Fine, let’s do it but only as an international volunteer!
“ When it comes to holidays, people usually prefer relaxing on the beach, breathing fresh air from the mountains or just having a quiet rest at home. Like everybody else, I was used to doing that. I offered myself a ‘breaking free’, for a year. I wanted it to be very special, fulfilling and of course closer to what I am. That’s why I volunteered abroad.
I joined Solidarités Jeunesses Vietnam, a Vietnamese NGO, in Hanoï last december for 2 months. At the beginning, I only had to work as a PR department supporter. I wanted to keep working in Marketing. A few days before my arrival, my coordinator Linh offered me to teach english to some Vietnamese… I said yes, despite a total lack of experience (and I admit, of envy …).
I was thrown in at the deep end, from the very first day. There were many students, divided into 2 groups, each group being led by a foreign teacher – Josep (Spanish) and Hanneke (Dutch). Really impressed, I stayed back the whole first week. Also, I wanted to learn from the current teachers and to observe the students. The pressure was reduced down at the end of the week, at Josep’s departure lunch, entirely made by … the students.
Finally, I found my feet pretty fast. The students not only welcomed me with open arms, they totally placed their trust in me. My lack of experience has been irremediably my great strength: I totally relied on my imagination, I discovered skills (well) hidden and above all, I could be myself.
Confidence had gradually been established on both sides. From generic topics, we had come to talk about more spiritual and personal topics. The cultural barrier had disapeared and the lessons had taken on a whole new dimension: we laughed out loud, we sang loudly, we danced on demand, we shared breakfast or lunch or dinner without any particular reason. Most of the time, we didn’t see the time flying…
English had become more natural for them. Step by step, I allowed them to speak vietnamese. A great occasion for me to learn it also. When I didn’t understand a word or a sentence, my students immediately translated it into english. Their writings had also become more fluid (and written mainly in English)! I sometimes got caught up in the game of writing in vietnamese.
I stayed 3 more months than planned, so 5 months in total. They achieved the IMPOSSIBLE: making me feel like home. A HUGE thank you to MY students for welcoming me into their world and of course to my coordinator and friend Linh for her unwavering support.“
Mélodie (France) – DECEMBER 2017/MAY 2018