“It was great to be able to meet local people and speak to them in their own language.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Quinn Parker
Age: 20
Hometown: Truckee, California
Nationality: United States
University: Princeton University
Degree: Sociology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Elementary School Teaching in Cusco, Peru
Duration: 8 weeks
Start month: June 2016
Claim to fame: Quinn was a teacher and coach in rural Vietnam in the past, and worked closely with middle school students as well as Vietnamese college students. Great work, and we’re glad to have you in the UBELONG Family, Quinn!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer because I love teaching, and saw the program as an amazing way to be in both a teaching environment, and in a position to learn a lot about a new culture. I’ve always been very interested in the Andean culture, so naturally I was drawn to Peru when I realized that that was an option. What I was really excited about was how immersed I would become through the project — I was very drawn in by the prospect of being in the classroom every day, speaking the language and developing new relationships with amazing people. The idea of providing volunteer services to specific areas in need was also a great aspect of the program to me–it was good to see that we were being assigned based on which areas in the city needed us the most at that moment in time.

What were your major challenges?
I was very shy about speaking Spanish at first, as I had never really been in a place before where I had to rely on it so heavily. But, over time, after speaking it in the classroom all day, and becoming used to conversational Spanish with both the students and my fellow volunteers and peers, it became a lot easier. And, it was great to be able to meet local people and speak to them in their own language; people were always very excited to tell foreigners about their country and the culture there. It was also so much fun to be able to talk to the kids about their dreams and aspirations, as well as help them out with their work, and teach them all that I could. While at first I was pretty nervous about all this, it actually turned out to be such an incredible learning experience, and I absolutely loved it.

What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory, hands-down, was when the children had their “Día de Logros”. On this day, they displayed all of the work they had done over the past few weeks, and they presented all they had learned to their teachers and parents. They also dressed in traditional clothing and taught me some of the dances of the sierra! And, some of their families brought in traditional foods for the classrooms. It was a great way to meet and talk to the kids’ parents, and to learn more about their backgrounds and lives at home. I was also very proud to see how far the kids had come, and it was very special to be able to watch them teach their peers and parents with such enthusiasm and excitement. It is definitely something that will stick with me for a long, long time.

In a sentence or less, best packing advice?
Be prepared for all types of weather, especially the cold nights!

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Related post:
Meet Anna Kapolka, a Princeton University undergrad, who volunteered with UBELONG at the caregiving project in Hanoi, Vietnam.