Volunteer in Vietnam from US$400

By UBELONG   Reviews (25)   96% Rating

UBELONG offers 2-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in Hanoi. There are over 20 projects in different fields, including: business development, caregiving, education, health and NGO support.

Highlights

  • Affordable: Without compromising quality, the world's most affordable international volunteering opportunities.
  • Flexibility: Pick from 100+ projects across Africa, Asia and South America. Volunteer 1 week to 6 months. Start any week.
  • Support: Work one-on-one with a UBELONG Mentor throughout your volunteer experience.
  • Comfort: Housing and meals included, as well as 24/7 field support.
  • Network: UBELONG is based in Washington, DC, the capital of international volunteering.
  • Impact: UBELONG is a social venture led by international volunteers and university professors driven to make a

Program Info

Location: 
  • VietnamHanoi
Volunteer Types: 
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
1-3 months
3-6 months
Cost: 
$500 - $2,000 (USD)
See site for details.
See Additional Information
Cost Description: 

Without compromising safety or impact, UBELONG offers the world's most affordable 1-week to 6-month international volunteering opportunities.

Fees vary by location and placement duration. They start from US$150 for one week. Fees include:

-Airport pick-up

-Housing and meals

-24/7 in-country support

-Continual one-on-one mentorship from a UBELONG Mentor (including written materials and a phone/Skype Briefing Meeting)

-Peace of mind from joining the leading short-term international volunteering program, which is based in Washington, DC

-Networking opportunities through the powerful UBELONG community

*The UBELONG Campus Leaders program offers scholarships to university students. Contact us for more information.

Languages: 
English
Vietnamese
Local dialects
Housing: 
Volunteer House
Application: 
Online Application

Program Reviews (25)

96%
Positive
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  • Impact
    89%
  • Support
    95%
  • Fun
    94%
  • Value
    95%
  • Safety
    94%
  • Yun Zheng
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Toronto, Canada
    University of Waterloo
    Rewarding and fun experience!
    03/31/2015

    Thanks UBELONG! I had such a wondering and unforgettable volunteer experience in Hanoi, Vietnam! My three-week project was to teach elementary students English. The class size was about 60, which was a lot bigger than I expected. When I first started teaching Grade 1 students, I found them very difficult to teach. Their vocabulary was very limited even in their native language. It also didn't help that I did not understand Vietnamese, so I could not understand what they wanted to say. Coming in with very little experience in teaching, I found it difficult to communicate with them or understand their behaviour. But after a few classes, I found some ways to talk to them. For example, I drew pictures, used my body language and used simpler words to communicate with my students. This helped the school children understand me a lot better than before! The locals I met were very warm and friendly. Most Vietnamese people that I met outside of the school didn't speak much English, but they knew that smile is a universal language. They always smiled at me and tried to talk to me and help me, which really made me feel welcomed in this country! On the weekend, I usually went outside of Hanoi with other volunteers to explore the beautiful nature. Overall, I had an amazing experience because of the great volunteer organization, local supporters, other volunteers and my students!

    How could this program be improved?

    The food and the living condition could be better in the volunteer house.

    Photos:
    with my students!
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  • Terry Hughes
    Age: 51 or older
    Male
    Kent, England
    University College London
    6 weeks in Hanoi with Ubelong
    02/23/2015

    I chose UBELONG from a wide range of options for volunteer projects abroad. I was convinced by their common sense approach, with no attempt to make the project sound too good to be true. Honesty about some of the challenges, as well as the opportunities made UBELONG the obvious choice. The back-up and support from Barbara was also a factor. Further, UBELONG make you work for the opportunity, and that in itself makes it more valuable. I chose to become a volunteer because I wanted to help and to have a new and challenging experience.

    How could this program be improved?

    option for a single room

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  • Sandra
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Paris, France
    Other
    I will definitely do it again!
    01/12/2015

    UBELONG and especially my mentor Barbara have been a great support during the preparation phase and during the time I spent on site. I felt perfectly prepared and always in good hands knowing that I could aks all the questions I havae. I would definitely recommend UBELONG to other future volunteers as an experienced and serious organization which is offering valuable projects for the smallest reward.

    How could this program be improved?

