Alumni Spotlight: Maria Teresa Brachi Patierno


Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program firstly because I am a lot into children. Plus, this program allows doing at least two different things. On the one hand, I had to teach English to local kids, and on the other, in the afternoon I had to do manual work such as painting, planting and reorganizing the garden. Secondly, it doesn’t require a specific qualification and age isn’t an issue.

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

I really organised all on my own, except from the comments that at least one of my teachers needed to send to Projects Abroad in order to assure that I was suitable for the project I chose.

I was still in high school and I just wanted to go for myself with a friend to make an experience and discover new things. It was my mother and I that contacted the assistance of Projects Abroad, which helped a lot for all the organisation (also with the flights).

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

Sincerely, I didn’t feel so lost when I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, even if I had a little problem with my luggage to arrive. Perhaps I wish I had know ahead of time some basic sentences in Mongolian; Projects Abroad usually send it to the volunteers, but I just didn’t consider them too much. Fortunately, all the tutors are very fluent in English.

A piece of advice is: really leave without any expectations, be ready to face completely different culture and society.

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

So, almost every day of the week is programmed in the same way, except for the weekends and other extras activities.

You wake up around 8 o’clock in the morning, then take your breakfast in the hotel with the rest of your team. Right after, the tutor comes to pick you up with a car and brings you to the typical houses, which are higher than the city center.

The morning you stay inside with the kids. Then there is lunchtime. In the afternoon, there are practical activities as, for example, garden restructuring. Dinner time... Everybody is a little tired but it is a very pleasant moment. Bedtime is a bit early perhaps, but it is important to sleep and have all the energies.

In the weekend, activities are organised, usually to visit the city and main attractions.

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

Going into my experience abroad, my biggest fear was to find some difficulties with the locals and their daily routines. I overcame it by thinking to take all the positive aspects of that wonderful experience. In fact, I learned a lot about their costumes and I continued to di some things also at home in my country.

Did this experience also help you creating new relationships or friends?

I am a really closed and shy person and because of that, I have some difficulties socializing. I have to say that Mongolian people have been very kind and open. I continued writing to my tutor also after going back home. Furthermore, the locals made them understand and it was so interesting talking with people of the same age. We exchanged our Facebook accounts and sometimes keep in touch. It was also very interesting talking to all the other volunteers which are from all over the world.