Alumni Spotlight: Kristina Kuroiwa


Kristina teaches dance/drama to students with disabilities.

Why did you choose this program?

I heard of a colleague who was using the program. I knew I wanted to travel and volunteer. Other programs that I had researched were either too pricey or did not fit what I was looking for. I liked that you did not need prior experience - that you can opt for volunteering for a short amount of time, such as two weeks.

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

I organized everything on my own. I am not a student at a university. The application process was simple and straightforward. I would also get occasional email reminders and the service team responded within a day. You only need your passport and the information for your arrival. There are a few simple questions to answer and that’s about it.

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

I’m not sure if there is anything. The recommended lists were a little under-explained. And the ones answering the questions prior to leaving were more like a third party. I would say, if you have questions prior to leaving, know that you are most likely speaking with someone not directly related to that specific project and do not be afraid to keep asking until you get an answer.

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

In Cuzco, I would wake up, eat a small breakfast with my host family, walk to the bus and meet another volunteer, ride to the school, and assist with the teacher with 3-5 year olds. There was a period of time the teacher would leave us alone with the kids and we had to instruct (with no given lesson plans). We would review colors, sing songs in English, color or play.

In Iquitos, I would accompany a guide who instructed me on medicinal plants of the Amazon. In the afternoon, I would accompany the director and ask neighbors if they were familiar with these plants and it’s used. I would then put the pictures and descriptions into a ppt slide.

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

My biggest fear was probably not having someone there to wait for me at the airport or train station, etc. I didn’t know where I was going and I had not spoken to the people who were to wait for me. I was just told someone would there. And fortunately, someone always was there. Had there not have been, I realize I could have called and they would have responded promptly.

What would you have done differently?

One thing I would have maybe done differently is to bring a souvenir for my host family. You definitely do not have to and it’s not expected, and you can buy a gift there depending on where you are, but knowing how well they try to care for you, I would have brought one with me.

Also, I would have put in more of an effort to do activities that were not on the agenda that I was interested in.