“I made a difference and it is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Erik Knapp
Age: 21
Hometown: Monroe, Michigan
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English and French (intermediate)
University: University of Michigan
Degree: Industrial And Operations Engineering
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: August 2015
Claim to fame: Erik is great working with children! He taught tennis to elementary-school students before he joined UBELONG in Quito.

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
I chose to become an UBELONG volunteer because I was impressed by the broad array of projects UBELONG offered in seemingly every corner of the world. I knew I wanted to volunteer abroad and once I found out about UBELONG, I knew they were the perfect fit for me to volunteer with. Their dedication to making an impact in local communities is what really separated UBELONG from other organizations and once I was in-country, this dedication to developing relationships within the community and making an impact within local communities was so easy for me to see and made my project that much more special.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
On my volunteer project in Quito, Ecuador, I was teaching English to local students who were taking time out of their summer to learn English through their interaction with UBELONG volunteers. Specifically, I felt like I was able to make an impact by teaching students common verbs such as “to run”, “to play”, and various other verbs. The group of UBELONG volunteers teaching the English then would play games with the students: “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Hot Potato” were some of the students’ favorite games! In addition to verbs, we taught students common words for household items such as kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom vocabulary. We then acted out skits for the students to help them make associations between English words and actions we were making. In the end, I think the group of UBELONG volunteers teaching English were able to teach the students’ a small amount of English while inspiring them to continue learning verbs, vocabulary, and grammar in their future studies!

What were your major challenges?
My biggest challenge was the language barrier since we were teaching English. Although I was able to understand some of the Spanish the kids were speaking, my Spanish ability is quite basic. Oftentimes, I would be learning some of the Spanish words alongside the students who were learning the English words. Although this was a major challenge and frustration for me, I felt as if it was beneficial to the students’ learning because seeing me struggle with learning some of the words motivated them to work past their struggles and learn the English words at the same time!

What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory of the trip was on the last day, when we were packing up our things and one of our students came up to us and was speaking with us in very basic but understandable English. She was telling us how she was sad we were leaving and really wanted us to stay longer. It was a very bittersweet moment but is one of my favorite memories from the trip because she was speaking English with us and was able to express a decent amount of emotion. This was one of the moments when I realized that I had made a difference and will be a memory that I cherish for the rest of my life.

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Related Post:
Meet Emily Armstead, a Michigan University student who volunteered with UBELONG in Quito, Ecuador on the Medical Assistance project.