Name: Carlos Weis Reyes
Hometown: Bayern, Germany
Languages spoken: German, Spanish, English (fluent), French (intermediate)
School: Bertha-von-Suttner Gymnasium
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Urban Reforestation and Teaching English in Merida, Mexico
Duration: 24 weeks
Start month: October 2015
Claim to fame: While in high school, Carlos participated in numerous student exchange programs. One was to France and was all about cultural exchange – he even lived with a local host family. Thanks for your service Carlos, we’re thrilled to have you in the UBELONG Family!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
My foremost reason to become a UBELONG Volunteer was that I wanted to discover the world and do something productive at the same time. The UBELONG program embodies both aspects; you help to improve local peoples’ lives and you get the chance of to travel to a wide range of countries dispersed all over the world.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
As a result of staying 6 months in Mérida, I ended up working 3 months in the ecological project and 3 months teaching English. Over the span of 3 months we handled hundreds of plants, and put them to grow in an optimal environment. When an adequate size was reached, we put these plants in public spaces like churches or parks. It feels really good to see the growth development over a couple of months, and imagine how one day all these sprouts will be fully grown trees, helping to make a better place of Mérida.
Teaching English was a completely different task. You mostly were your own boss, and preparing the classes fully laid in your hands. Occasionally this wasn’t easy to figure out, but nonetheless really rewarding once you saw your students’ progress. It was great to see how the local people learned English, an indispensable language these days with the intercultural contact. Another advantage for them was to actually see foreigners that infused them additional motivation to really pursue the classes with great incentive.
What were your major challenges?
My major challenges were, as mentioned above, were converging students of all ages, and adapting to their style of learning and existing English level. Luckily I know Spanish, which made things way easier for me. In the environmental project my biggest struggle was to commit to finish activities that were boring and repetitive per se, but nevertheless of vital importance. Working together with more people there made that a lot easier though, being able to cheer each other up made a huge difference.
In a sentence or less, best advice for fitting in with the local culture?
Be humble and friendly.