Name: Dipabali Chowdury
University: Cornell University
Languages spoken: English, Bengali, and Spanish
Past travel experience: Intermediate
Volunteer Abroad project: Teaching English in Quito, Ecuador
Duration: 1 week
Start month: January
Claim to fame: Interned with the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG volunteer?
I decided to be a UBELONG volunteer because I was looking for a service program that would provide me with an enriching experience and allow me to culturally immerse myself as a local. The UBELONG program was highly affordable, flexible and most importantly offered an authentic experience with a host family.
What was your impact on your project?
As a volunteer in one of Ecuador’s primary schools, I worked with a local teacher to develop lesson plans, lead classes and implement interactive learning activities for the children. I was able to help supplement the coursework and teach English to students.
Many schools in South America do not have the resources or human capital to teach English in classrooms. I was able to introduce basic English lessons to these children and help provide individualized attention to the students in the classroom.
Tell us about somebody you met who impressed you.
While exploring Ecuador’s artisan street markets, I came across two brothers about eight years old, carrying around a polishing kit to shine shoes. I was immediately struck by their work ethic. It was early on a Saturday morning and while all the other children their age were playing, these two boys were ready to work. Their persistence and determination was admirable. At that moment, I knew that I should not take anything in life for granted.
Too many of us complain too much about the smallest things in life. Just a simple interaction with these boys reminded me that these complaints were minuscule in comparison to the difficulties and challenges children in developing countries are facing on a daily basis.
What was the funniest moment?
The funniest moments were spent with the host family. Since I am not fluent in Spanish, I often found myself struggling to explain myself. Sometimes the meanings got lost in translation and my sentences would make no sense.
The same happened when I was trying to teach the host family English. Our learning exchanges turned into laughing sessions and an amazing opportunity to appreciate cultures.