    As much as possible information about the project are requiered to prepare yourself the best way you can. What age the children have, how is their knowledge, what kind of material is given.

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  • Kevin Nagle
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Little Falls, NJ
    New York University
    Incredible Experience with UBELONG
    11/21/2014

    UBELONG is the only organization I came across that clearly puts the needs of the local programs they support ahead of their own bottom line. Unlike other programs, UBELONG's fees are extremely reasonable and their internal support system is second to none! There was never a moment that I didn't feel completely supported prior to my trip or while I was with my local organization in Vietnam. UBELONG sticks to their founding principals in everything that they do and it gives me great pride to know I worked with such a wonderful organization. UBELONG is truly the real deal.

    How could this program be improved?

    Honestly, for the specific role that UBELONG played in my experience, there isn't anything I would need to change. For a new experience like this the most important things to me were communication and diversity of programs, and UBELONG met or exceeded my expectations in both fields (and others...) time and again.

    Photos:
    Teaching at Lemongrass Shelter
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  • Chris Yong
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    University of Wisconsin
    Great experience!
    10/30/2014

    Volunteering with UBELONG is easy and fun! I've had one of the best experiences in my life and I wished I stayed in my program for a longer time. Daily life presented an exciting challenge as the culture and language are vastly different than my own. However, that is part of what makes the experience great as you get to immerse yourself in an entirely different environment.

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  • Joe P
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Meadville, Pennsylvania
    Allegheny College
    Joe P
    10/21/2014

    UBELONG provided with the tools to embark on my first international experience in a country very unlike my own so I could go out and find what we have in common. I am truly changed for the better because of my stay in Vietnam and all of the serendipitous things that happened along the way.

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  • Mariana Santos
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Braga- Portugal
    Other
    Vietnam for real
    10/16/2014

    I've always had company to go on an adventure like this one, my best friend, but lacked the rest. The courage, the time and organization. The UBELONG provided me all the conditions that I needed to realize a dream. It is a reliable association and very concerned so the volunteers who run this mission, have total access to all the information they need and offers plenty of choices. It offers many dreams!

    How could this program be improved?

    I think that it could be better for the association and for further volunteers, if the program was a little bite cheaper. It would also be important if the organization is closest to the offices of each country, so they can keep in touch and to know what is going on, every day.

    Photos:
    Volunteer House in Vietnam
    Rice Fields in Mai Chau
    Ha Long Bay island
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  • Fabian Martinez
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Las Cruces, New Mexico
    New Mexico State University
    Friendship is the greatest gift in the world
    10/09/2014

    As I worked alongside doctors in Vietnam I not only made fellow coworkers but a variety of good friends who shared their knowledge with me, both in practice and social skills. I have gained a variety of knowledge and I can only hope I left a great impact in there lives just as they made a positive impact in my life.

    How could this program be improved?

    I don't think I would change anything its a volunteer organization and I didn't expect to get treated like a 5 star hotel. One thing I did dislike is the fake people who just go over to get there certificate.

    Photos:
    Wedding in Vietnam
    Hospital in Vietnam
    Cambodia with my Vietnamese Friend
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  • Lisa
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Washington, DC
    Old Dominion University
    UBELONG in Hanoi
    09/23/2014

    As an educator, I've always wanted to make my time off in the summertime meaningful. For as long as I can recall, I've wanted to teach abroad or volunteer and give back to a community. I spent a lot of time researching different volunteer organizations, but had difficulty finding one that was affordable, organized, and reputable. Through word-of-mouth, I discovered UBELONG. The application was straightforward, the programs were diverse and located nationwide, and it was extremely organized--on paper and in person. I definitely will volunteer with UBELONG again and look forward to trying out new projects and locations.

    How could this program be improved?

    I think there should always be another volunteer on the same project with you for support, collaboration, and commuting purposes.

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  • Romain
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Paris, France
    Other
    NGO Volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City
    07/25/2014

    I volunteered in Ho Chi Minh City for one month in an NGO specialized on public health matters, especially HIV/AIDS among stigmatized populations such as LGBT, migrant workers or female sex workers. My duties mainly consisted in drafting training material about Vietnamese Labour Law reform, organizing some English teaching lessons, for the staff, drafting a research proposal about how to tackle HIV in LGBT population efficiently and at a cheap cost.

