Alumni Spotlight: Malin Claesson


Hi everyone! I am Malin, a 21 year old girl from Sweden who decided to take a few gap years and work and see the world before university. There's nothing I love as much as travelling and experiencing different cultures.

Why did you pick this program?

It was a bit of a coincidence. For a long time I've been wanting to volunteer somewhere, and after working at a school back home as a substitute teacher I was even more certain that I wanted to go help young people and children somewhere.

I have been to South-east Asia many times before and I really love it there. I was google-ing and tried to find a genuine, authentic and local organisation along all the big volunteering agencies and I came across Openmind Projects.

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

If you're thinking about volunteering - just DO it! Whether you want to teach English, IT or volunteer with ECO tourism you can find one or more projects with Openmind Projects that will suit you.

To travel and experience a country and culture at the same time as you actually help and give back is a great feeling. Thanks to my local friends at the organisation I got to see and explore parts of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia that I never would be able to by myself as a tourist.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

The hardest part is that you want to do everything and there never seem to be enough time. And to leave. After I had stayed for three months at the same place with the same people we all became very close, like a family, and it was very tough to leave them not knowing when I will see them again.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

One of my favorite memories is when I brought the Swedish tradition midsummer to Nong Khai, this small town in North-east Thailand. Midsummer in Sweden is the happiest day of the year. Hopefully the weather is sunny and you start in the morning and keep going all day and night with different activities and a lot of food.

It was amazing to get everyone involved in making flower wreaths for our hair and we were listening to Swedish music all day. At night we danced around the first ever May pole in Nong Khai, I taught everyone how to do it just as we do it back home and afterwards we had a big BBQ.

I love the exchange of cultures that I got to experience during my time abroad. It was great to have my friends from Laos, Myanmar, Kambodja and Thailand celebrating a Swedish holiday with me that they never heard of before.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

There's nothing I could've experienced in the same way at home. But most important for me was the interaction with people that have grown up in a completely different culture and environment.

To get to know all the differences between you but also despite the differences that you are exactly the same in so many ways. And to realize how little I know about things that for someone else is just casual, climbing a coconut tree for example.

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

To travel with an open mind and a lot of patience. Things will be different then what you're used to and you can never ever think that your way is the right way. Working together with a team from many different countries is sometimes challenging but also a lot of fun and a great experience.