This post comes to us from volunteer abroad program participant, Shelby Willburn. Shelby will be volunteering abroad in Chile with API. You can learn more about the program that Shelby is participating in here: https://www.apistudyabroad.com/experiential-programs/
Name: Shelby Willburn
Home town: Canyon, Texas
Hobbies: Playing with dogs, spending time with family, shopping for travel products and clothes, planning for future travel
College: West Texas A&M University – BBA International Business
Favorite Place I have visited: Kasane, Botswana-Chobe National Park
On her path to volunteering abroad:
“Volunteering wasn’t always one of my biggest passions. My whole life I have dreamed of living in a big city and having an administrative job. This all changed when I heard an announcement for a school trip to Europe my freshman year. I distinctly remember sitting in class when the daily activities began to be read over the intercom. Normally, this is something that I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to, but I heard one thing that caught my attention: “Interested in going to Europe this summer to see the Eiffel Tower? Come tomorrow to Mrs. Bazaldua’s class and learn about this opportunity.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t even wait until the next day to find out what this was all about. After I talked to her, I was sold. My parents have never even been overseas, so it was a bit of a shock for them when I told them that I was going to go on this trip, no matter what. I worked very hard to raise money for my trip- including starting a jewelry business called “Just Bead It.” The hard work I put in really paid off when I arrived in Paris! Now looking back, I can see that was the trip that sparked the traveler in me.
I just returned from a semester abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, where I studied at the University of Cape Town. While there I tried to get involved in the community as much as I could. Once a week, I went with a group called Shawco to Manenberg, to teach young children English. I also volunteered at a men’s home; Beth Uriel. This was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was able to help students learn the difference between addition and subtraction, as well as some multiplication and division, to solve math problems. I now know that these experiences lit a fire within me to help. The girl that once wanted a big city life, was committed to service from that moment on.
I will be participating in a volunteer program with API in Santiago, Chile this summer for two weeks. I will be teaching English, while living in a homestay for the first time ever. I cannot wait to get there and experience everything this country and city has to offer. I am looking forward to meeting the kids and my homestay parents. I am going to miss my family of course and my dog, but I know this is what I am supposed to be doing so it isn’t very hard for me to leave!
After reflecting on my previous international experience, my advice to myself, and any future volunteers, is to always keep an open mind and have hope for the unknown. I live my life by the quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I truly think this is what gives me confidence to do everything that I do. When traveling, it is so hard to remember that you are not there to give or change people, but to learn from them. My goal for this program is to take every opportunity that is presented to me, whether it be an early morning talk before school with my host family or going out with locals. I want to experience as much as I can in two weeks and learn everything I can from this community that I am yet to discover.”