    I clearly had one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life, as I had to work in a foreign environment and had to submit proposals before a certain deadline. I really enjoyed the fact that UBELONG could appoint me to an organization for which I could use my scholar and Professional background to carry out my duties. The range of opportunities is really wide and everybody should find the program that fits the best.

    UBELONG provides you some support, via the mentor, throughout your mission and it feels really comfortable to always have an interlocutor with whom you can share your experience and ask for help or support, if needed.

    In the end, I urge everybody that want to use his/her university skills to apply for the NGO program because it is at the same time challenging for you in so far as it develops your Professional / contextual skills and it really helps the NGO. You feel you make a real impact!

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  • Lina Bouna
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Paris, France
    Other
    My trip in Vietnam
    07/25/2014

    I stayed 4 weeks in Vietnam as an English teacher thanks to UBELONG. It was my first experience as a volunteer and I'm glad to say that UBELONG is a really serious organization and the people who are working there are always very helpful. If I could recommend a mentor it would be Barbara, she took care of me and prepared me for my trip and for that I thank her !!

    The best part of my trip is that I met a lot of people who are now my friends. And when you volunteer of course you share your own culture with the local people but you also learn a new one. This is the part that makes you grow up, you discover something different from what you are used to. That's the thing that I really liked as a volunteer.

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  • John Tan
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    NY, New York
    Baruch College
    UBELONG: Volunteered in Ha Noi, Vietnam
    07/04/2014

    My three weeks in Ha Noi, Vietnam as a UBELONG volunteer gave me a unique perspective of the world and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. Although my original project was caring for disabled children, I had an opportunity to teach English for Community Classes, and I decided to switch to that project because I felt that I was better suited and would be more effective. I helped teach primary, pre-intermediate, and advanced level English classes. I was attracted to UBELONG because the organization provided me an outstanding and affordable program to volunteer abroad, in any country I desired. My UBELONG mentor, Barbara Barbosa, was there to guide me and make sure I was well prepared for my journey ahead. I gained new experiences and overcame obstacles by taking this opportunity to volunteer abroad. Overall, I had a great time volunteering and meeting both international and local people in Ha Noi.

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  • Deea
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Cairo, Egypt
    Mount Holyoke College
    Great experience
    04/28/2014

    I discovered UBELONG while searching for reliable and professional volunteer opportunities. I had a very good experience with volunteering at my project in Hanoi, Vietnam. The UBELONG team is extremely dedicated in ensuring that you have a successful trip. I would highly recommend UBELONG to anyone seeking to experience living and working abroad. It just might be the opportunity you were waiting for!

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  • Ryan Huang
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Harvard University
    UBELONG - Ho Chi Minh City - Review
    01/28/2014

    After searching extensively on the internet for a volunteer organization, I could find no better program than UBELONG. Highly affordable and well-organized, UBELONG gave me the opportunity to travel and work in a wonderful country. for eight weeks. At every step of the way, someone was there to guide me and make sure I was prepared for the journey ahead. At the volunteer site, local volunteers showed me how to get around, the best places to eat, and what places to avoid. And, as my project progressed, my mentor, Raul, checked in to make sure everything was going well. All in all, I had a great time volunteering in Ho Chi Minh City for UBELONG and I highly recommend the program to anyone looking to do some international volunteer work.

    How could this program be improved?

    If anything, I would have appreciated the opportunity to speak with someone who had went on the HCMC trip previously. Raul, my mentor, did perfectly fine in answering all my questions and concerns, but I still would have liked to speak with someone who had been on the trip before.

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  • Mika
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
    Texas A&M University
    Eye opening experience
    01/10/2014

    This was my first experience volunteering in an overseas location and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've voyaged as a tourist before and found this experience of volunteering to be as good, if not even better. I feel I connected with the locals in a positvely more genuine manner. They saw me more as somebody who cared, not as somebody in transit through their nation. I participated to teach English in a public school with primary students. The level was more basic than what I expected but the students made up for it with their enthusiasm. The local teachers meant well (though they could use English classes) and I appreciated the support from Ubelong. I think the cultural tips they gave were excellent and their focus on volunteers being there to work and be of service to the community, as opposed to the other way around, was important in preparing me. Knowing somebody knew my name and wanted me to do well was a very nice feeling. We lived in a perfectly basic but fine volunteer house. English was the spoken language so it did not feel so immersive from that perspective. There were Vietnamese staff people who were wonderful and I cherish the relationships we had. I found their curiosity about me and my country to be eye opening and I enjoyed their companionship. They went out of the way to make us feel at home.

