“I have always had the wish to do something useful and help other people.”
–Jan Marc Castlunger
Name: Jan Marc Castlunger
Hometown: South Tyrol, Italy
Education: Technical University Munich
Passions and Interests: Majoring in Architecture, Volunteering
Transformational Experience: Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™
Making an Impact: An alum who wants to use his passion for architecture to improve the world
If you’ve recently been exploring Dominican Republic programs on the GLA website, or checked out a GLA catalog any time in the past handful of years, you likely already know Jan Marc’s face.
As one of our earliest student volunteers on the Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™ program, he happened to be in front of the photographer’s camera at the right place and time, and as a result, he became a part of GLA history.
Jan Marc may have only been 17 at the time of his GLA program, but he’s now an architecture student at Technical University Munich, nearing the completion of his bachelor’s degree. For any current or recent GLA students out there, remember this: soon enough, you’ll be making big decisions with your life, and deciding what kind of change you will bring.
We caught up with Jan Marc and asked him to reflect on his program six years ago, as well as his ambitions for the future, and how he wants to change the world.
On the advice he would give teens today, based on his own experiences, Jan Marc said:
One of the best things you can do when you are young is to leave your comfort zone. Go abroad, meet new people and broaden your horizons.”
Winding back six years, Jan Marc didn’t know about GLA when he was making plans for the summer. Growing up in a small village in South Tyrol, an autonomous region in northern Italy, he made the decision to “go abroad in order to improve [his] English skills and explore a new part of the world map.”
My finger landed on the United States and I was lucky enough to find family friends where I could stay and learn. The idea of volunteering at GLA came up during this trip. I had to decide whether I wanted to spend 10 days at a sports camp or volunteer in the Dominican Republic. I chose the latter, regarding the fact that I have always had the wish to do something useful and help people.”
Despite being a young leader in his own right – making big decisions about travel and new experiences at 17 – Jan Marc did find that his mother played a large part in making his final choice to go. He said that she “always taught us three kids that we should respect people, help where help is needed, and be generous.” The program with GLA, he said, was the right thing for him because it was something practical he could do to make an impact.
Volunteering in the Dominican Republic can bring its own challenges, as can the reaction from others. Facing some online comments that suggested entitlement in young people from well-off countries going to help those in less fortunate communities, Jan Marc saw an opportunity to educate rather than instigate. “The problem with people who comment on this,” Jan Marc said, “is that they shine a light only on one aspect… What they don’t realize is people make the choice to do something for the social good.”
Jan Marc continues that trend of valuing education as a path to a better tomorrow. He chose to study architecture because, as he said:
It fascinates me to do work on something and see the result of my efforts. If you love what you study and have the wish to help, you will have the best foundation for being very good in it.”
He plans to gain some additional education in the field before he starts on his master’s degree, and hopes to pick up some practical knowledge by applying to apply to work in the offices of Francis Kéré, a world-renowned architect in Berlin, born in Burkina Faso, who leads many social projects throughout the world.
Looking back on his time in the Dominican Republic, Jan Marc had some final words of inspiration for those teens looking to follow in his footsteps:
An old man in the Dominican Republic once told me: we were given a lot, we have a lot to give. Be the change. Volunteering isn’t only about helping other people. The truth is that they also help you recognize how little you actually need to be truly happy.”
Program Jan Marc attended:
GLA Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World™
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