So, you’ve finished your application, booked your flight, had the pre-departure webinar, and you’re ready to go abroad and start your program with Greenheart Travel. Let me just give you one piece of advice before you head to your host country: BE OPEN-MINDED!
That might seem obvious now, but trust me, you need to remember to be open-minded (especially when you first arrive) because a lot of things will surprise you and catch you off guard. Not everything will go exactly as you plan or imagine.
During my application process for the Teach English in a Homestay program in Chile, I wrote that I would prefer a pet-free home because I was actually afraid of dogs and have been since I was a child. I didn’t feel like I could comfortably live and teach in an environment where I’d be on-edge every day.
To my surprise, when I arrived in Chile at my host family’s house where I was going to live for 3 months, they had a dog! What?!? At first, I was confused, but then I remembered that the host family’s application did say that they had a dog, that lived outside. I must’ve overlooked it in all my pre-departure excitement. I checked the application later, and it did say that the dog lived outside, but it ended up coming inside just as much as it was outside.
For the first week of my placement, I wasn’t sure what to do because I was technically made aware that there’d be a dog “living outside” so I couldn’t complain or be angry. I didn’t want to ask my host family if the dog could stay outside. I’d only been there a week, so I was still getting to know them and wanted to make a good first impression. In my moment of doubt, I decided to open my mind and just live with it. I figured I could just see what would happen in the next week. It’s not like I was allergic to dogs, so I could technically live with it, and Greenheart Travel cannot guarantee all preferences.
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of dogs, my open-minded attitude was ready for this unexpected challenge. I wanted to complete my program, and my host family was VERY welcoming and friendly. They even prepared a whole room for me in their house! They wanted me there just as much as I wanted to be there! With an open mind, day by day I started getting closer to the dog. By the end of my three-month homestay, I basically became best friends with that dog (and my host-family, of course).
While in Chile, I encountered a few more situations where I had to be open-minded and adapt. I was under the impression that I’d be teaching one young adult in the home who already knew some basic English, so I’d mostly be helping them with their pronunciation and conversational English. For the first month, I was speaking and teaching English to that one person. Eventually, the parents and some nieces and nephews I met during my time in Chile also wanted to learn English, which was great! But, they were complete beginners. So now I was teaching three age groups at all at different levels. In other words, I had to adapt and change lesson plans and teaching methods (a lot of translating apps were used).
It was all worth it because I got to see their English really improve, and I knew that I played a part in that, which made my trip even more worthwhile. Teaching English to various age groups was interesting, and taught me a lot about how people learn and different ways to plan lessons and teach. I even got to learn more Spanish because I was teaching beginner English vocabulary while speaking Spanish.
While teaching English abroad in a host family setting, you might only end up teaching one person, and that’s great! But chances are other members will eventually want to start learning at least some words and sentences. Be prepared to adapt and teach English at different levels to different age groups. Being open-minded helped transform my homestay program from what could’ve been a dreadful experience, to an amazing, fear-conquering, Spanish learning, and English teaching experience that I will never forget. It gave me so many skills I know I will continue to use in everyday life, like adapting to unexpected situations.
If you are traveling to a foreign country, just remember that there will inevitably be surprises and unknowns- you can’t avoid them all. Those surprises will teach you a lot about yourself and make your experience so much better. Maybe they’ll help you conquer a fear, or teach you something new. I am so glad that I kept an open mind and stayed with that host family because they’ve truly become my Chilean family who I stay in touch with. I’m actually planning a trip to visit them very soon!
If you are applying for a program through Greenheart Travel, don’t quit, give up or get angry when something doesn’t quite go your way because some things are just unpredictable. That’s exactly why you should travel; to learn to live a life full of unpredictable moments.
So, embrace the unexpected. it could be where you learn and grow the most!