Alumni Spotlight: Julka Marcek


Hi! My name is Julka and I'm from The Netherlands. I have a gap year and while not traveling, I'm working as a waitress in a Grand-Café in my hometown. I love to travel, paint, socialize, act and teach.

Why did you pick this program?

Julka: I picked this education program from African Impact in Moshi town because I always wanted to go to Africa to do volunteering work. This program has a clear structure, which in my opinion is one of the best parts. You're not teaching children the alphabet over and over again, but giving them new grammar and topics each week. This curriculum is already set up, so you just have to follow it.

You may be there for 2 or 4 weeks, but the 20 week lesson plan is what really makes the difference. So you're really making an impact, no matter how short your stay may be. This seems logical, but during my search off volunteering organisations, I found out that its harder to find than it seems!

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

Julka: I yell at them "WHY ARE YOU WAITING, JUST GO!" Because it is one of the best experiences you will ever get. But I also warn them to go with an organisation which really makes an impact and is sustainable. Otherwise you might get the feeling that you didn't contribute and got involved with the community as much as you would have liked and then the total experience can feel not as great as it could have been.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

Julka: The hardest part was my first and my last week. The first week because I had to get used to all the differences. You try to do your best at home, preparing as much as you can. But in real life it is still so different; eating different kinds of food, different ways of socializing, hearing and speaking another language all the time, different kind of weather... it is pretty intense. But you will get used to it and will love it, so that is why my last week was one of the hardest parts as well, the saying goodbye part. You will get so involved with the community, the people and the projects, that it is really hard to leave it all behind.

What made this experience unique and special?

Julka: The fact that I experienced things what I wouldn't have experienced if I was just a plain tourist, is what my trip made unique and special. For example: the Maasai (a tribe in Tanzania) have jumping ceremonials to respectfully say goodbye. I saw one ceremonies of the people I've taught and one from Maasai people I didn't know and had to pay to watch.

The one from my students felt amazing, you could feel that it was about respect and saying goodbye. Everybody got really involved with the ceremony and there was a lot of laughter. The second, from the Maasai whom asked money we felt really distant and impersonal. When I showed movies from this to my Maasai students, they burst out in laughter. Apparently, they Maasai whom I didn't know, were just jumping around, it was not a real ceremonial at all.

What do you do in the weekends, when you're not attending projects?

Julka: During the weekends you're free from project, so you can attend a lot of trips which African Impact can organise for you. For example a coffee tour, a tour to a Maasai village, Safaris and hiking around town. But you can also go shopping in Moshi, clubbing at Glacier (an outdoor disco) or Laliga, or just chill at Honey Badger, a hotel very close to the volunteer house. You can order a beer or wine, go swimming or use the WiFi. I also took a taxi to visit a friend in Arusha, a huge city an hour and a half away from Moshi, which was amazing as well. So there are a lot of options, you can make your time as great as you want it to be!