After graduating college and getting myself a job as a 5th grade teacher, I saw many people in my life making choices about their future that I wasn’t ready to make. I saw many of my friends get married and start to settle down, but I wasn’t ready.
I wanted something more...to see the world from a different point of view. I wanted to travel abroad. I wanted to stop living through other people's experiences online and have my own.
I didn’t realize that was what I wanted until my friend, Carli, started talking about the opportunity to teach English in Italy. Once she told me all about GeoVisions, I was sold. There was no way I was going to pass up such an incredible opportunity.
I had traveled throughout the United States, but had never left the country. Before I left, I didn’t want to admit that I was scared to go. I was scared of being away from my family and friends, scared of a language barrier, scared of the terrorism in Europe, and scared of the unknown. When I finally said goodbye to everyone at home, the impact of my decision hit me, but I wasn’t going to let this momentary bout with fear get in the way of my adventure. And an adventure is exactly what I had!
Traveling to Europe was the best thing I could have done for myself! I had FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), as my friend Normandie taught me. I would be missing birthdays, graduation parties, the 4th of July, bridal showers, and so many other activities while I was abroad. That was hard for me to accept. Yet, this trip gave me six weeks in Italy to step outside of my comfort zone and immerse myself into a place where I was going to experience different cultures. When Carli and I began exploring Rome, it was impossible to wipe the smiles off of our faces. We were in ROME! A place rich in architecture and culture. And there I was, a Chicagoan, visiting one of the most famous cities in the world. We visited the Trevi Fountain, Vatican, Colosseum, and saw so many other historical spots.
After two days in Rome, it was finally time to take the journey to Porto Sant’Elpidio, located in the Marche region in Italy, where I would meet my fellow camp counselors and begin my experience teaching English. Porto Sant'Elpidio is a small beach town filled with authentic Italian culture. The Marche region consists of breathtaking sunflower fields, beautiful hills, and amazing sunsets.
The girls I met on this trip are beautiful people, with amazing life stories. As we all got to know each other in a unique way, I knew I had made some lifelong friendships.
We traveled all over Italy on our weekends, to Capri, Sorrento, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Sirolo. We became family. Like in Italian culture, family is an essential part of life and I’m glad these girls became my new family. Our daily adventures included tanning on the beach, eating mouthwatering pasta and gelato, running on the trails, and shopping at the Italian markets. We met so many interesting people from all over the world and struck up many conversations, despite the fact we only spoke English. Everyone was extremely friendly and made us feel welcome.
Throughout my six weeks in Italy, I remember saying over and over again, “I can’t believe I’m here! I’m so lucky!” I was in complete disbelief about being in such a beautiful country. I journaled constantly to make sure I could remember every single moment for the rest of my life. My favorite moment of the whole trip was my first weekend adventure with my new Italian family. We were visiting Capri and we took a chair lift to the top of the mountain and saw this breathtaking view over the Gulf of Naples. The sun was shining through the clouds, reflecting off the water, and in the distance you could see Mount Vesuvius. It was as if I was in heaven; I experienced a peace that is so unexplainable, I began to cry.
In that moment I felt I was on top of the world, I had this revelation about how precious this life is and that if I want to see the world, I need to get out there and do it!
The four weeks I spent teaching at “You Can Camp” was eye-opening. I’ve never taught English to a group of non-English speakers before, but I was up for the challenge. By no means was the task an easy one. I didn’t know how to communicate with my group of 10 year olds. They couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand them. At times I was lost. I would say, “Okay everyone, stand up.” and the campers would just sit there and look at me smiling, having no idea what I was saying. I had to get in touch with my creative side by showing them pictures, modeling English terms, and looking up translations (more often than I care to admit). These kids were special and made me happy!
Every day I would say to a camper named Lorenzo, “Hi Lorenzo! How are you?” With a huge smile on his face he would respond, “Hello, I am happy!” This never failed to bring me a smile. I love to teach and teaching these children only made my love for teaching grow stronger. I always focus on the small milestones that children accomplish in everyday activities, so when I witnessed a child master an English word, it made my day.
These kids loved learning English so much that it motivated me to be a better teacher for them.
They were different than my students in the U.S. because these kids loved having the opportunity to learn a language that was valued so highly in their country. I became very close with the campers and made unique connections. I cried the last day I was with them. It's ironic that a trip I was so afraid of at the beginning, turned out to be so difficult for me see come to an end.
Teaching abroad through GeoVisions has inspired me to be more spontaneous in my life by focusing on doing things for myself and others while enjoying the natural wonders of the world. Ever since my trip, I never let a day go by without looking for the natural beauty in the world.
If you are on the fence as to whether or not the GeoVisions program is for you, DO IT! Six weeks in Italy will change your life, I guarantee it.