I picked this program on a whim as a means of finding an eye-opening experience while traveling abroad. I was at first hesitant to go to India, but after talking to one of the coordinators from LeaveUrMark, I knew volunteering at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf in Bangalore would be worthwhile.
Ashley is a graduate from Nassau Community College with a degree in Elementary Education. After college, she dabbled in many different working environments, especially in the food industry. She has done everything from writing reviews on Long Island's most prestigious restaurants to currently hosting at The Melting Pot Fondue restaurant.
Her passion in life is traveling and doing charity work at her local parish, St. Martins of Tours in Amityville.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I tell anyone interested in doing something meaningful in an underdeveloped country to definitely consider going with a program that will make you feel safe and comfortable.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I would tell them to be patient, kind, and open to new experiences. It was sometimes hard for me to adjust to the social norms of the Indian culture, but because I was open to learning, I was able to adjust in my own time. For instance, it took me a while to get used to eating with my hands, but when I did, I continued to do it back at home!
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Although I had wonderful experiences with the other interns, my fondest memory is of the pre-K class I was volunteering with at the Sheila Kothavala Institute For The Deaf. During school recess, I would go outside with the children and throw frisbee. They had so much energy and it was always my favorite part of the day.
One day we were throwing the frisbee around when a random but beautiful butterfly landed on my left shoulder. The kids were ecstatic and all smiled while making the sign for "butterfly". The simplicity of their happiness touched me and has become a meaningful moment in my life.
Was traveling alone intimidating?
At first, it was, especially because the flight is so long. It took me 22hrs to arrive in Bangalore. Honestly though, traveling by yourself builds character and is now my preferred way to travel. All I can say is to follow your intuition.