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Participant Stories

Teaching Abroad: How I See You

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Jul 23, 2012 3:30:00 PM

Teach English in ThailandSo here you are at GeoVisions.

We have some really nice people on staff here and they are probably making you feel special. Let's face it…you are special. Our staff will bend over backwards to make sure you know how special you are and how important you are to us and to your new hosts abroad.

And then there's me. Those really nice people here at GeoVisions try to make sure I rarely get on the telephone. Sometimes I sneak in when everyone's gone and talk to participants. I just got off the telephone with someone who is headed abroad to teach for a year. I called her to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into. I was a teacher many years ago and this person who leaves fairly soon to teach abroad had been teaching here in the U.S. for a few years. But heading off to Asia for a year to teach English requires a highly flexible person. Someone who can wing it, can write lesson plans onsite and not bring them when they fly out. Someone who can adapt to some very strange living accommodations and faculty colleagues and enjoy themselves.

During this 15 minute conversation, she said, "You're not making me feel very comfortable. "And my response was, "That's not my job. I don't care if you're comfortable. I care if you're flexible." And of course that's why the staff here keep me away from telephones. I'm often referred to as Mr. Grumpy.

You're a teacher. You're special. You're going away for a year to teach abroad and you're leaving your family and friends behind. You're adventurous. This is a year you will never forget. You have a great deal of patience and it isn't enough for you to stand and deliver. You want to roll up your sleeves and be involved in another culture.

English teachers arriving Bangkok.You're a volunteer. You're a hero. You're going to volunteer abroad your time and talents. You don't need to stay home and be pampered. You are walking to the beat of a different drummer and you're open to exchanging your culture with another and open to many different experiences.

You're an Au Pair. You're going to care for someone else's children as they were your own. You are headed to do a job I'd never consider doing…E V E R. In some cases you'll have to take language courses and you'll have to learn a new language and drive where you don't fully understand all the signs. And above all, you'll have the safety of your host brothers and sisters paramount…nothing will be more important. I have no idea how people do this job, and I'm amazed that you cannot wait to get started.

How much fire do you have inside to listen and learn? I know, I know. Your project is to tutor or teach. But I know you'll never allow yourself to go and just simply do that task. You're going to listen and you're going to soak up everything your new country and your new hosts throw at you.

I see you as someone who will bring more back than you take with you. After a few weeks in-country, you will hear from us and one of the questions we'll ask is, "In 25 words or less, how would you describe your program to someone?"

Here are a few answers we received last week:

A great opportunity to be a part of someone's family.

It is fun and difficult at the same time. Every day is different. It takes a lot of patience.

A very different experience, a cultural adventure, language immersion, lots of childcare, lots of opportunities to meet other young foreigners.

It is a life changing experience. It opens your eyes to the astonishing similarities to be found in every couture and the captivating differences that make each nation, each region and city, unique.

Thank you for volunteering to teach English in Asia.It is an exciting adventure. You are truly surrounded by the culture and learn the life style and customs of the family you work with.

This is very challenging, but it is a challenge worth taking!

It's a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and learn about a different culture.

I just didn't see anyone there write about what they are teaching other people. Everything I read indicated all these tutors and teachers are learning. That's how I see you. That is why you will be successful.

Now…who wants a phone call from Mr. Grumpy?

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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