Name: Anouk Van Beusekom
Hometown: Amstelveen, Holland
Occupation: Business Development Analyst at Ecco Emea Bv
Languages spoken: Dutch, English (Fluent), German (Intermediate) and French (Beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: December 2016
Claim to fame: Anouk travelled around Australia and New Zealand for three months! Welcome to UBELONG, Anouk 🙂
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
To make a difference and experience another culture in a not so standard way. I love travelling, but I wanted to be meaningful for the local community as well instead of only being a tourist. After some online research I found UBELONG on the internet and the clear website and good reviews made me contact them to find out about the opportunities they had and this was matching my expectations to do volunteering work in my work holidays.
What did you take from the experience?
It is probably a bit of an open door but it is to respect and be open minded towards every person, no matter how different your cultures and background is. In Vietnam where I was volunteering there are some habits or curiosity of the locals that would be rude in my home country, but what is very normal there, so that is something you have to get used to. Every child in my classes was asking me first what my age was, if I was married and had kids, and most of them thought I was joking to be 27 and not being married or having kids, which is in their communities something you do in your early 20’s.
And another very important I took from my experience, is that you had to get used to improvise always and everywhere! In an art session with other Vietnamese teachers I was suddenly asked to speak to the crowd and express my impression about the art works. Within a split second you then need to react and make sure you say something meaningful about a topic you don’t know anything about, but the ability to improvise has become even more important to me!
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
Make sure you prepare yourself very well for the country and the culture you are visiting, as you will be expected to work independently from the very start. Try to prepare for your project as well as possible, but ensure you keep 100% flexibility in the things you can do. I was working at a local school, and every class, every teacher and every exercise was different, which makes it good fun, but you need to build in the flexibility to be able to cope with multiple scenario’s you face when you are actually at your project.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
Curious, enthusiastic, open minded and fun!