How Volunteering In Mexico Changed My Perspective

IVHQ volunteer in Mexico, Kellane

IVHQer, Kellane Kornegay, gives us an insight into her 4 weeks spent volunteering in Mexico.

Sitting on the bus leaving Merida feels like the perfect time to reflect on the incredible experience I have had here in Mexico. I’ve been in the country for 6 weeks and worked with IVHQ and their local partner organization for 4 of those weeks. I had planned to head home a week ago but guess what, I’m still here.

IVHQ volunteer Kellane volunteering in Mexico

To say I was confused before I came here would be a huge understatement. I didn’t know what I wanted to eat for dinner, never mind what job I wanted to have or what city I wanted to live in. Being a recent college graduate, it was the first time in my life that I did not have something planned out for me. It was exciting, of course, but also terrifying.

Amongst all the possibilities and directions I could take my life, traveling was the one thing that I was 100% sure I wanted to do. Deciding to take a trip and volunteer abroad was easy. Deciding where to go and what to do was the more difficult part. I looked through all the programs with IVHQ and when I got to Mexico, it just felt right. I went with my gut feeling and picked Mexico and am so glad I did.

Exploring Mexico as an IVHQ volunteer

Before this trip I had traveled a little bit. I did a study abroad program in Spain and took another trip there the following year. I thought I knew things about different countries - I thought I was cultured and “cool” because I had been to another country. It wasn’t until I arrived in Mexico that I realized how little of the world I have actually seen and how little I understand. The more you learn the less you know I guess.

I chose the Teaching English program in Merida and was placed at an elementary school named Serapio. I had never taught anything a day in my life. I wasn’t nervous to start - I was scared. I feel silly about that now because, of course, first thing when I walk into the school I am getting hugs from tiny strangers who are so incredibly curious and interested in me. The kids were so kind it hurt. I got gifts and notes from several of the students just on my second day. I realized that day that while I made this trip to make a difference in their community, I am more so making a difference within myself. Those kids have no idea what kind of impact they have made on my life and I hope that I was able to make some sort of impact on their lives as well.

IVHQ volunteer teacher, Kellane, in Mexico

The volunteer experience isn’t just about the volunteer work either. The amazing people I have met and the friends I have made will never be forgotten. Traveling with IVHQ and living at the volunteer house has allowed me to meet other volunteers from all over the world that I would not have otherwise met. I made friends with people I can’t imagine not knowing before and I made memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. I have so much fun with the other volunteers but am also able to learn from them. That may be the difference in a one-hump and a two-hump camel (thanks to my friend Stone for that one) or how to love yourself and be adaptable to change.

As mentioned before, I am still here in Mexico. After four weeks at the volunteer house and a week traveling with my Mom, I decided I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I canceled my flight and stayed one more week in Merida. That week is now up and I am headed for Playa Del Carmen with my new friends and volunteers. I don’t have any plans past Sunday. I don’t know where I will be traveling or for how long. If you knew me at all you would know that is crazy. I am a huge planner and always have a schedule. This is just one example of how this trip as changed me.

I am not a completely different person. I am still the friend or family member that everyone knows me as back home. I am changing, though. Or maybe it isn’t change that is happening but a discovery. I am turning into the person I am supposed to be and this trip has helped me do that.

To those who are thinking about volunteering and traveling - I cannot tell you that it will be the best time of your life. I cannot tell you that you will make a bunch of friends and make a difference and become a better person. Everyone’s experience is different. I can tell you, though, that this was the best decision I could have made for myself at this time. I don’t have all the answers now or know what career path I want to take or where I want to live. However I do have a better idea. I know that I want to keep having adventures and that I can make them happen if I really want to. I know that I can live day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and make decisions based on how I feel NOW, not how I think I might feel in the future. My perspective has changed, I am so excited to continue to learn about myself and this big, crazy world that we live in.

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