    How could this program be improved?

    Meals in Vietnam are not as big as in North America. The food was delicious but especially for breakfast I sometimes had to do a mid-morning snack to carry me to lunch. It is also a diet very rich in carbs, which for me took some getting used to.

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Alumni Interviews

  • Day in the Life of Jennifer Du Mond - Volunteer in Vietnam

    Morning: After a leisurely breakfast of banh mi with peanut butter and fruit, with my housemates trickling in and out of our common dining area, and a refreshing cool shower, I'd head off around 9:30 on my rented motorbike for work. By bus I lived about an hour away, on a bicycle, about 30 minutes, and on motorbike, about 15 minutes. Once a week I'd go an hour later, after my Vietnamese lesson, which was provided free of charge by a local volunteer. I worked in a small office with 4 other women, 3 Vietnamese and 1 American expat. I worked in the research department of a local public health organization, and primarily assisted with writing reports.

    Afternoon: At about noon, my little office would get a phone call that it was time to head upstairs for lunch with the rest of the organization. We almost always ate together with the rest of the company in the conference room, but on special occasions we went out to both small and large local restaurants.

    volunteering in Hanoi, Vietnam
    Enjoy beautiful views of Hanoi

    After lunch, the other expat and I would go and get Vietnamese coffee at one of the local shops, then return to the office for several more hours of work. At about 5:30, I headed home through the traffic of Hanoi on my bike.

    Evening: After getting home, I usually had a few minutes of rest in the air conditioned common room, and then would eat dinner with the rest of my housemates. We then would either wander down the road for a drink at a bar in our little village, watch TV, play card games, or work on our respective projects.

    On the weekends we either took trips to other areas of Vietnam, such as Sapa or Halong Bay, or we would stay at a favorite hostel in the Old Quarter and enjoyed going out for dinner, dancing, and live music.

    Highlights: The highlight of my volunteer experience probably happened the first weekend, but it is exemplary of the general interactions I had with the organization I was with. The first day that I was introduced to my volunteer organization, I was told that they were going on a company retreat to celebrate the completion of a big project, and although I didn't yet know them or have any involvement in the project, they invited me to join them and provided all of the food and lodging for the trip, and plenty of alcohol!

    On Saturday we took a group walk through the nearby jungle area, saw deer and monkeys and a beautiful lake full of pink lotus flowers. During that weekend they introduced me to the Vietnamese ways of cutting back and relaxing, and I took back the drinking games to my housemates (other volunteers) and still share it with friends back home.

    Jennifer volunteering in Vietnam
    Jennifer mingling with local children in Lang Co

    After I finished my volunteer placement, I took a two week trip with a couple of my housemates from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. We stopped at several of the major tourist destinations along the way and rented motorbikes at several of them. When we stopped in Hoi An, we spent only an evening in Hoi An itself, then took our rented bikes and rode up over the Hai Van pass (of Top Gear Vietnam fame) to an isolated, island-like stretch of beach a couple hours north called Lang Co. We had initially planned to spend only one night in Lang Co, but it was so beautiful and had such a wonderful local feel that we decided to stay a second night.

    We woke early the first morning to watch the sunrise over the South China Sea and played one evening with some of the local children. On our return trip to Hoi An we stopped at a place called Suoi Voi, or Elephant Springs, and spent a few hours splashing in the cool mountain spring water with other Vietnamese visitors.

  • Why did you decide to enroll with UBELONG in Vietnam?

    Making new friends
    Making new friends

    Lina: First of all, I had to do an internship and I thought it would be more interesting for me to do it as a volunteer.

    I found UBELONG on the Internet and read some interviews and review from former volunteers. And I also chose this organization because there were a lot of destinations to go to. So I thought it would be good to apply.

    Something that really made an impact on my decision were the interviews on the website of some volunteers.

