World Unite! Volunteering, Internships, Cultural Travel

Volunteering, Internships and Intercultural Learning in Tanzania, Zanzibar, India, Morocco, Israel, Nicaragua, Bolivia, China, Japan, Ghana, Galapagos, Ecuador


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11 areas in Tokyo you MUST visit!

Are you planning to go to Japan for a holiday or would you like to work and live in Japan for one year on a Working Holiday Visa? No matter what reason you’re coming to Japan for – you cannot miss the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo! Thore from Denmark is currently doing a several-month internship in this fascinating city and has listed his personal 11 favorite places in town.

My name is Thore and I’m currently doing a media internship in Tokyo. Join me on my stroll through my favorite locations in this stunning city!

 

#1: Shibuya

Surely you’ve heard of Shibuya! Shibuya is the new center of the city and famous for the impressive Shibuya Crossing. Can you imagine that approximately 2,500 people are thought to cross it at a time? Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s main attraction for tourists, and there is a reason why: Not only that Shibuya is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the world; the whole area is filled with fancy stores, hip bars, amazing restaurants and exciting clubs. Trust me: You won’t be able to forget the amazing atmosphere here anytime soon!

Thore’s favorites in Shibuya: I love the shopping streets around Basketball Street. You’ll find everything you need here and I promise you that the cozy atmosphere will cause you to stay much longer than you initially wanted. Stroll through the narrow alleys and discover hidden events or concerts of local bands.

 #2: Asakusa

Asakusa is Tokyo‘s center of traditions. The temple Senso-ji is the main tourist attraction in this area, symbol of the country’s Buddhist traditions and history. However, just across Sumida river, you will be able to admire the majestic 634 meter high Skytree, embodying modernity, design and technique. I am always amazed at how close tradition and modernity are in this city!

Thore’s favorites in Asakusa: Take a walk in streets around Senso-ji temple and experience some authentic Japanese culture. You will be able to see people walking around in Kimonos, giving the area a very special vibe. If you need some pampering and a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, visit the Jakotsuyu Onsen, which is located in an alley right next to Senso-ji temple. It is simply relaxing. The fee is only 460 JPY (under 4 EUR). Asakusa doesn’t only unfold its special atmosphere during the day: Come back and night to see the evening light show at Skytree! Can you imagine the view from above? Yes, it is amazing.

#3: Shinjuku

Shinjuku means „new place to be“ and it definitely is! The area is Tokyo’s most famous entertainment and shopping district. The busy area is full of cult art, nice views, entertainment and great ramen. Many young people live here and you can definitely feel their vibe!

Thore’s favorites in Shinjuku: Don’t miss the world’s busiest train station: More than 3.5 million passengers pass through Shinjuku Station every day. Shinjuku Station is enormous! Take a break at Shinjuku Gyoen, a huge park with different gardens. It’s variety of plants is absolutely amazing. Golden Gai is THE place to have a drink or two. It is a small area with tiny bars, famous both as an area of architectural interest and for its nightlife. Enjoy the authentic atmosphere while having and after-work drink with your friends or colleagues!

#4: Ueno

Ueno hosts Ueno Park and Zoo, the National Museum and a wonderful market. This place is ideal if you are looking to escape from the high pace of the city: Ueno’s relaxing atmosphere is simply inviting and you will notice that the vibe is very different from places like Shibuya and Shinjuku, even though it‘s also filled with people. Ueno Park and Zoo are definitely worth a visit. The zoo fee is only 600 JPY (less than 5 EUR) and besides the animals, you can also enjoy the scenic beauty of the park. At the oposite end of the park you will find some quiet temples, located in this stunning natural surrounding.

Thore’s favorites in Ueno: Check out the market opposite Ueno Station. Here you will everything from the latest sneakers to cheesy Japanese souvenirs. The vendors stand by their stores and shout their offers. In the middle of it all, right next to Ueno-Hirokoji Station, there is the most amazing Sushi restaurant you will ever find: „Okatimachi Matsuzakaya“ serves the freshest and tastiest Sushi you’ll ever have. The prices are very reasonable, and it has great service.

