Alumni Spotlight: Nilaja Taylor

Nilaja is a humorous, extroverted introvert that enjoys every moment she has been blessed with.

Why did you choose this program?

Teaching with IVHQ in Argentina

I cannot tell a lie...Argentina was the first program on the IHVQ list. I specifically chose IHVQ because, after careful research, it seemed to be one of the most affordable and reliable organizations. I contribute their high quality website, YouTube, and Facebook pages with a large alumni presence to my decision.

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

My program provider assisted me with getting familiar with the area where I would be doing my volunteer work as well as the city center. They took us to a location where we received the best exchange rate for our money as well.

Lastly, they introduced us to our placements and ensured our compatibility and satisfaction with the projects. They organized local excursions within the city of your location however organizing travel throughout the country I organized on my own.

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

A piece of advice I would give to someone going on my program is to not go with the intention that you are going to change what they have already going on.

What I mean by that is you will encounter a community's way of doing something that is different from your own. I think it is best to remember that different is not inferior or less efficient, but that different is just that, different.

I think it would be best to remember that we are only in these programs for a short period of time and that we should focus on how best can I support the program while I am here.

My advice would be to ask yourself "What can I learn from this experience?" versus "What can I show them how to do in a "better way"?" I think with this approach, even if you end up doing something differently it keeps the doors open to one seeing the difference and then being more motivated to inquire about the new technique or strategy.

Bonus advice* Travel solo as much as you can (even if you make friends at the volunteer house) and invest in a selfie stick. Trust me, it's super fun!

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

An average week looks like work during the day, explore or chill during the evening and weekends. Or for those that have a later placement, explore or chill during the morning and weekends and work during the evenings. With breakfast and dinner being provided, the hunt for lunch is very exciting, especially when you find a local restaurant actually open during siesta time. You will know what winning the lottery feels like!

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?

Festival in Argentina

Honestly, I didn't have any fears. I am not saying that I am SuperWoman or anything but when I came to the decision to do this volunteer trip I was like "What ever happens, happens." As long as I had the address back to the volunteer house and a couple pesos in my pocket I knew if push came to shove I could get back to home base and try again.

What was the most memorable experience from your volunteer service?

I was working in the Teaching program (English Language) with an intermediate English speaking level class. The teacher wanted the session to be oral language practice so the kids (they were juniors or seniors) would ask me questions and then I would facilitate conversations from their initial questions.

Well, let me tell you that they did not just ask basic questions like what's your favorite food. They were asking me about my political beliefs, my religious beliefs and everything deep under the sun. However, one of the most memorable discussions was when one of them asked me about the treatment of Blacks/African-Americans in the United States.

I remember at the end (I get emotional even as I am typing this) I saw a young girl talking to her teacher and she was visibly upset with tears rolling down her cheeks. The teacher said she wanted to talk to me and I was like "sure, no problem." She spoke about a time when she went to London and was on the bus speaking to a Black man. At one point he asked her "are you not afraid of me?" and she was like "no, why?" and then he told her stories of his experience with racism.

She said that our conversation reminded her of that experience and that she wanted to let me know that she and her friends do not feel that way and that "they love Black people." I was like "baby girl, that's all we need, and as I said when asked about my religion. Love is my religion."