from for my internship. I chose UBELONG out of all of the other companies because I believed in its mission and saw it as a company that I could truly throw myself behind. They also had the right location for me, it’s sometimes hard to find legitimate volunteer companies in Africa that treat the locals with respect and don’t ask you to pay an arm and a leg. It was reasonably affordable, they allowed me to choose my own dates and time period, and they were so supportive the whole way through. I definitely made the right choice volunteering with UBELONG.
What did you find most rewarding from you volunteer experience?
I was in the education project in Kasoa, Ghana and quite honestly, every day was equally rewarding. You will never go a single day in the school without a child giving you a hug, holding your hand or telling you how much they love you and they’re going to miss you when you’re gone. There is an overabundance of love when working in the schooling system and every single day I felt incredibly lucky to be right where I was working with my students. Some of my favorite memories though would definitely have to be during the time we pulled struggling students out of every class, kindergarten to primary 4, once a day to work on the subject they were behind in. I was so excited to see my kindergarteners learn how to properly write their letters and it was just as exciting to see my fourth graders not struggle to read their books anymore.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a future UBELONG Volunteer?
- Prepare to be unprepared. Certainly prepare in the best way you know how before leaving your country to go to your field site, but understand that you can’t prepare for everything. Regardless of how much you research or test yourself beforehand, there is going to be a certain shock factor that comes with being in a foreign country in new experiences.
- Roll with the punches. Not everything is going to go the way you had hoped, just go with it. Don’t dwell over what didn’t work but instead look ahead and understand that not everything needs to go perfectly as planned to be just as successful in the end.
- Live in the moment. More than likely, you will get homesick at some point during your trip, that’s completely normal. But try not to let your longing for home overshadow the experience you’re having right then. You’re in a foreign country in the name of volunteer and this country has all of the experiences in the world to offer you, embrace it.