#5: Harajuku

When you get off the train at Harajuku Station, you have two options: You can either go to the left and visit Yoyogi Park, famous for its numerous events and concerts; or you can go to the right and shop in one of the hippest areas in Tokyo. Another choice to make between traditions and modernity! I‘d recommend you not to miss out on either one and to check out both locations!

Thore’s favorites in Harajuku: Grab a blanket and some snacks and enjoy a relaxed afternoon at Yoyogi Park. If you’re up for some exercise you can also go for a walk or a run here. Take a stroll through the park and visit Mejri-Jingu temple. Don’t forget to wash your hands before entering to show your respect! Shopping in Harajuku is an absolute must while in Tokyo. You can find all of the big brands and names on the main shoppings streets in the area. If you’re looking for individualistic and edgy fashion, take your time to stroll through the narrow side-streets and alleys. Young fashionistas and hipsters will love it here.

#6: Tsukiji

In Tsukiji you can find the biggest fish market in the world, including the freshest Sushi and Sashimi. Only five minutes away from Tsukiji Market, you can find Hamarikyuteien Park. The Park is typically Japenese: With it’s big lake, lots of small bridges and tiny paths winding their way through the lush green grass, a lovely place to visit.

Thore’s favorites in Tsukiji: Explore the fish market and the surrounding area. Go early in the morning, when the famous fish auctions take place. I’ve never seen so much fish in my life anywhere else. Around the market, you can find lots of small shops selling fresh fish and seafood as well as delicious seafood restaurants. If you like fish, this is the place to go!

#7: Roppongi & Minato

Welcome to Tokyo‘s high-end areas: You know that you’re here when you walk on the streets and the number of expensive sports cars driving by suddenly increases. If you’re into cars, simply take a walk in the streets here. Many showrooms of luxury car brands are located in Roppongi and Minato, such as Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche. You will also find lots of nice cafés and tasty bakeries here.

Thore’s favorites in Roppongi & Minato: Visit Tokyo Tower, which resembles the Eiffel Tower, but is painted in red and white, the colors of Japan. The view from the top deck is simply breathtaking.

#8: Chiyoda

You might have heard of the Japanese Emperor, but what about visiting his palace? In the heart of Tokyo, you will find the famous palace and its gardens. Yasukuni-dori Avenue is filled with lots of charming bookstores, giving the place an authentic atmosphere. Here, you can find all sorts of books, from love stories to a good Japanese thriller. Interestingly, the street is also known for its ski and snowboarding shops. It is hard to say why these stores are here, but they are, and it’s an absolute must for everyone who’s into wintersports.

Thore’s favorites in Chiyoda: The Imperial Palace is a must see, when in Tokyo. I absolutely love the moat surrounding the palace. Inside the palace walls you will find well-maintained gardens. Feel like a Royal while taking a walk here!

#9: Ginza

Ginza is Tokyo’s high-end business area. You’ll see business men in suits and a lot of high-rises. In the past, Ginza used to be the city’s marketplace and fishermen from Tsukiji would come here to sell their fish, farmers sold their tea and so on. Even from a historical perspective, the whole area exudes a business vibe.

Tokyo Station is not only the grand station of Tokyo. The building is more than 100 years olf and of great architectural interest, fitting perfectly into the high-rise scenery of Ginza. Where do you want to go next? You can literally reach every corner of Tokyo from Tokyo Station!

Thore’s favourites in Ginza: Walk down Chuo-dori Avenue from Nihombashi to Shimbashi Station and you’ll get a feeling of walking on 5th Avenue in New York! A mecca for those who love designer brands.

#10: Odaiba

Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. You can find lots of visitors and tourist attractions here, giving the place its own very unique atmosphere.

Thore’s favorites in Odaiba: Teamlab Boarderless is a digital art museum located in Odaiba. The entrance fee is quite pricey, but it‘s worth every Yen. Artworks move out of rooms, communicate with each other and sometimes intermingle. The museum is so stunning, that it‘s hard to explain. Simply go, you won’t regret it. After having enjoyed the latest achievements in digital art, visit the waterfront. There’s a walkway heading towards the city center and the scenery is lovely. You might pass the Statue of Liberty. Not the one from New York though, but a smaller duplicate. A sunset the view from here is amazing!

