Alumni Spotlight: Joris Van Doorslaer

Why did you choose this program?

When I was exploring my options, I wasn't entirely sure of exactly what I was looking for in a program - something abroad, something unique & something with variety.

When I discovered that Up with People had the traveling, community impact, and performance aspects, I was amazed this could all fit in one program. With a mission of bringing the world together, that was something I could support.

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

I enrolled in Up with People via their website, an easy apply button. Very shortly after they messaged me for an interview. After that they signed a counselor that helped me with all my questions.

The documents they sent were extremely useful, and helped me get my personal travel needs in order and as soon as I had done that, everything was taken care of.

I arrived to the tour and people welcomed me at the airport. Already that evening I was in my first host family. How unique to not be worried about the logistics and be able to spend all your time on truly experiencing. Very unique.

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

The program is hard to explain, everyone will ask what you are going to do and this is a complex program to explain because it does not just match one box.

Up with People contains so many elements. My tip is to focus on 3 words: travel, perform, & impact. After that the questions will start and you can sidetrack into the topics they want. A second tip, in our mind we find hundreds of reasons to not do something, but when a decision is made then you find hundreds of reasons why you are doing that something.

Take the leap, it will be worth it. If you are currently taking the time to read this, then it already says so much about your desire.

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

Monday is a travel day, love it because you get to hang out on the bus with friends or have some alone downtime with some music or a book.

You arrive into a new city where you will be welcomed in a fun way, sometimes with firetrucks making sounds and the mayor waiting to welcome you. That evening you will meet your new host family, which is always so exciting and fun. Those first night conversations are really unique.

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday are typically days that you will go do volunteer work. This can be a variety of projects, from interaction with kids to labor work. In the late afternoon the group will always come back and have an educational workshop together (so useful & fun). In the evenings you get to know your host family even better and discover local foods.

Friday & Saturday are typically show days. In the morning the stage is set up, some people are rehearsing specific parts, some people are preparing the next week and so many other great things that take place on show mornings. In the afternoon we all rehearse together because who is performing in the show always changes a bit from show to show and it is great to keep making the show better.

In the evenings around 7 or 8 PM the show will start. Amazing moments for the community to come together. On Saturday we stay a bit later to take the stage down. Sunday is our host family day, a day with some more rest, often a nice brunch and then typically I went with my host family to a fun place that they wanted me to see.

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?

My biggest fear upfront was whether the places we were going would be safe and that the host families were safe. Upfront you imagine every worst case scenario. After traveling, I realize how many ways Up with People double checks the safety of its placements.

Host families are selected via community networks and people who sign up are typically just on the great scale of caring. Going to places like Mexico has been way more safe than I expected, since we travel in groups and have good local connections there is great safety built in. Of course you are still traveling and should be aware of yourself, but that is common sense even at home.

Have you recommended this program to others?

Since I participated, my best friend has traveled with Up with People, as well as my sister and several of my host family siblings. This is probably the best indicator that the program is worth it. I definitely do not recommend everything, but this program without a doubt.