The Volunteer Whose Life Was Changed
I did not know what to expect. With minimal preparations – both mental and physical, I embarked on my Global Volunteer (GV) trip to Taiwan. The project I had applied for provided me with the opportunity to interact with Taiwanese elementary students.
The journey was not all smooth. From the start, I had to struggle with communication. As the standard of spoken English of my students as weak, I had to converse with them in Mandarin. However, being a typical Singaporean, I spoke English more than Mandarin at home. With my limited Mandarin vocabulary, I gritted my teeth and braced the challenge. It was no easy feat.
Although speaking in Mandarin 90% of my time in Taiwan was arduous, it was oddly satisfying. Never had I expected myself to be conveying my thoughts in Mandarin, much less engaging elementary students in it. By the end of the project, I was pleased that I was able to muster up courage and speak confidently in Mandarin.
Apart from conversing with elementary students, I was involved in G-Touch Camp. G-Touch (Global Touch) is an initiative to create a bilingual environment for high school students. During the camp, I was given the opportunity to share about Singapore and my AIESEC experience to the Taiwanese Senior High School students – over a hundred of them, that is. To be on stage sharing to a large audience for the first time gave me slight jitters. It was daunting. Nevertheless, I was glad that I inspired some students after sharing my story about overcoming my shyness and speaking in front of a crowd.
Over the short time frame, I could see the impact that I have made. Initially, the 10 senior high school students in my group that I led hand-in-hand with a local university student were relatively reserved. Through various games that we facilitated, the students started to strike conversations with the both of us. On the final day of the camp, the students had to present their understanding and solutions towards a Sustainable Development Goal. The sharing was done in a language they were less familiar in – English. Witnessing them stand before me and share made me felt proud.
If I had to tell my friends my GV experience in one sentence, it would be “I volunteered to change their lives, but they changed mine.”