    Thanks to those interviews I realized how life was for a volunteer and how good UBELONG was. I chose to go to Asia because I really like the culture and the people. I wanted to go to Vietnam because I have never been there, and I heard a lot about this country.

    Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?

    Lina: I don't really know if I made a significant impact but I hope I did.

    I tried to share my culture with the students and the local people. I always tried to do my best to help the students during my project. Every time we had to prepare the lessons, we tried to think of what would be interesting for them to learn. I think the best way to make them learn something is through humor.

    Because I'm still a student, I know that sometimes some lessons can be boring and that's what I didn't want for the students. Also some of them were very shy, so thanks to the volunteers, they are now more comfortable when they have to talk out loud.

    What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

    Playing around with the other volunteers
    Playing around with the other volunteers

    Lina: The food was the most interesting cultural difference I encountered. It was not my first time in Asia so I knew a bit about the culture and the food but Vietnamese food is something I will never forget.

    It is delicious, I never thought it would be this good!! I tried so many dishes that I will never find in France or in some other European countries.

    In the house where we lived, the cook was a real "cordon bleu". Of course as a foreigner, sometimes you could be shocked by the way they prepare the food or what they eat.

    Was it difficult to navigate around language barriers?

    Lina: At the beginning, we had a Vietnamese lesson but it was basic language. But still, Vietnamese is a very difficult language and if you are lost, sometimes, it's very hard to find someone who speaks English. It's even worse when you are in the countryside.

    What was the best moment of the entire trip?

    Lina: My entire trip was amazing so I don't really have a best moment. But If I had to choose one, it would be my trip to Sapa, in the North of Vietnam. It was only 4 days, but during those 4 days we had a lot of fun.

    We discovered the daily life of the local people especially farmers. We saw breathtaking views of the mountains and the rice fields. Even if they have to work very hard, they are always welcoming and smiling. They are also happy to see foreigners, because they can learn a new culture.

  • The first day of work at CSIP discussing creating an online marketplace with Hue
    The first day of work at CSIP discussing creating an online marketplace with Hue Chi and Thao.

    What inspired you to volunteer with UBELONG in Vietnam?

    Baishi: I have always been interested in the developing world and had a strong desire to immerse myself for several months to truly make an impact. Finally having some time before starting graduate school, I found through UBELONG the perfect opportunity to work in a skilled capacity.

    I was fortunate to be placed with the great people at the Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP), a social entrepreneurship accelerator based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Having worked at a technology startup in New York City, I was really interested in seeing how social enterprises could develop abroad and wanted to build capacity through applying my personal experience.

    What was your favorite moment of the trip?

    Baishi: My favorite moment during the trip was when I traveled to Sa Pa, a city in the Lao Cai province near the Vietnam-China border. It was there that I visited Sapa O'Chau, an organization that was a 2011 grantee of CSIP's social enterprise acceleration program. Sapa O'Chau operates with the mission of improving the lives of the local Hmong ethnic minority, turning street peddling kids into a sustainable part of the tourist economy while maintaing the traditional culture of Sa Pa.

    I was lucky enough to be able to see the social enterprise up close and interact with the Hmong guides who were employed by the organization. It was there that I truly understood the importance of social enterprise and the individual lives that are touched through these organizations.

    Tell me about one person you met.

    Baishi: I was really happy to meet Nam, the founder of Dichung, a ride-sharing social enterprise part of CSIP's 2012 accelerator class that was meant to address the congestion and ride sharing issue in Hanoi. He was a former investment manager who felt that it was much more meaningful in life to be solving problems that many people could benefit from. I was really impressed with his broad vision and high standards for success and wish him the best in his goals.

    The view from the house of the local Hmong family.
    The view from the house of the local Hmong family.

    What was the most challenging part of your experience?

    Baishi: Working in an office in Vietnam was a definite culture shock, and I was able to see how difficult it was to work efficiently when communication was not natural. It was important for me to understand that I needed to contribute without becoming a burden on others, especially as the language barrier was as difficult for my coworkers as it was for me.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Baishi: This was the first time I spent a significant amount of time in a foreign country where I did not speak the language very well. It really emphasized for me the importance of being patient and learning the culture from the people around you. Oftentimes we forget just how many unique people there are spread across the world who all offer interesting stories to share. I found it incredibly important to step out of my everyday life and hear those stories in person.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG in Vietnam?

