Name: Lydia Trudel
Hometown: Quebec, Canada
Occupation: Cashier at Walmart
Languages spoken: French, English (advanced), Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Caring for Disadvantaged Youth in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: May 2017
Claim to fame: Lydia lived in Saskatchewan, Canada, as part of a bilingual exchange program. Welcome to the UBELONG Family, Lydia! 🙂
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I chose to volunteer abroad for the incredible experience it procures, from facing diversity to confronting my personal comfort zone. Now, the reason I picked the UBELONG Team to make this journey, is for its well organized program. They have everything planned out, from security, to food, to on field support. This being my first trip by myself, I wanted to feel like even though I was going there alone, I would never feel like it. I would have easy contacts in case of any problem, and help would be brought to me if needed. Another motivation for me for choosing the UBELONG Team was the price. For what we get, and compared to other volunteering organisations abroad, the UBELONG was one of the cheapest.
What is your favorite memory?
I think one of my favorite memories is on the last week I was in Mérida. It was father’s day on Sunday and we celebrated it at the daycare on Thursday. We had all the fathers came in for the day and there was father-children’s activities planned out for them. An animator was there making them dance, play and just laugh together. It was beautiful to watch and nice to meet the parents behind the kid we see everyday. Also, the children had each a little gift for their dad, which was a handmade trophy-like frame with a lovely picture of them in it. It was just really sweet and fun.
What advice would you tell a future volunteer?
I think the best advice I can give is don’t expect to much. I came in with almost no expectations at all, and I feel like that made the whole experience better, because everything was surprising and I never felt disappointed. It is a really nice experience, but it WILL be different than home, so do not come in expecting to have what you usually have. It is different weather, different food, different housing, different people, different culture, different language. However, another advice I can give is, even if you don’t set your expectations too high, do not neglect your preparation. If you do not speak Spanish, bring a dictionary; if it is going to be super hot, bring adequate clothing (you need long pants to work, so bring loose ones); if you have a special diet, let them know; if you can’t stand other people snoring, bring ear plugs. In short, don’t idealize your stay there, but be smart and anticipate.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
The local culture is just super friendly so be willing to talk to strangers on the street, because people are curious to know where you are from and interested in why you are there.