Alumni Spotlight: Allison Weingarden

Allison is a Christian elementary teacher from Michigan, USA. She is passionate about language, culture, animals, spaghetti, and wiener dogs.

Allison is currently an elementary teacher in Michigan, USA. She loves language, culture, and volunteer travel!

Volunteer Teaching with IVHQ in Bali

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to volunteer in Bali with IVHQ because it was somewhere I had never been before and was far away from home - on the complete opposite side of the world, to be exact! The time difference between Bali and Michigan is 12 hours exactly, and the weather is just as polar opposite. I was also eager to learn about a new culture, very different from any I had ever been immersed in before. I was drawn specifically to the Environmental Education project because it combined two things I am passionate about - environmental conservation and teaching!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

IVHQ is extremely helpful every step of the way. They help volunteers access all of the information they need, from vaccinations to passports and visas to arranging flights. Volunteers ARE responsible for booking their own flights and taking care of all these details on their own, but IVHQ is very supportive in pointing you in the right direction to get it all done stress-free.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

BE RESPECTFUL. I cannot say that enough. There were some volunteers on the project who were there for the wrong reasons, and this became very obvious very quickly to both the locals and the other volunteers. It is disrespectful to stay out partying until 3:00 am the night before you have to teach or work on your volunteer project. Dress appropriately (covered from shoulders to knees) on all projects. Show up ON TIME. Clean up after yourself. It is fine to have fun, enjoy the nightlife, and be on "vacation mode" on the weekends and in the evenings, but don't let it interfere with your volunteering. Show your respect for the people and the culture by following all rules and guidelines, making an effort to learn some of the local language (and use it!), and putting all you've got into your project. The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

For those on the teaching, healthcare, and environmental education programs, a typical day includes 2-3 hours of teaching and 1-2 hours of prep time, at least. Depending on the time of year you volunteer, you may teach in the morning (around 10:00-12:30) or in the afternoon (2:00-4:30). That leaves either the morning or the afternoon open for prep time. Saturdays and Sundays are free days, which you can take advantage of to do some further traveling and exploring!

Hiking in Bali

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

To be honest, I didn't really have any fears going into this experience. I was eager and excited to soak up all that volunteering in Bali had to offer. However, if I had to say one thing that made me nervous, it would the inevitable day that I would have to leave the trip. I knew that I would make new friends and fall in love with the children and not want to leave them. I was right; it was extremely difficult. I overcame this by reminding myself that I now have a community and a family to go back to in Bali, and I am welcome to return anytime! I know I'll be back someday soon.

Did you feel safe in Bali?

This is a question I get a lot from friends and relatives, as well as prospective volunteers. My answer to that is YES and NO. Yes, because you are well taken care of by the local staff. Yes, because the Balinese practice Hindu and rely heavily on the concept of karma; they are not likely to cause you harm intentionally, as this would be bad karma for them. No, because things like illness and unexpected injuries can happen anywhere. No, because a lack of common sense can cause you to get into unsafe situations rather quickly. Use your brain and make smart choices. Don't walk alone at night. Don't ride motor bikes without a helmet. Don't leave your money out where anyone can find it. Follow the same safety rules you would follow at home. If you play it safe and trust in the local staff, you should be just fine.