I picked Volunteers for Peace because they offer a large selection of volunteer opportunities in any country you can think of. I chose to go to Spain since I had never been before and I wanted to immerse myself in a new language. I decided to work with children because I felt that they could teach me as much as I was teaching them.
Why did you pick this program?
What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
Although my program only required English, I wish someone had told me to learn some Spanish beforehand. When I flew to Madrid, no one knew how to speak English. So, trying to change trains and asking for directions was very difficult.
I also wish I had spent more time in Spain. When going abroad to Europe, I learned that countries are very close together and therefore easily accessible.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I would tell them to go for it! You have the opportunity to step into a new world and a new way of life. Don't be afraid to discover and learn about different places because it will benefit your future. I think that gaining a new perspective on the world is the best thing to have. By sharing my experiences with my friends, they can one day do the same.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
The hardest part about going abroad was missing out on some things. Volunteering takes up most of your time, so I didn't get to visit major cities or eat a lot of traditional food. I would suggest doing as much as possible in your free time such as meeting new people and trying something new. You are in a different environment so take advantage of it!
What made this experience unique and special?
After only a few days, a young girl named Neda was very interested in trying to interact with me. She would speak and point things out, and I would communicate back to her in the best way that I could. Neda made my experience very personal and something I will always look back on.
Being able to visit some beautiful and historical sites added to my experience. I saw the town's castle, museums, and churches. Walking through and learning about Villena, Spain made me feel like a local, especially being the small town that it is.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
During my first day, my friends and I decided to walk around after our break. As we were making our way down a street, we noticed that everything was closed. I later learned that everyone takes a siesta (an afternoon nap) every single day for at least 3 to 4 hours. In Spain, people generally do not revolve their lives around their work but more about what happens after it.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
My one piece of advice is to learn some helpful phrases in another language for wherever you are traveling to. For example, if you are going to France, you probably want to become familiar with French. I would learn how to say: hello, how are you, my name is...
You should also learn how to ask for directions or give directions to your desired destination. Remember that you are entering another country, so they do not have to know your language in order to communicate with you. Also, learning another language is always beneficial!
What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?
When I reflect back, I thought that my purpose for going on this journey was to impact others. The main focus of my project was to go to various small schools and assist Spanish children with learning English, along with educating them about countries other than Spain. But, I soon learned that this experience had greatly impacted me.
While teaching others about where I come from, they reciprocated and taught me about their lives. I discovered my passion and curiosity for other cultures, and the importance of appreciating them.