#11: Akihabara

The ultimate place for gamers, comic book readers or fans of anime and manga. It is the „electronic center“ of Tokyo and in a way different from the rest of the city because it’s so narrowed down what the entire area is about.

Thore’s favorites in Akihabara: Explore the area around Akihabara station. You’ll find a lot of unique places and stores selling literally every. Many of the big stores have several floors. Typically, each floor has its own theme, which is really exciting. Try out a maid café or pet café. These cafés are very unique for Japan and you can hardly find them anywhere else in the world.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour! Visit www.world-unite.de/en if you would like to plan your own internship or Working Holiday in Japan!

Best from Japan!

Thore

Thore

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Wildlife Conservation Volunteering in Kenya

Have you ever thought of volunteering in a wildlife conservation program? Annette from Germany tells you about her time as a wildlife conservation volunteer in a National Park in Kenya!

My time at the Lumo Sanctuary was great! I really like the work itself and was amazed by the nature and the animals around me. Whenever I had any questions, the rangers would answer them. They really know what they’re doing and they have a very good knowledge of the wildlife and the nature in the park.

Everyone is very nice here and asks you if you want to make a trip – a change from work, which is great!

I would recommend this placement to anyone who really wants to experience the nature of Africa and at the same time likes to do something social. On top of my work in the National Park I also volunteered in a local school from time to time, this was a nice experience.

It is also a good opportunity to learn that the living standards in Kenya are different to the ones I know from Germany. What I really like is that there is a a cook for participants at the sanctuary. I already miss his delicious meals!

Best regards,

Annette

Click here to read more about Annette’s volunteering project!


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How to Donate to Your Volunteer Project

Do you want to support people in your host country beyond your actual volunteer work? Would you like to donate to a charitable project, but don‘t know exactly how? We provide information on how to do this! 

As a volunteer in a developing country you will often meet people in your project or in everyday life who live a much more modest life than you’re probably used to from your home country. Many of these people live at or below the poverty line and lack the basic financial means to make ends meet, e.g. to buy clothing, food or to cover health care expenses.

For this reason, some volunteers decide to support their project beyond their actual volunteer work. We’ll answer some frequently asked questions about donating to a charitable project:

I have children’s clothes / toys / books at home. Can I bring these and donate them to someone in my host country?

Of course! Even if you are involved in a project that is not in need of these items, our coordinators can tell you who could benefit from your donation and you can together deliver it to where it is most needed.

Please make sure that the items are clean and in good condition. Please do not donate holey or dirty clothes or broken children’s toys. For books, make sure that they are also written in the local language or at least in English. A German-language children’s book makes little sense in Tanzania or Bolivia.

Our advice: Bringing donations like clothes, books, toys, etc. from home to your host country only makes sense if you have plenty of space in your suitcase or additional baggage allowance. It is usually not advisable to ship or donate such items, as the costs often far exceed the value of the items. In addition, parcel delivery abroad is not always reliable and it’s not guaranteed that your donations will arrive in the country at the same time with you, so you can distribute them during your mission.

I would like to collect funds for my volunteer project before my arrival. What happens with the money locally?

A sustainable way to do something for your volunteer project is to raise money from your friends or family. On the ground, you and your project can decide for themselves how to use the funds and buy the things which are needed locally. Nonprofit organizations often have very different needs, which change over the time: Facilties for children sometimes need school supplies; sometimes new tables and benches, or sometimes just money to finance lunch. Animal welfare projects sometimes have a need for material for the maintenance of the enclosures; but sometimes they need money for food or medicines for the animals.

Our advice: By choosing how to use the funds together with your project, you can ensure that you have made a meaningful and sustainable contribution to your project and that the donations will be used for things that the project really needs! By investing your donations directly on-site in the host country, you also support local shops and economy.

