“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
In 2012, after finishing my student teaching in England, I earned my B.S. in Education and committed myself to teaching and traveling abroad. I would teach in some capacity on every continent; after all, how could I presume to teach about a world which I knew so little about?
The ambitious nature of this goal has led me across the world and has given me an unbelievable experience that has changed me forever.
I began teaching in Chanthaburi, Thailand with an amateur travel company, with whom I was soon forced to part ways. Thailand is a beautiful place with remarkable people, but like many countries, as a young American abroad it is very easy to be taken advantage of.
I realized how poorly I was being treated and taken care of by my chosen company only when I met a pair of girls who had been teaching in the same city with Greenheart Travel instead. They were trained extremely well, cared for tremendously, and paid on time (which is seldom guaranteed, yet incredibly important, when living on a budget abroad): in short, they loved it. Before I left Thailand, I made sure to reach out to Greenheart Travel, knowing that they would have a foothold in the next continent on my list – South America.
Greenheart Travel helped me transition seamlessly from Thailand to Colombia and I began life as a teacher in the vocational education system referred to as SENA in Colombia. I had some of the best times of my life living, camping, hiking, and exploring in Quindio – the heart of the coffee region. All while pursuing my dream to teach abroad.
I was so immersed, in fact, that I learned enough Spanish to communicate effectively and I was hired as a Regional Coordinator for Heart for Change, the NGO and partner of Greenheart Travel in Colombia. After completing my volunteer work through Greenheart Travel, my own plans changed dramatically.
I worked for another 6 months as a Regional Coordinator with Heart for Change traveling Colombia, training new volunteer English teachers, and providing support for those teachers during their stay. The experience abroad gave me a better understanding about the impact that a solid education could really have on developing countries. I’ve since decided to dedicate my career to education as a form of development, and I will be going to graduate school for development studies next fall.
Currently, I split time between Chicago and Colombia, where I work as a Program Director for HFC planning and executing English Immersion workshops for the Ministerio de Educación Nacional (MEN) in Colombia. I’m moving at 100 mph, living an absolute dream and it all began when I decided to travel to Colombia through Greenheart Travel.
I wish I could articulate the importance of gaining experience abroad to both my career and personal life in general. Living and working abroad has never been easy: I experience (at the very least) one debilitating failure every day. However, from each one I’ve learned to developed an unmatched degree of patience, tolerance, and humility.
Reflecting upon my experiences over the last few years, I can say with full conviction that the most terrifying decision I faced was taking the first step to travel and work abroad. I can also say, with an equal measure of certainty, that it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I wouldn’t be where I am today – truly happy, ambitious, and motivated – if I hadn’t made the most of my experience volunteering through Greenheart Travel.
The best advice I can give to a future Greenheart Traveler is this; take a chance and go, anticipate and learn from your obstacles, embrace the inevitable madness of living abroad, and allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to learn what it truly means to be brave.