“I definitely feel like I grew as an individual during my volunteer experience.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Carley Erickson
Age: 22
Hometown: Marshall, Wisconsin
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (beginner) and French (beginner)
University: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Degree: Sociology And Social Work
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Advancing Women’s Rights in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: January, 2015
Claim to fame: Carley volunteered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and took courses focused on women’s rights. Carley is also one of the many UBELONG Volunteers who have come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison – we’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Family, Carley!

Do you have a favorite memory from your experience volunteering that you still remember fondly today? If so, what is it?
My favorite experience from my time in Phnom Penh (though I had MANY) was working with the young girls who were in the scholarship program. These girls were so eager to learn and did so with such excitement and drive that it felt as if the work I was doing was making a difference and having an impact on their lives! Additionally, traveling throughout Cambodia, I have some of my most fond memories. Cambodia is such a beautiful country with so much to offer – I cannot wait to visit again!

Looking back on your UBELONG volunteering experience, do you feel you grew from the experience? If so, how?
I definitely feel like I grew as an individual during my volunteer experience and after the fact. During my time in Cambodia I was exposed to various unfamiliar and some uncomfortable situations that I had to work through and address on my own. Additionally, I had never traveled alone prior to this trip and doing so made me become much more confident in myself and in my abilities.

How do you feel you made an impact on your volunteer project?
I travelled to a country characterized by a lack of resources and infrastructure, as well as a very recent violent history. So, before going many questioned why I chose Cambodia and whether or not I would even make an impact at all. However, I feel that I did make an impact. In immersing myself completely into the community and embracing the culture I was then able to share my experiences with people back home and other possible volunteers. This helped people open their eyes to what Cambodia is really about and make it more than just a distant, unfamiliar place. In my work with locals I also feel I made an impact by broadening their perspectives on the world and, of course, helping directly at the project.

Fighting the social and environmental problems that UBELONG Volunteers tackle is enormous work. They’re but a small piece of a much broader and more complex solution. However, what do you think is the biggest benefit of having international volunteers serve abroad?
I think the biggest benefit of having international volunteers serve abroad is the broad spectrum of knowledge, personalities and experiences that these volunteers bring with them into the field.

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Related post:
Meet Nate Wapner, a University of Virginia grad who volunteered with UBELONG in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the Microfinance and Income Generation project.