My trip abroad itself is quite expensive and I do not have the financial means to donate more money. What can I do?

By volunteering you’re already dedicating your time and skills to a good cause. By supporting a charitable project with your workforce (which usually can not employ enough people due to lack of financial resources) you are making an important contribution to keep the project running permanently.

Our advice: Did you know that your World Unite! service package already includes a donation to your project? By participating, you’ve already made a financial contribution for your project as well.

I do not have much space in my luggage and still want to donate. What can I do?

Donate a Labdoo laptop! Labdoo is a nonprofit charity project that makes old laptops work again. If you are traveling abroad, you can have a Labdoo laptop sent to you for free and donate it to a charitable project in your host country. There are no costs for you and you do not need much space in your luggage.

I have collected a larger sum of money and would like to distribute the money meaningfully to different projects. How do I do that?

Our local coordinators are in daily touch with many projects, families and social institutions in our host countries. They can give you tips and advice on where your donations are most needed! You can be sure that your donations will be meaningfully distributed and that they will benefit many people.

Former participants of our programs have already supported numerous individuals and institutions in this way, e.g. by …

• … supporting families in financial need with food packages.
• … providing treatment, surgery, or medication costs for sick children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
• … funding children’s shoes, school uniforms and clothing donations for socially disadvantaged families.
• … financing water tanks and pumps to provide schools / kindergartens with running water.
• … purchasing equipment for childcare facilities, e.g. beds, refrigerators, tables, chairs, school benches, washing machines, tiles for sanitary facilities such as toilet or bathroom.
• and much more.

You would like to collect donations for your volunteer project abroad? Our team will be happy to advise you! Contact us at info@world-unite.de or visit us on our website.

 


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Intercultural Competence – Why is it important?

Cultural differences more and more make their way into the everyday life of many people. Globalization and the increased mobility of people around the world make encounters between people from different cultures more common. However, many of us don’t feel prepared for dealing with cultural differences and facing culturally different perspectives, for instance when we travel abroad to volunteer or for an internship. This blog post will give you adivce on intercultural learning and how to tackle cultural differences.

 

 „Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong; they are conflicts between two rights.“ – Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

What does „Culture“ actually mean?

The way we think, feel and (en-)act is essentially shaped by the culture we belong to. However, culture is not ristricted to visible cultural expressions such as greetings, eating etiquettes, clothing, festivals, music, language, arts, literature and so on.

Beyond these aspects, culture can rather be seen as an orientation system including a set of values, ideas, ways of life and meanings which influence a society as well as the people living within it.

These cultural „core values“ include:

  • Communication styles and rules, e.g. conversational patterns in different social situations, handling and displaying of emotions, personal space and so on,
  • Notions of courtesy and manners, leadership, friendship, modesty, beauty etc.,
  • Concepts of time (past and future), fairness and justice, or roles related to age, class, family etc.;
  • Attitudes, e.g. towards elders, adolescents, dependents, work, authority, animals, etc.
  • Approaches to religion, marriage, raising children, problem solving, decision making and so on.

All these concepts, values, attitudes and notions are strongly influenced by the culture we grew up in, the values our parents conveyed to us, the social circles whe’re affiliated with, what we’ve learned in school, or by the media we consume.

Why is cultural understanding important?

Thus, these concepts differ from culture to culture and (unconsciously) influence us when we interact with people from other cultural backgrounds. Note, that culture should not be equated with a certain country or nationality. There may also be cultural differences within a country or nation.

As a volunteer or intern abroad you will dive deeply into the local culture of your host country: You will be surrounded by a language that’s most likely not your own, you will experience different work and communication styles, resources and work methods.

Experiencing these differences can sometimes be overwhelming: You might have diffculties to understand the behaviour of your local colleagues, the way family members in your host family life together, or struggle to adapt to the different work styles in your Placement.

Being aware of these culture-specific differences is the first step towards intercultural understanding and makes it much easier to overcome them!