    Bull in Vietnam
    Robert hangs out with a bull in Vietnam.

    Robert: I chose UBELONG because of how affordable its immersion programs are and the fact that individuals from any background can participate in their programs. I have always wanted to do volunteer work abroad, but the cost of programs offered by other organizations always turned me off. I felt that volunteering shouldn't have to be so expensive. UBELONG makes volunteering accessible to almost anyone by offering programs that vary in cost depending on how long you want to volunteer overseas.

    The profiles of founders Raul Roman and Cedric Hodgeman convinced me that UBELONG was an organization truly committed to international development.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Robert: My project was at a Buddhist monastery called Chua La, where the monks provided housing for fourteen orphaned children. Only one woman cared for all fourteen children. The immense amount of work she had in caring for the children made our work as volunteers very important. We arrived at our project in the morning where we were greeted by the children that were always so happy to see us. The mornings consisted of us playing with the children and keeping them occupied on projects like coloring or singing and dancing. I would also do some renovation work on the orphanage, such as painting it and putting screens on its windows.

    Vietnamese children
    Vietnamese children that Robert worked with.

    I also spent many hours in the hot sun planting a garden. Every day before noon the monks would ring a bell to indicate it was time for lunch. We would go inside the monastery and eat alongside the monks, orphans, and other guests. Afterwards we would nap for a few hours since it was the hottest time of the day. In the afternoon, we would finish whatever renovation projects we had for the day and spend more time with the kids. We left usually around 4:00PM.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Robert: The opportunity to travel and do work in Vietnam is one I will always remember and cherish. The most unique part about my trip was working among Buddhist monks at the orphanage. Passive monks in their saffron robes are one of the most distinctive images people imagine when they think of Southeast Asia. Working and eating with them was something I never imagined I'd be doing!

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Robert: Volunteering abroad tests what you are truly capable of by placing you in an environment that is completely foreign to you. My experience helped me learn more about myself and has given me more courage to step outside of my comfort zone. Career wise, my goal is to work in the field of international development, so having experience travelling and doing work in developing nations is important to my own career development.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with UBELONG in Vietnam?

    Spencer: My decision to go to Vietnam was made around this time last year. I was chatting with a good friend of mine, and he mentioned that he would be going to Spain to volunteer with a renewable energy company. As he started to explain it further, I became more and more intrigued. I found myself yearning for a unique summer internship experience that would match that of my good friend. I started to do a little research on the topic and found a host of great places I could go.

    When I was at a crossroads of companies to go abroad with, the name UBELONG came up. I looked into them more and more and their projects in Hanoi started to look extremely attractive. They offered a project that suited my needs and Hanoi seemed to offer a host of great entertainment. After weighting all the pros and cons of Hanoi, I was certain that this was the city I would be traveling to. I emailed UBELONG's founder and he extinguished any trepidation that I had up to that point. He was thorough in all his explanations of what I would be doing and what to expect when I arrived. This was very reassuring for I knew very little about the city further than what I read on the internet. His commitment to my enjoyment of my experience was unwavering even after I arrived. Any situation that I felt was not to my satisfaction was resolved immediately. Many of the other volunteers were very surprised with the promptness of UBELONG compared to their sending organizations. In my opinion, UBELONG is the gold standard when volunteering abroad.

    Spencer enjoying time off from volunteering
    Spencer enjoying time off from volunteering

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Spencer: My day to day activities varied depending on the day, but my average day was a refreshing mix of exciting bus rides, intriguing work, and fantastic street food. I would start the day with a bowl of pho (Vietnamese soup) from a restaurant right outside my dorm style apartment. I would then stroll to the bus stop and wait side by side with locals for the bus to arrive. When I finally got to my office, I would cool off and prepare for the day. I would be sent a list of documents that needed editing from different people within the organization.

    After I finished that task, I would read business literature and write short summaries to help my co-workers make recommendations to possible social entrepreneurs. Between these two main tasks, I would make time to enjoy local street food with my coworkers. The food was fantastic and an aspect of my trip that I still miss to this day. In the evening, I would sit with my fellow volunteers and enjoy an ice chilled beer as we discussed our days and different life experiences. When I had time off, I travel to different regions of the country with other volunteers. I found these trips to be the highlights of my whole experience. Vietnam is a very scenic country and offers experiences that range from hiking in the jungle to sitting on a beach sipping a fruit cocktail.

