Alumni Spotlight: Dallas Selle

Why did you choose this program?

As a business major, sometimes the field can get a little bit rigid and I was looking for something polar opposite than what I typically focus on. I decided I wanted to work on my Spanish language skills and spend sometime away from modern conveniences while volunteering.

I found the jungle conversation project in the Peruvian Amazon and it was exactly what I was looking for. I volunteered over Christmas and New Years, so new volunteers for projects get put on hold until after those two weeks.

In place of normal projects, the Holiday Experience program is designed for volunteers to experience a little bit of all of the local projects over those two weeks. The holiday program was a great way to volunteer while on my school break and get to see a little bit of everything that the local organization takes part in.

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

I found the project through a partner organization and they set up everything except for my flights. The partner organization connects volunteers to local organizations to wherever they are wanting to go and once you get to your location the local team takes over. Prior to your departure they give you a handbook on what to expect, things to you need to bring, and things you need to do before you arrive. The local organization I was with is called Maximo Nivel, they are also an amazing organization. I arrived in Peru a few days before my volunteer placement and they offered airport pickup and additionally home stay nights. They told me where I needed to be, when I needed to needed to be there, and what to expect. They made it an incredibly easy process the entire way through all I had to do was show up.

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

Honestly, I wish I was able to stay longer. I was in Peru for a little over 4 weeks, I volunteered for 3 of those weeks, and I left really wanting more.

It's not always possible for everyone, but if you're hesitant on how long to make your trip because you're worried you may get homesick or be ready to leave, I assure you once you're there you'll be wishing you could extend your trip.

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

For the jungle program it really depends on where you go and what time of year.

I was at Reserva Tierra Linda in January, which is during the rainy season in Peru. Volunteers leave from Cusco on Monday and it's anywhere from a 6 to 10 hour journey depending on the road conditions (bring snacks).

The jungle program is ran like a family where everyone cooks together, cleans together and works together. The schedule is pretty relaxed and depending on how long you're there also depends on how in depth you'll get with the projects.

I was only there a short time so I did things such as garden maintenance, planted new trees for an orchid, and made a new path. You typically work for a few hours after breakfast and then after lunch. In the jungle you have a lot of leisure time to explore the area and relax. There's no electricity so bring books and things to keep you occupied. On weekends you're able to go to a small village to get wifi and anything you may need.

During the holiday program every day of the placement is a little different. You stay at a homestay in Cusco and are either in a morning or afternoon volunteer group, both shifts are about usually about 5-6 hours so there's plenty of time to explore the city or go on day trips. The weekends are yours to travel.

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?

This was my first trip alone and my Spanish is fair from perfect so I was mostly nervous about meeting friends and communicating. As soon as I got of off the plane I met some fellow travelers and realized how friendly the locals are when tourists at least attempt to speak to them in Spanish.

The partner organization was also really helpful in setting up a network to communicate in before you get there and giving you some basic survival phrases.