Anna Grubic - 2015 Program Participant
Volunteering at the orphanage
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I really wanted the opportunity to travel and experience a new culture. Being in a new environment can be exciting and scary, but United Planet provides details and tons of information to help prepare you.
Why did you choose United Planet?
United Planet is a non-profit organization that supports cultural opportunities unlike any other program I researched. United Planet provides 24/7 support; they were there for me every step of the way!
What made your program experience unique?
United Planet organized a trip to Machu Picchu, they offered cultural activities, and I was able to volunteer in an orphanage all in one week!
What was a typical day like for you as a volunteer in Peru?
I would wake up and my host mom would have breakfast for me. I would then walk to Spanish school and had class from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Next, I would find a cafe with Wifi so I could contact my family to update them. I would then travel home for a delicious lunch prepared by my host mom. I would then volunteer from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. I would then participate in a cultural activity and then go home for dinner. I would spend time with my host mom, read, and go to bed.
What surprised you most about Peru?
How nice all the people were, Peruvians are so friendly.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff answered all my questions, got my in touch with former volunteers, prepared me by providing resources, and made sure I had everything before I traveled.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Peru?
I wish I would have researched more fun things to do so I could have been better prepared.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Not as difficult as I imagined it would be. People are very friendly and are willing to help out! Most of them speak a little bit of English so that was really nice.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Studied my Spanish a little bit more!
Do you have any packing tips for volunteers headed to Peru?
The weather constantly changes, so bring clothing that you can layer easily with. Also, you do a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must! Since the altitude is so different, some people bring motion sickness medicine, but I drank coca tea and it helped my head.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?
You find yourself. I know it sounds so cheesy but it is so true! I learned a lot about myself and learned what is most important in life. Sometimes, Americans get so caught up with "stuff" and material things, we forget what is most important. You get to not only explore, but live and be part of another culture; it speaks to your soul. I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people throughout my trip, I wouldn't change a thing!
What was your favorite part about the location of your program?
Being surrounded by the mountains; it was absolutely beautiful!
What is one of the most unique experiences you had during your time in Peru?
We had the unique opportunity to visit an all male rehab center. The men discussed their struggles and prepared a delicious traditional Peruvian dish for us; it was so amazing!
What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?
The hardest part about volunteering in Peru was the language barrier at the orphanage. I am not fluent in Spanish (and I should have brushed up on my skills more), but it would have been better if I were to communicate clearly with the children.
Now that you're home, how would you say volunteering abroad has impacted your life?
Where do I even start? Volunteering in Peru was the absolute best week of my life. I never thought I would see and do as much as I did. I felt part of the culture and everyone was very kind. I have a new perspective on life because of this trip. In my everyday life, I do not interact with children. While volunteering at the orphanage, I was able to play with the kids everyday and it really helped me learn more about kids.
I have a new appreciation for the "little" things in life; never take anything for granted and do not live beyond your means.
If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?
Great question, it is so hard to say. Perhaps somewhere in Africa!
Would you recommend United Planet to other volunteers?
In a heartbeat! United Planet was very helpful. They set up volunteers at great sites, and if you want a different experience, they will do what they can to accommodate. They had events planned but also gave you free time to explore. I have already encouraged some of my friends from home to do it!