    Spencer mixes with Vietnamese locals
    Spencer mixes with Vietnamese locals

    How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

    Spencer: My trip to Vietnam has had a substantial impact on my life - and one that has inspired me to teach English in China upon my graduation in May. I found myself seeing life through a much broader looking glass. Making it clear that getting a regular desk job was not an option quite yet. There is so much more of this world I want to experience and learn about. Teaching English in China will both benefit me professionally as well as metaphysically. My experience in Vietnam showed me these beauties, and made it impossible to ignore this desire.

    At my young age, I was afforded an opportunity that most people don't have. Growing up in a country like the United States allows its citizens options few people have. Most people allow these opportunities to fall by the wayside, which is disappointing. If I had one piece of advice for students, I would encourage them to explore the option of using a volunteer related job experience as an alternative to a typical summer internship program. The reward will be much greater than any monetary return they will receive otherwise.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with UBELONG in Vietnam?

    Ai: I heard about UBELONG through a friend of a friend (essentially a stranger), which is not always a reliable source, but I decided to go for it and apply to the program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I wasn't sure what to expect, but from the very first email that UBELONG sent me, I could tell that I had made a good choice. They were so helpful, attentive, and supportive, even connecting with me on Skype to make sure that I was adequately prepared to embark on my journey. They talked to my parents, answered all my questions, and calmed some of my fears before I left to immerse myself in a new culture. I could not have been more satisfied with the way UBELONG guided me through!

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Ai: In Ho Chi Minh City, my day-to-day activities included: grabbing a home-cooked breakfast, catching the bus, teaching an English class at a local elementary school in the city, eating lunch, going to another site to teach English to local volunteers, then coming back home and taking a rest. Some days I would also have a Vietnamese lesson, where the same volunteers would teach me common phrases in their language. Usually I would have one day off per week, and I used the weekends to travel out of Saigon to the Mekong Delta, to Da Lat, etc. It was very easy and cheap to plan such tours, which were typically bus tours with food and hotels booked in. During the evening hours, I often met up with my fellow volunteer teachers at a nearby cafe to relax while brainstorming ideas for the next day's lesson.

    Ai volunteering with elementary school children in Vietnam
    Ai volunteering with elementary school children in Vietnam

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Ai: In high school, I had dreamed of volunteering abroad, but I never thought that I would be able to do so. I love kids, I love to volunteer, I love to teach, and most of all, to travel. Being a bilingual first generation Asian American, I have always been fascinated by new languages and cultures. On this trip, not only did I have the chance to learn about Vietnamese culture, I also made friends with the other international volunteers from Britain, France, Ireland, and Australia. I was proud because I even had several chances to correct European stereotypes about Americans.

    The month I spent in Vietnam was not only an eye-opening experience, but it was also a push for me to grow as a person. At home amongst my peers, I was relatively shy and reserved, keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself. Being a role model to the children and a cultural ambassador with the volunteers, I found myself becoming more confident and outwardly compassionate. I learned how important it was to express yourself, to have an open mind, and to love! What makes us fundamentally human is our ability to think, share, create, and of course, to change; although I feel as though I am still in the process of self-discovery, my experience in Vietnam definitely put a whole new perspective on my true self. I am eternally grateful for UBELONG and all of the people I met in Ho Chi Minh City for such an incredible trip!

About the provider

UBELONG is the most affordable, professional and supportive international volunteering organization in the world.

Volunteer abroad in Africa, Asia and Latin America from 1 week to 6 months.

WHAT can you do?

For one week to six months, live in a community and volunteer on a community or environmental project.

WHERE can you go?
Asia: India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos
Latin America: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru
Africa: Ghana, Morocco

WHEN can you go?
Projects run year-round and you can join from one week to six months.

HOW much do you pay?
Costs start as low as US$350 for a 1 week placement.

Among other world-class services, you work 1 on 1 with a UBELONG Mentor and receive a Preparation Booklet, in-country orientation, housing, meals, project supervision and 24/7 support.