However, we must be aware that volunteering or interning abroad volunteer does not automatically lead to intercultural learning or mutual understanding. Often, right the opposite is these case: Being in another culture often enforces prejudices or stereotypes rather than promoting understanding. Surely you have heard friends or familiy members talk about their travels to other countries and have heard them say things like: „All Japanese are so polite“, „Germans are always punctual“, „Mexicans are passionate“, „Tanzanians always take it slow“.

We don’t want to say that your friends or family haven’t met polite Japanese, slow Tanzanians, punctual Germans and passionate Mexicans during their trip. However, this does not mean that all members of a country or culture match this image and we must be careful with generalisations when it comes to cultural differences or specifications.

If staying abroad is not enough to promote cultural understanding, what can we do instead?

 

#1 Be prepared to learn from your host country!

Whether you’re volunteering, interning or just traveling in your host country: Remember that you’re a guest and will only spend a relatively short period of time here. Use the opportunity to learn as much as you can from the people around you and their culture. Instead of comparing the local culture with your own and trying to differenciate between „better“ and „worse“,  try do understand where these different notions, values and ideas may come from and why. One integral part of cultural learning is accepting the fact that there are many different perspectives  and various ways doing things the right way and that our own cultural perspective might be adequate for our own culture, but not necessarily for another (e.g. when it comes to work and communication styles in your placement).

Click here if you would like to read an example about how different perspectives about „Right“ and „Wrong“ can clash during a volunteer placement or internship abroad and why. 

#2 Be flexible!

If you travel to another country to do an internship or volunteer work, then you have decided to do something different from your usual life at home. So you should expect things to go differently than you’re used to. This means „different“ ways of working, „different“ working hours, „other“ ways of communicating, scheduling, organizing and living together. Try to adjust your expectations to this circumstance. The main goal here should be to reach something for your volunteer or internship project together with your local colleagues, rather than conveying your own values, ideas and solutions to the people in your host country. A flexible and open attitude will help you deal with these differences and prevent disappointment when things in your host country sometimes do not work out the way you imagined.

# 3: Show a professional working attitude!

To be a real support to your volunteer or internship placement, be on time for your work and do not stay away for no obvious reason. Show that you are ready to actively participate and learn from your local colleagues. If you feel you are not getting enough tasks, don’t be discouraged immediately: Show your interest and offer your help repeatedly.

Your supervisors and colleagues in the host country appreciate that you have come all the way to work on a project. However, as is probably the case in your own country as well, it might take some time to gain the trust of your new colleagues and get assignments that involve more responsibility. Do not forget that it will also take some time to get to know the local ways of working. Expect also that the workload in some countries is slightly lower than you may know from home. This often conflicts with „Western“ cultural perspectives to do things efficiently and quickly. Try to adapt to the local pace and ways of working. Rather than being frustrated About different work styles, try to understand what the background of these different ways of working is.

Our advice: It’s perfectly okay if you want to travel the country during your placement. We recommend you to do excursions and trips on your days off. If you are planning a longer trip, it is best to have it at the end of your stay when you have completed your internship / volunteer assignment. If you don’t attend your placement for doing trips or leisure time activities, it might give others in your project the impression that you are not taking your placement seriously enough.

# 4: Face up to cultural differences!

Staying abroad doesn’t mean that Intercultural Learning will happen automatically. On the contrary: Being in a different culture often confirms prejudices instead of promoting mutual understanding! An actual Intercultural Learning experience can only take place if you constantly and consciously open yourself up to the unknown, the different and the incomprehensible in your host country. This also includes actively perceiving and enduring differences and sometimes seemingly incompatible aspects in another culture, e.g. different hierarchical structures in your workplace, different gender roles, differences in the way of communicating, etc. Showing tolerance and empathy for these differences gives you the opportunity to gain real knowledge about the culture of interest, but also about your own and will allow you to find ways to peacefully solve conflicts or misunderstandings that result from cultural differences.

Our advice: Intercultural encounters never take place exclusively on a factual level, they influence us emotionally and can trigger in us joy and euphoria, but also anger and fear. It can be very helpful to discuss and to reflect your feelings with people outside of your volunteer/internship placement, e.g. with other volunteers / interns in your accommodation or your contact person at World Unite!.

