TeachingTraveling.com: Thanks for agreeing to share your experiences with us, Alisha Robertson!
Tell us about yourself.
Alisha: I’m a native Texan who, before 2002, spent most of my time exploring the US. I graduated college in 2004 with a focus on Business and Human Resources, worked in the “60 Hour-a-Week Working World” for 4 years, and then set off to teach English in Chile in 2008. After teaching English in Chile, I went back to the states to work for two more years and to spend time with family.
I turned 30 this past year, so I decided it was time to take off again. I am currently on the first leg (South America) of my around the world volunteer trip where I am focusing on teaching, micro-financing initiatives, working with women affected my human trafficking, and volunteering with various organizations.
TT: Phenomenal! Tell us more about your travels.
A: So far, the longest and most interesting teaching and traveling experience I have had is when I moved to Chile for a year. It required that I adapt to the local culture and really become a part of the community. I worked for a private institute that taught 7 different languages. The language institute where I taught also set themselves apart by having native teachers available for all of the languages they taught at the institute. Initially, I taught a mix of children, teen, and adult classes (regular ESL and Business ESL) and then spent the last part of the year working on-site at a copper mine in the middle of the Atacama Desert.
TT: A copper mine?! Wow. How did you find your teaching-traveling opportunities?
A: There are various programs out there that offer assistance in finding an ESL position. However, my business background is in Human Resources and recruiting, so I decided that before exploring those options, I would set out on my own to find a position. I did a lot of research to decide exactly which country I wanted to teach in. Once I decided on teaching in Chile, I utilized online job boards such as Dave’s ESL cafe, ESL Jobs, ESL employment, among others. I’ve personally found Dave’s ESL Cafe to be one of the most comprehensive resources across various areas. I also looked up all of the private language institutes in Chile alongside the main contact, and started contacting them and sending out my resume. I solicited my resume, set my interviews, negotiated my contract, and secured my position prior to arriving in Chile without the assistance of an agency. The process included lots of research, a significant amount of time preparing my resume and answering institute specific questions via email, and various interviews via Skype.
TT: Very helpful advice. How have you found the money to travel?
A: I’ve always tried to not buy things that I don’t necessarily need. I would rather spend money on experiences rather than things. Therefore, from when I first started working after college I was always saving. I also did small things like minimized eating out, got a roommate to split costs with, only bought what I needed, etc. Anytime I got a bonus, a raise, or earned any extra cash, it would all go into my “travel pot”.
TT: Fantastic. So, tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
A: After college, I spent the summer in Thailand. I was able to stay with a Thai family and they took us to visit a community of Monks. We had lunch, learned about their way of life, and it really opened my eyes to other cultures. From that moment, the travel mania began.
TT: Love the photo. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your career path?
A: I was not a teacher back home. Only in a volunteer capacity. Teaching is such a rewarding experience, and working with students, you don’t have to guess… they actually tell you that you are making a difference in their lives, and those are some of the most beautiful words. Teaching abroad definitely helped me in my normal career to have a deeper level of compassion, patience, and understanding. It also helped me slow down a bit and put boundaries on aspects of my job in the corporate world that I felt were not fulfilling my passions.
TT: Awesome. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
A: I think with my travels as a whole, it has made me much more laid back than before. I actually now spend time doing nothing and don’t feel guilty. If I want to spend the day in the park reading a book, I do. Before, it seemed my life was always on a hectic schedule and I worked a lot. Travel has definitely taught me to slow down and take in the moments. In the beginning, slowing down was difficult, but I think I am getting better every day.
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
A: My advice for anyone considering teaching English abroad would be to do some volunteer tutoring in your local community with adults or children to see if you actually enjoy teaching. I would also recommend reading job boards and reaching out to people who are currently teaching in the country you are interested in so you can have a true perspective of what to expect. Be patient and flexible. And, if you are considering South America to teach, learn to love the word mañana! – There are no deadlines!
TT: Thanks so much, Alisha! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Alisha?