Alumni Spotlight: Teresa Tianyi You

An undergraduate student studying Surveying and Geomatics Engineering. Loves to experience new things & immerse herself in different cultures. Spare-time traveller, having been to 11 countries across 5 continents and wanting to do more.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose IVHQ Romania (local organization - Care2travel) because firstly I haven't been to the East part of Europe before and would really like to go there for its beautiful scenery and rich history. Also, at that time, I was having winter holiday, so it was a great opportunity to do some volunteering instead of staying in the comfort zone back home :)

It's my second time to volunteer with IVHQ, so personally I’ve more or less had an idea of how volunteering can shape or impact both the community and the volunteers themselves with however little effort in a big picture it seems for each individual - previous volunteering makes me think that, throughout the whole process, it's great to feel that the practical tasks that I am doing is actually helping and moving the whole process forward, and it's even better when considered every volunteer is reaching out and together it results in great & amazing changes to the local people and community. I was somehow content and happy with this type of experience from my perspective, so I decided to do it again and will continue to do more in the future.

Furthermore, IVHQ, as the volunteer agency, guarantees safety and sends volunteers to trusted local non-profit organizations. In this case is Care2travel, which aims to place volunteers in the appropriate positions to meet local practical needs. Therefore, safety, trustworthy, non-profit, value, etc., these are all reasons of many when I decide where to volunteer, which is also why I chose this program.

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

IVHQ assisted me with pre-departure material through a list of steps by email, which was very organized and helped me better prepare the trip.

The local organization C2T provided airport pick-up, accommodation, meals, Hungarian lessons, the cultural tour in neighboring areas and many activities & interactions with the local community.

Well, I didn't have much to organize on my own, apart from booking flights and obtaining a background check, so it was quite smooth to get everything ready before leaving.

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

For someone going on this program, I would say to learn the language as much as possible will be super helpful if your program involves interaction & communication with the local (Miercurea Ciuc (HU:Csikszereda) is a Hungarian-majority speaking region).

Hungarian is a little bit like Finnish and it’s unlike the other languages I’ve learnt before; still, it takes time to practice and isn’t an easy language to get hold of in a short period of time. But still, picking up a few words, I find it more convenient and advantageous during my stay in all sorts of ways.

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

I chose to work on Agriculture and the tasks could vary between seasons, including planting, harvesting, cultivating or other garden maintenance work. At the end of January, when I was volunteering, Csikszereda was covered with heavy snow, so we turned to indoor tasks instead.

An average day of volunteering begins at 10.00 am and it lasts approximately 3-4 hrs – we prepared and cut bottles to make small flower pots, filled with soil for the up-coming spring season, went to the local construction market to purchase material, made a little wooden shelf for the tools and much more.

The highlight of which, is a solar panel heating that encourages air-exchange when it dramatically heats up the room with the use of black-painted tin cans. It’s very green and useful on sunny days as the sun being the energy source, while at nights it has a little electrical generator to turn on the fans, thus also starting the process even without sunlight.

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

Well, I am not usually a very chatty and outgoing person and much prefer novels and music to pass time on my own, actually :) Things have turned much better when I started to travel and visit many places, but still I’ve had concerns over what to do or how to say things properly when spending time with people who I don’t know well or meet for the first time in a different culture or new environment.

However, the Care2travel staff are very supportive and helpful whenever I have questions, and the local people are very warm and easy-going to communicate with, so I just easily let go of my worries and get to hang out with the local volunteers for some really amazing activities and so on. It’s great to feel that connections and trust between people can be established very easily, even though you don’t know the person for a long time. This is very different and hard to find in many places that I’ve been to, but still, it’s more pleasant to keep an open mind and learn to enjoy everything with experience-something-new attitude.

Is it necessary to learn a new language or pick up a few words when visiting a new region?

Yes, I think so. Whether you are visiting for a short stay or prepare to work in a new country, learning a new language is always a bonus. Not only will you find it more convenient on a daily conversation basis or appear to be more open and acceptable when meeting new people, it changes the way you think about things or let you better understand the culture as you learn the language deeper. I learnt German as a second language in school and it occurs to me that the use of words, grammar and tenses more or less reflects a general impression of Germans’ personality as well – logical and practical :) (with respect)

Statistics have also proved that a multi-language speaker is more open and creative since they can take in and understand different cultures quickly. Therefore, learning a new language, regardless of how well you speak, is effectively helping to understand the culture and its people better. It’s a new experience and surely very rewarding & fulfilling.