# 5: Be conscious of misconceptions!

When visiting other countries, it is important to be conscious of misconceptions that you may have to avoid negative impressions. We are all influenced by media reports and news about other countries. Often, however, these convey very stereotypical and one-sided images that hardly portray the real life of the country.

Kareen, our coordinator in Tanzania reports about a misconception that she’s experienced:

„Many people are surprised when they arrive here and see young people who dress quite nice, wearing designer shoes and bags. Of course some people here are not aware of these popular brands. But truth be told, due to the internet and social media, most young people in Tanzania are much aware of the fashion and trends going on around the world!“

Kareen’s experience shows very well that in many countries around the world there is a widespread belief that all people in African countries are poor and have no relation to the „modern“, „Western“ world, which of course does not correspond to reality.

This is just one example of many one-sided imagery and misconceptions about other countries, be it security, gender roles, time management, ways of communicating, etc.

Our advice: Take time to interact with the locals; eventually, a lot of those misconceptions may be cleared out by just watching and interacting with the people. If not, gather some confidence and diplomacy to ask! You never know how much more you will learn from the one/two questions you had.

# 6: Learn the local language!

Ever thought that immersing yourself into learning a foreign language will help you understand the specific culture in your host country? Yes! this helps a great deal! Even though it might only be “hello”, “please” and “thank you”, what you show most of all is interest in the culture! In many countries, there are many variations of greetings that involves exchange of polite words and „how are yous, how is your family“-type of dialogues before actually getting into the point. This comes from politeness, hospitality and respect which are some of the pillars that are highly valued in these societies. Learning the local language will definitely guide you to understanding these cultural variations as to why things are addressed in a certain manner.

Next week we will give you more tips and information on intercultural understanding! 

 

Did you know that World Unite! provides participants with extensive intercultural preparation materials? Our preparation materials are compiled specifically for the host Country you’re traveling to so you can prepare in the best possible way. 

 

 


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Volunteering in IT Support in South Africa: Thomas in Cape Town

Thomas from Germany supported a social organization in Cape Town as an IT volunteer for three weeks. Here you can read about his experience as a volunteer in South Africa.

 

I am now back from Cape Town for a week and would already like to return!

The organization ELRU provides support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their families. To ensure that all programs run smoothly, ELRU is looking for committed volunteers to support the organization in the areas of IT, social media and finance.

I worked in the headquarters where the administration is located and where the trainings for the staff members takes place. Since the organisation does not have their own IT support, I helped with computer problems or questions about MS Office program features. However, my main task was to digitize the data collection processes which have been done on paper so far and to do data analysis using Google Forms/Sheets, which was the much more exciting part of my placement.

Since this is very time-consuming process, it will probably keep IT volunteers busy for a few more years. I had no prior knowledge of Google products myself, but with a bit of technical affinity and prior knowledge of Excel formulas, you can get into the matter very quickly. Knowledge in Javascript to create macros would be an advantage, which I unfortunately did not have, but there is still enough work to do!

Overall, I did not need any profound computer expertise form y volunteer work. General IT knowledge in the field of computer, MS Office, simple network technologies and some Windows server knowledge are sufficient to be a help for the colleagues on site. These are very friendly and helpful. Everyone speaks English, but I sometimes had difficulties with the local pronounciation. However, nobody was bothered if I asked several times.
Both the work at ELRU and the many different leisure time opportunities in and around the city have been amazing.

Without World Unite! this wouldn’t have been possible. Dawn, the coordinator on site, took great care of us and was always available for any questions. My accommodation at Niki’s place was awesome. Niki is very nice and we got along very well. She always provided me with insider tips about the city’s best locations and things to see. I’ll miss her cat Milo, too. Last but not least, the support, organization and preparation by the international World Unite! team were great, so absolutely nothing could go wrong.

I would like to thank you for that!

Thomas, Germany (March 2019)

Would you also like to support a social Project as an IT volunteer? Contact us at info@world-unite.de for more information or visit us on our Website.


