“I learned to quickly pick myself up when things don’t work out and move forward.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Kelsea Mensh
Age: 20
Hometown: Dumfries, Virginia
Nationality: United States
University: Virginia Tech
Degree: Spanish and International Studies
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (fluent)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: May 2017
Claim to fame: At Virginia Tech, Kelsea is in a service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, that requires 50+ hours of service a semester doing a variety of activities, so she’s not new to volunteering! Welcome back to UBELONG, Kelsea! 🙂

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to be a UBELONG Volunteer again because I wanted to challenge myself in a situation even farther out of my comfort zone than the last trip. I wanted to experience Mexico in an authentic way while at the same time contributing in a very small way to a community there. I wanted to improve my Spanish, learn how to teach English in a way that they don’t teach you in online classes, and mostly learn from the wonderful people and rich culture in Mérida.

What were your major challenges?
I dealt with a few challenges, but ultimately they taught me that I am stronger and more capable than I knew. It was difficult coming up with my own lesson plans every night and learning how to stand in front of a class confidently even though it’s not my native language. My plans were constantly changing and I learned to quickly pick myself up off of the ground when things don’t work out and move forward.

What did you take from the experience?
I felt overwhelming happiness at the end of my two months there when all of my students told me how much they learned and made me precious cards about how much they were going to miss me. One card said, “When you came, you stole something from me…my heart.”, from the biggest trouble maker in my class. The school principal and another teacher there took me out to eat the traditional food of their town to thank me and I felt like I was part of the family at the school. When I walked through the tiny town of Motul every day after taking a crowded van there (combi), I felt like I was different from a tourist in that I played a small role in the students’ education and well-being. Overall, I gained a new perspective of a beautiful people and culture that I didn’t have before. I learned that I don’t need a lot to live a happy and fulfilling life.

In a sentence or less, what did you think about the food?
A sentence or less is so hard but the food was delicious, fresh, flavorful, and authentic.

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