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The Unexpected Parts About Coming Home From Your ILP Semester

Posted by Emily Cummings on 2/6/18 10:58 AM

Volunteering abroad with ILP

According to these ILP volunteers, sometimes what you come home with is a little unexpected.

Tasting the local food and puzzling out the exchange rate are only a few things that are difficult about your first week abroad, no matter where you go. But what about the things that are hard when you get home

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Quite a few volunteers get more culture shock when they get back home than they did when they started living in a foreign country … a bit unexpected right? 
We’ve talked to a handful of volunteers who just got home from a few of the ILP humanitarian programs in Romania, Haiti or the Dominican Republic to see exactly what coming home was like after giving an English education to children who would never be able to afford it, or giving lots of love to those Romanian kids while volunteering in an orphanage: 

On your semester, did you notice your perspective changing? 

“I immediately became more humbled about what we have in America. At the orphanage in Haiti, you are treated amazing and live like royalty there! You have clean drinking water, running water (mostly), electricity (most of the time), fans and good food, but it’s still very different than everything back home and it makes you miss how easy it is to get your favorite snack or even take a hot shower.

You go out in the neighborhood and there’s seven and eight year olds carrying water on their head up a mountain to use, they have no electricity, they’re cutting down food from trees and keeping busy while playing with sticks and tires and that makes you sit and think about all the amazing things we have in the United States.”

— Emily E., ILP Haiti 

“One of the first things I noticed about being in Romania was that I felt so much happier! Past problems and current problems seemed easier to bear, and I wasn't as worried about the little things. I think a big part of being happier and being more grateful is that I wasn't focused on myself, and I really learned how to serve others.”

— Katherine G., ILP Romania 

“My entire perspective on life changed ... Working with the kids in Romania got me thinking about things that I’m grateful for. They may seem very insignificant to me, but to those kids, I’m sure it would mean the world to them to be able to do or have some of these things ... I’m grateful for my ability to walk, to be able to eat on my own, to be able to have physical touch with those around me.” 

— Rachel W., ILP Romania 

volunteer at an orphanage

What is it like being home, after living abroad? What do you think about yourself has changed the most after your ILP semester? 

“At first it was so much fun to be home and see all my friends and family, but now that I've been home a couple of weeks, I just want to go back and see my little Romanian kiddos.  I feel like I can love more. These kids were so easy to love, and that is all they wanted and needed! I felt like every day my capacity to show love and patience was being tested, but that I never reached the end of my rope, even on the hardest days. That is definitely something that I want to remember and carry over with me.”

— Katherine G., ILP Romania 

“I had way more culture shock being back in America than I ever did in the DR. As soon as I got home, I got in the shower and I had a meltdown, I seriously cried my eyes out. As I looked around at my bathroom that was bigger than a lot of people’s homes, it made me realize how blessed I am. My semester abroad made me a lot more positive, thankful, and happy. I now realize it’s not about what kind of house you have, how many numbers you have in your bank account, or what size dress you wear. It’s all about the people you surround yourself with. I would never trade my experience for the world. “

— Lauren S., ILP Dominican Republic 

"Being home after my semester is hard. I miss Haiti so much! I miss the amazing kids, the welcoming people in our neighborhood and most of all I miss the simplicity of life in Haiti. The people in Haiti had next to nothing yet they were some of the happiest people I have ever met. My experience living there has made me realize that you don’t need a lot to be happy. It’s not about materialistic things, it’s who you surround yourself with and it’s a mindset that you choose. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything! I wish everyone could go to Haiti and see for themselves and then maybe the world would be a happier place.”

— Emily E., ILP Haiti 

ILP Haiti

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Topics: Europe, All About ILP + Volunteering, Caribbean


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