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Conscious Travel: How to slow down your travel pace

Whether it is the desire to see as much of a country as possible in only a short period of time, or the habit of planing your free time as efficient as possible: there are many reasons why we sometimes fail to consciously experience our travel destination. Do you want to immerse into the local culture and learn more about the country and its people on your next trip? This blog article advice on slow and conscious traveling!

 

Have you ever returned back home from a trip and thought about all the fantastic things you have experienced while abroad? You will surely look at the photos taken during your trip. Suddenly you ask yourself: The woman in the colorful dress, who collected seagrass at low tide on the beach, what will she use it for? The children who always greeted you in the street from afar – what does their school look like? The man next to you on the bus who helped you to get off at the right stop. Where was he traveling to?

What does it mean to travel „slowly“ and „consciously“? The answer is simple: you choose your own pace!

As travelers we all have our own ideas about how much time we want to spend in one country and how we want to spend it. However, for many travelers, it is their contacts with local people and their culture that make the journey a special experience.

If you feel that you lack the connection to local people and their culture during your travels, this is a good opportunity to make your journey slower and more conscious!

Every week, we will provide advice about slow and conscious traveling here:

# 1: Take your time!

Instead of traveling to another location every day and spending every night in another hostel, spend at least three days in one place! In this way you automatically decelerate your journey. You do not have to set yourself the goal of traveling the whole country in three weeks. Your travel experience can be just as intense and exciting when you spend three weeks in just one place. It also gives you the opportunity to meet people on-site – be it a friendly conversation with the man who runs the fruit stall on the street corner you pass every day or an invitation to a local family‘s home.

Traveling slowly and consciously will give you more time to perceive your surroundings and to get to know them better. Allow yourself to absorb and process all the new impressions in your destination. In this way, you are not only much more likely to have the opportunity to mingle with local people, but also to learn from these experiences!

#2 Stay with a local host family!

Staying with a host family is probably the easiest way to get in touch with locals in your travel destination! Not only will you see and experience how people live but there are also the little things you will notice: How often do the neighbors come to visit? Do they bring something to eat or will family and friends often cook together? How do the family members greet each other? What do the family members do for a living ? Where do they buy their groceries? What does the family do together in the evenings?

However, it is not just everyday family life that you will learn about – moreover, host families are inexhaustible sources of local knowledge when it comes to cultural norms, habits, or values.

You can book accommodation with host families on various online platforms. In addition, there are travel agents who can organize this for you. An alternative option are online networks, where people offer free accommodation for travelers in their home.

#3 Volunteer, intern or work abroad!

Whether a Working Holiday abroad, an internship or volunteer placement in another country: Working and volunteering abroad gives you numerous insights in how the locals pursue their jobs, how they interact with each other, how they combine their personal and professional life, what matters to them and many more.

Work & Travel, internships or volunteering abroad give you the opportunity to really get to know a country from an inside perspective. You work with local colleagues and get to know new ways of communicating and working.

In many countries around the world there are opportunities to volunteer, do internships or even work for a while.

World Unite! can assist you in finding suitable options. Visit us for inspiration on your conscious stay abroad!

#4 Meet up with locals!

With the help of several applications, you have the possibility to meet locals for a drink or walk. There are various Apps which allow connecting travelers to locals. Many locals are interested in showing you around, inviting you to a family dinner or practicing their language skills.

#5 Take Public Transport!

Instead of using private transfers to travel from one place to another in your travel destination, you can also travel by local buses, trains and other public transport. Not only do you save money, but in many cases you can easily get in touch with locals: Other travelers may be curious to know where you are from and whether you like your host country! In addition, you can observe how passengers interact with each other, where they get in and out, what snacks they have on their journey and how speed, time and personal space are interpreted on a journey.

#6 Eat and buy locally!

When you go shopping in local markets, there’s a lot for you to observe and to learn: Which products are offered seasonally? Which market stalls are preferred by the locals? Do people have long conversations with the sellers? Do they bargain? How are foods presented?

