College & Career

Volunteers from Orchard Evangelical Free Church pose in Hungary.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Evensen)

By Megan Fu
Buffalo Grove

Buffalo Grove senior Katie Evensen traveled with 17 friends to Budapest, Hungary, for two weeks in July. But they weren’t there just to visit old castles or try new foods.

They were there to teach English on a volunteer trip organized through their congregation, the Orchard Evangelical Free Church.

Evensen’s youth group volunteered at a ministry in the heart of Budapest, the capital, where Hungarian teens were being taught English. Every day, volunteers led the kids in games, English lessons, a chapel service, discussion groups and afternoon sports.

Evensen said volunteering abroad helped her “get out of my little suburban bubble.”

As a bonus, her experience overseas may prove beneficial on her resume.

Buffalo Grove counselor Bill Brown called volunteering abroad “a wonderful and fulfilling experience” that can help not only with college applications but also with scholarship applications.

“I believe that anything that sets you apart from your classmates can give you the edge,” Brown said. “… Volunteering abroad is a big commitment and shows promise and character in the eyes of scholarship committees.”

One downside to traveling abroad may be its hefty price tag. Ali Levato, a Buffalo Grove graduate now at the University of Dayton in Ohio, said she volunteered in South Africa through an organization called People to People and paid for her trip with money from a raffle and her part-time job.

On her trip, Levato assisted at an AIDS clinic, orphanage, elementary school and church. She said volunteering made her feel like she was “really doing something that mattered.”

For her part, Evensen helped pay about $500 toward her trip by writing letters to family and friends asking for donations, hosting a spaghetti dinner and running a 5K. Every part of the process was worth it, she said.

“Yes, we can find places in America that need our help, but there is something about being completely immersed in another culture that gives you a new perspective on things,” Evensen said. “Serving really takes the focus off of yourself and puts it onto other people.”

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free each Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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