The impact of volunteering can be unimaginable. I have been engaged in volunteering my whole life. My first experience with volunteering was coaching a recreational basketball team in my home town of Bolton, Connecticut. This was one of my favorite experiences to date; I began this journey in my sophomore year of high school. I continued my coaching career for the next three years and absolutely loved every minute of it. It was amazing because I was able to have such a great impact on the kids that I was coaching, not only was I able to teach them a sport that I loved to play myself, but I was also able to teach them about life, respecting one another, and having fun. Being able to teach them and watch them grow over the three years that I had some of the kids was an amazing experience and to this day if I see the parents of the kids or the kids themselves we always stop and have a chat because of the impact that we had on each other. These kids not only were a lot of fun but they also taught me a lot about myself and what I was capable of. Volunteering has a funny way of giving back to the one doing the service; I felt enlightened and in improved by experience. Not only did I become a better leader from learning about the players and understanding their motivations, but furthermore I became a better individual. I learned the importance of listening to one another and the concept of seeking to understand and then to be understood.
I brought my service experiences with me abroad, especially in my first journey to Guatemala. This service trip was centered on helping the students at a school by developing their marketing through computers. But furthermore we interacted with the students and learned about their daily life so that we may have a better understanding of the impact that we would have upon the school. It was an incredible experience that was humbling as well as enlightening. This experience taught me about the opportunity that is truly available to us in the United States. The education system in Guatemala includes educating the students on how to be successful in a tourist market, which was astounding to me. While they would learn math, science, and how to read and write, these basic subjects were supplemented by classes where they would learn to make products to sell to tourists. This was eye-opening that the best opportunity lied within tourism and that education would not be useful to the students without this.
My service in Budapest has been to help students in middle to high school learn English. I have discussed before in previous journals that English has become a lucrative tool for students and is why it is taught in most schools. Yet it is another example of how opportunity is limited in other nations. It is more economical to learn English at a young age in the same way that the kids in Guatemala learn how to make bracelets. By adapting to their circumstances and understanding what will likely be the most beneficial to their well-being, education systems have adapted. Yet it essentially requires that the world caters to the larger cultures as not only are they one of the more influential, but it is the economically intelligent decision to adapt and adopt. Yet in my volunteering experience the children had an amazing impact on me as they have become extremely friendly to me. They wish to constantly learn and understand because they find English and American culture fascinating; this has allowed me to learn about their culture as well. I think it is extremely important to learn about foreign cultures as it creates a much greater context. It is clear that the American culture is in a way taught in other school systems, yet we do not necessarily have that experience in America, which makes it easy to turn a blind eye and go your entire life without understanding another culture. This is why I believe it is extremely important to travel otherwise you will never be able to fully understand people, and interpret why people do the things they do. The more culture you can understand the more universally you can see humanity shine through surface interactions.