If you visit a local restaurant, you can take the opportunity to talk to the staff about local dishes and the local food culture. Ask them what their favorite dishes are and why! You can also check about the possibility of joining a local cooking class.

#7 Read about the local history, culture and religion! 

Having at least a rough idea of the history, culture and religion of your host country will allow you to have a better understand of some the country’s values and customs. With a bit of background knowledge, you can quickly find a suitable topic to talk about with locals and can more easily have conversations that go beyond the usual small talk.

#8 Learn a few words in the local language!

It really does make a big difference to know a few words in the local language. Even though it might only be “hello”, “please” and “thank you”, what you show most of all is interest in the culture! Many times when people answer back and look into puzzled faces it is a great start for more conversations. 😊

 

How do you slow down your travel pace to travel more consciously?

Let us know your ideas about how to immerse into the local culture and learn more about the country and its people on your next trip! 

We would love to hear your advice and suggestions! Contact us at info@world-unite.de or visit us on our Webpage.


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Media and Journalism Internship in China – Amalia’s internship experience in Beijing

Between the golden times of an empire and a futuristic city: Amalia from Italy spent two months in Beijing, where she completed a media and journalism internship. Read more about why Amalia wants to return to China soon again after her internship. 

When I graduated from High School I was, as it happens to many, very confused about my future and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Just one month before the start of the semester I decided to major in Chinese and Chinese Culture at the University of Venice.

This was an improvised decision and the fact that I had no particular interest in China beforehand didn’t really make the best student out of me right away. 🙂 Although during three years of University I had grown a wider interest for everything concerning China I still had not developed a real connection to it.

That’s why I decided that I had to travel to China and discover it for myself.

Many of my fellow students did exchange semesters at Chinese universities but I knew from their stories that they mostly spent time with other foreigners.  I wanted to have an experience where I could be part of the Chinese everyday life and not somewhere on a “Foreigners in Beijing“-Party.

When I found World Unite! I knew that it was what I was looking for, not only did they help me to find an internship that was suitable for me but they also provided me with what I needed, especially because it was my first time in the country and I didn’t know what to expect. I vividly remember when I was waiting at the Maan Coffee shop at the airport for Alex, who is the coordinator in charge for interns in Beijing, to pick me up.

At that point I was a little scared, I had no idea what was going to be outside the airport. What if China was going to disappoint me? When Alex arrived, everything was easiy all of a sudden. We took a cab and there I was right in the middle of Sanlitun, a modern and fancy area of Beijing. This was also the area where I was going to live for 2 months.

To get to know each other we ate some noodles, Alex provided me with a Chinese SIM card, and then we took a bike (believe it or not, bike sharing is BIG in China right now) to get to the subway Station, so I could navigate my way around.

On my first internship day, Alex accompanied me to my internship placement and introduced me to my new colleagues. I was an intern at “Pandaily” a small Media company or more specifically  a “Tech Media Start Up”, my colleagues were all young, full of energy and creative. I was lucky to work in such a friendly environment.

Sometimes I would get frustrated because my Chinese was just not good enough. Actually I even realized that it was pretty bad. Most of the time I wasn’t able to understand important parts of a conversation and during meetings I had to ask my colleagues for translations all the time. It is tough to sit in a room without having a slight idea of what is going on around you. But everyday I picked up some more words and started to feel more confident, I even started to attend Chinese lessons twice a week. I really needed to practive my conversation skills, since at my University I had gained mostly written skills and in China I finally had the opportunity to put my language skills to practice.

I made new friends, Chinese friends and also other foreigners. I talked a lot and was excited about what each day would bring, and totally fell in love with Chinese food.

Two months just passed by so fast that I didn’t even have time to get homesick or even to feel some kind of culture shock that everybody always talks about. In Beijing there is optimism, there are opportunities and it feels like it is somewhere between ancient golden times of an Empire and a futuristic gigantic city. But at the same time it is a place where people sit together and share their food from the same bowl and that’s something that I can’t wait to go back to.

Read more about Amalia’s internship here.