Did you know it’s possible to teach conflict resolution skills and activities abroad?
Teaching Traveling: Welcome, Bill Graybill! Tell us a bit about your background.
Bill: I started my traveling to teach with a trip to Moscow, Russia in 1998. That experience of working with college students in a totally different culture ignited a journey that has led from a small rural town in Oregon to teaching in seven countries and all corners of the United States.
I have been a Pastor in a rural church for over 32 years in Jefferson, Oregon. I went back to school and got my Doctor of Ministry in 2000. My dissertation was on managing conflict. It was this material that I used as travel opportunities were presented to me.
My days of travel did not begin until I had raised two boys well into high school. I am now a leadership coach while I continue to pastor and take teaching trips. As I close in on turning 60, I hope to see my teaching travels increase, not decrease.
TT: Wonderful! Please tell us about some of the conflict management travels you have undertaken.
B: I have had several incredible experiences while teaching overseas. I was teaching conflict management to about 30 church leaders in Latvia. About a third of the leaders had spent most of their life under Soviet rule, while about the same number hardly remembered their day under Communism.
I was talking about dealing with conflict in an open manner when one of the senior leaders made the comment that it was a hard concept to accept. He went to explain that for most of his life if they were open in dealing with conflict, prison was a real possibility.
In the Philippines, I found myself teaching conflict management principles to a group of Filipino missionaries who were going to go to the indigenous people. I was teaching individuals from one culture to another culture who were going to take it to a third culture. Amazing. The trick was to leave behind my own culture and make the principles transferable to any culture.
In South Africa, I was teaching at the graduate level with nine students who represented six different cultures from all over southern Africa. In one of the group projects there were two black males and one colored female.
In the cultural setting she was at a great disadvantage. She was female and colored (of mixed race) which put her in a very uncomfortable position.
Yet, when the group reported what they learned, all spoke to the issues of learning to respect her as a person with valuable contributions. The report was the highlight of my four-week trip.
TT: Fascinating! How did you find these travel opportunities?
B: My travels began when a friend invited me to go to Moscow and teach with him. It took me a while to decide if I even wanted to go with him. Most of my first trips to new countries came as a result of a connection with or through a friend. Having built relationships in the countries, return invitations are easy to come by.
TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?
B: I have personally paid for most of my travels. I started teaching seminars in the United States and those brought in money that financed my overseas travels. Since I do pay for it myself I tend to schedule overseas trips about every two years.
TT: Tell us a few moments from your travels that were particularly profound.
B: I have stood in places where history has been made, from Nelson Mandela’s prison cell in South Africa to Red Square with its Soviet military parades that I remember watching as a child on TV. I have really enjoyed the historical places that I have been privileged to visit.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your present career?
B: I have brought back so many fresh ideas to share with those I work with at home. I have gained a better understanding of the world and of the people who live in it. I can share with the people in my church insights many of them will never have the opportunity to experiences themselves.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
B: Now when I watch the news on TV I have a new appreciation for the people and their situations. I have a clearer idea of the challenges others face just to live. It has also made me grateful for what I have and the opportunities that have come my way.
Just this past month, one of my sons passed this Facebook note to me that he had received. Notes like this one give me great personal satisfaction. I quote it as it was written:
Subject: concerning ur father!!!
pls, say to him my more than big tnx! he helped me a lot, teaching me exegetic subject in moscow november 1998. remember him until this day, still reading books on this theme. result – personal business… ;))
TT: Love it! So what advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
B: I would advise them to look to their networks. Who do they know who could open doors for travel and teaching? If they will keep their eyes and ears open, the opportunities will appear.
Additionally, I would encourage them to look for unexpected income that can be put aside for travel. Often when we get extra cash, we do not have a plan for it and it disappears with little or nothing to show for it.
Set your approximate dates, create a plan and begin looking for ways to make it happen. You’ll find yourself overseas before you know it.
TT: Bill, thanks for sharing your inspirational tale!