Alumni Spotlight: Manouk Gidding

23 year old girl from The Netherlands who is passionate about traveling, cheese (stereotypical Dutchie, haha) and dogs.

Why did you choose this program?

Bali always spoke to me, as there is so much to do and see in such a short amount of time, because it's such a small island, but it has so much to offer: waterfalls, temples, amazing beaches, jungle etc.

I loved teaching English in India and Cambodia and I feel this is such a great and simple way to give back to local communities. Knowing how to speak English opens up so many doors for these kids, especially because Bali is relying so much on tourism, and speaking English is a big part of that. I loved the fact that my host mom Ketut has set up the whole program on her own just because she wanted to do something for her neighborhood and it's really rewarding to be able to help her fulfill her dreams.

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

PMGY provided me with basically everything. The gave me a really handy volunteer handbook that had all the information about culture, packing lists, the actual volunteering, tips for teaching, tips for traveling in the weekends, etc. I also attended a webinar about their Bali program, which was really helpful; it was just nice to have someone talk through everything.

They also organized a pick up for me from the airport and the local team helped me book the taxi and boat tickets to the other islands, like Gili. The only thing I organized on my own were my flights, but if I wanted to, they could've helped me with that too. PMGY was also really helpful with getting my visa, as that was a bit of a pain to get in The Netherlands. I organized the weekend stuff on my own, but with help from Ketut's recommendations for boat companies and stuff.

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

Expect the unexpected, go with the flow, take every day as it goes, embrace the good and the bad moments, allow yourself to have bad days too; it's all very cliché, but the best way to do this is to go without any expectations and just embrace what happens down the road.

You will experience so much more if you just go out and explore instead of having this set idea in your head of how it's supposed to be. But also be honest with yourself: if you are having a bad day, feeling homesick or anything like that, don't deny it, it's okay to acknowledge the bad day so you can learn from them and they can help you grow. There's no rainbow without a little rain :)

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

An average week in the life of a Bali volunteer is like in eat-pray-love.

You get up in the morning and get your breakfast - there's always fresh fruit and toast available and sometimes even pancakes or traditional Indonesian cakes (yummm) - and then you just walk to the school. You help the teachers in the first hour with teaching the kids Indonesian and after that it's English time. You teach them for a few hours, walk back to the house, get some lunch, chill by or in the pool and in the afternoon it's time for teaching again. After the second class of the day, you get back to the house to just chill and do whatever you want, I watched the sunset on the rooftop a couple of times walked through the night market and went out for food in Canggu.

In the weekends you have time to do what you want; I went to so many places, but I think Seminyak, Canggu and Nusa Penida were my favorite.

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

To be honest, I didn't have much fear going to Bali because I had already traveled and volunteered abroad twice, and I already went to Cambodia with PMGY, so I didn't really worry about anything, I knew that there was somebody at the airport to pick me up and, after that, it was all just really easy. I felt like I was well prepared thanks to the webinar and the handbook and browsing Pinterest for days for Bali tips, so I knew what I was getting into.

Can you teach children English without being a native English speaker?

The answer is simple: YES YOU CAN.

I was a bit worried about this the first time I went volunteering because my English is far from perfect and I am not fluent or anything since I'm from The Netherlands, but my advice for all future non-native English speakers is: don't worry. You know so much more than you think you do and it's actually an advantage that you are a non-native speaker because you know how it feels to learn English and you know how hard it can be, so you understand the children more!

Native English speakers have the tendency to speak faster/with accents/slang from back home, which can be confusing for the kids sometimes. As a non-native English speaker, you have the upper hand here because we talk a bit slower for the children and we don't use fancy English words ;) You can always look up lessons plans etc on Pinterest/Google, so don't worry about not knowing what to teach; games and songs are always good too - I started and ended every lesson with head-shoulders-knees and toes, which was an absolute hit.