“I left the project feeling I helped with pronunciation, listening and grammar.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Francisco Nogueira
Age: 24
Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal
Nationality: Portugal
Occupation: Intern Analyst at Eurovida
Languages spoken: Portuguese, English (fluent), German (beginner)
Past-travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: July 2016
Claim to fame: Francisco was one of the coordinators of the Summer School programs at ISCTE, his university in Lisbon. There, he guided  and supported more than 200 foreign students who came to Lisbon to undertake these programs. Amazing work, Francisco!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
At the beginning of the year, I finally managed to finish my studies and I was working in an insurance company. Everything was well and I really enjoyed working at the company but, as I kept working there, I realized that I wasn’t bringing any added value to society itself and I was feeling that my work there wasn’t meaningful at all. When my contract reached its term I was offered the opportunity to continue working for the company but, after reflecting on my life so far, I’ve decided that I wanted to give a better contribute to the world and so, I took a leap of faith and decided to abdicate my job and my future career on that company, so I could spend some time volunteering and discovering different realities. After doing some research, and with my mind focused on going to Asia to teach English, I talked to a friend of mine who also volunteered via UBELONG in Cambodia and he highly recommended me the organization as he said everything was well organized and the fees were really low. With that in mind, I’ve decided to apply for the Teaching English Project in Hanoi, Vietnam, where I stayed for 1 month.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
As I soon found out, Vietnam struggles with its rapid economic growth and they still have lots of problems related to their poverty levels. As soon I started giving community classes to the children I also realized that most of them came from poor families and were there to learn English so they can get a good job in the future to help them sustain themselves and their family. I left the project feeling that I managed to help them in terms of pronunciation, listening and even grammar of the English language. Even if the students were shy at the beginning they opened up in the end and I found out that if I opened myself up also, I would find and meet amazing people that I managed to help and make a difference for their future and their families and I am confident that they will succeed in their lives.

What were your major challenges?
There were a lot of challenges but I would say that, for starters, the number one challenge was definitely the cultural differences. Coming from a western country I wasn’t sure what to expect but, as soon I have reached Vietnam, I knew it would be totally different. One thing I have found out what that Vietnamese people are very curious: one of the first Vietnamese I met asked me so much questions about my personal life (including if I had a “six-pack”) that I felt quite uncomfortable! But after adjusting and getting used to the culture I managed to get over it and being even a more open-minded individual. The other challenge would be related to giving classes. As I have never taught anything before in my life I was feeling quite nervous for my new task of teaching English, especially since my degree is related to Mathematics! The first classes I was always very nervous but with the help of the UBELONG mentors and assistant teacher in the class, I was able to overcome this challenge and become more confident as a teacher. The students were so respectful and they were always listening so that boosted even more my confidence and teaching skills.

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
For describing the locals I can simply repeat this over and over: friendly, friendly and friendly! I have never met such happy and friendly people in my entire life!

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Meet Alette Gilje, a UBELONGer from Minnesota, who volunteered with UBELONG in Morocco at the Education projects.