When and where did you teach abroad? Did you go with a program?
I taught English in the Republic of Georgia. I was assigned to a village called Tsitelkhevi in Central Georgia. Georgia borders the Black Sea, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. I went with a program called Teach and Learn with Georgia. I learned about the organization through the Greenheart Travel section of Greenheart Travel's Web site. Teach and Learn offers teaching programs in several Asian countries, as well as volunteer programs and cultural exchange programs.
What made you want to teach English Abroad?
I wanted to teach English abroad to build my resume, travel and immerse myself in a unique culture. Georgia is rich in history and offers beautiful sites to admire and explore. As well as friendly and welcoming people who love to meet foreigners and make them feel like they’re part of the family. I wanted to live with a host family for these reasons and was not disappointed.
How did you conduct your search? How did you select your program/country and/or find an employer abroad?
Teach and Learn with Georgia is a unique travel organization that not only pays for your travel expenses, but provides classroom training, Georgian lessons and a cultural orientation to ease the transition of living abroad. This is exactly what I was looking for in a program. This organization is rare because they do not charge a program fee and pay a small salary of $300 (USD) a month, which is more than enough to cover your basic expenses in Georgia.
Did you participate in extra-curricular or social activities while abroad? If so, how did they differ from social activities in your home culture?
I participated in two extra-curricular activities in Georgia: soccer and English club. During my free period, I would participate in my host sister’s physical education class where we would play soccer. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know my students better and help them with their skills. My other extra-curricular activity was starting an English club for advanced students. I would teach them vocabulary and end the lesson by playing games.
What made your experience abroad a success?
My experience abroad was a success because my students improved significantly and enjoyed learning English. I was also able to provide my host sister with private English lessons, which was very important to her because she dreams of visiting English-speaking countries. Additionally, my experience was successful because I was fortunate enough to become part of another family. I developed a close relationship with my Georgian family and remain in contact with them through email and Skype.
What did you notice about the cultural divide?
My encounter with Eastern European culture was rather eye-opening. It was like traveling back in time. Most Georgians live what I considered to be an old-fashioned lifestyle where the men provide for their families and the women are in charge of cooking and cleaning. What surprised me the most was hearing from the women in my host family that they actually enjoyed cooking and cleaning. I asked my 14-year-old host sister what she did for fun and she responded by saying "cooking and cleaning." Another shock I encountered was the lack of modern-day technology. Most families do not have showers, western toilets, washing machines or microwaves. Yet they had their own substitutes for these devices and seemed content with them. Fortunately, my host family bought a western toilet for me to make me feel more comfortable. Making guests feel comfortable is something I loved about the Eastern European culture. They treat foreigners with respect and generosity that helped diminish my feelings of homesickness.
How did you finance your trip abroad and did you find any creative solutions to stay on budget?
I financed my trip by planning where I wanted to travel while in Georgia and estimating the cost of each excursion. I then narrowed down my selection by choosing my top three destinations and budgeted accordingly. If one of my trips included staying overnight, I would stay in a hostel instead of a hotel. I would also save money by packing food from my Georgian home instead of going out to restaurants.
What are your future plans for going abroad and for your career?
My future plans for going abroad are to travel as much as I can and visit as many countries as I can. Not only would I like to be a tourist, but I would also like to participate in other teaching programs and live with host families. However, the next time I travel abroad it will be to visit my host family in Georgia.
It’s clear from Lindsay’s response that she understands the importance of having a variety of international teaching experiences, and she always makes an effort to maximize her positive impact on her host community. Lindsay might consider volunteering as an English teacher with an NGO in a developing nation to further expand her experience. Working with a small NGO would likely offer her the opportunity to expand her position by taking on increased responsibility. Whatever her next step, we’d suggest that she stay in her future host country for a minimum of six months to maximize her cultural immersion. She could also consider pursuing a master’s degree at home or abroad. This would open up the door for her to teach at a university level in many Asian and African nations.
- Career-boosting Strategies While Studying Abroad is intended to motivate readers to consider the professional possibilities of studying abroad. Pursuing a master's abroad can be the perfect opportunity to network and pick up professional side contracts or internships.
- Teaching Abroad As A Licensed Teacher is a valuable collection of articles and resources for anyone considering teaching abroad long-term.