TeachingTraveling.com: Want to hear about a fascinating teaching traveling opportunity, and the story behind it? Brad is here to tell the tale of “Trek to Teach” in Nepal! Brad, tell us about yourself.
Brad: Hi, my name is Brad Hurvitz, I am a 27 year old MBA student at Oregon State University in Corvallis. I grew up in San Diego, CA, and received a Bachelors Degree in Social Psychology from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. After graduating, I worked in sales and marketing for a few years. I enjoyed my professional hiatus time but once the company I was working for terminated only 7 months before I planned on starting my MBA, I realized that the best way to spend my time would be to travel, but this time, with a purpose.
I had been to about 40 countries and loved the experiences but felt a desire for something greater, this time it would not be dedicated to my own learning and yearning to see more, it would be for other people. I went to India to teach at a boarding school for 5 months, where I taught English, was the soccer coach, swim instructor, helped market the school, and directed the school’s first play. The feeling of making a difference in the lives of others was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. When I left the school, the look on the faces of those students who I interacted with, was simply life changing. Without needing to express themselves with words, their faces proved that my efforts were validated, they were so appreciative and just as upset as I was about my departure.
TT: Absolutely. How did this lead to creating “Trek to Teach” in Nepal?
B: While on Diwali Break from teaching in India, I decided to experience the beauty and culture of India’s northern neighbor, Nepal. My Nepali guide, Madan, and I, were trekking through the most beautiful hills and countryside I had ever seen, we passed by many smiling students walking to and from school. Trekking to a nearby hot springs, every step met by silvery moss-covered Mica stone, I was having a conversation with Madan about the schools in the hills.
Inspiration hit! I knew at that moment that I had to start a company that would send foreign teachers to these schools. It was a mutually beneficial solution; the teachers would help the students and surrounding community while gaining insight and wisdom from doing so. Once we met with the headmaster at the nearby school and discussed the program, my enthusiasm was uncharted. The company would be called, “Trek to Teach,” and the domain name was purchased the following day.
Traveling finds a way past the shields that we all possess in our everyday life. These barriers inhibit expression from the heart, and cloud our vision of comparative truth. When you experience the way other people live it is easier to understand what it important in your own life and what really matters to you.
My experience abroad, and especially in India and Nepal, have opened my eyes to what is important to me and how I want to spend my time.
TT: Awesome! I bet there are a lot of teachers reading this who are intrigued by the idea of trekking a beautiful mountain and then giving back to the country by teaching. Thanks for sharing that opportunity with us! Going back to your time teaching in India, how did you find that teaching position?
B: My teaching experience in India was not an established program, it was an opportunity that I found through a connection to the owner of the school. I communicated with them and before I knew it, I was on a 37-hour journey to the school. I am happy that I was put in touch with the school and was able to communicate with them, and I am proud to provide similar opportunities to other excited people who believe there is a teaching opportunity in everything they do.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travel?
B: I had a little bit of money saved up from my previous job. I was able to use those funds for my travel. Luckily, India is not a very expensive country to travel in.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
B: There were a few moments that I can recall that changed my perspective or where my reaction had surprised me.
After a few months of teaching, the school invited me to an education expo near the capital a few hours north to help promote the school to potential new students and their parents.
I went to Delhi with two of my favorite students. After a productive day we journeyed back to our campus but had to make a brief stop. The driver had to make a quick delivery to a friend and parked on the side of the street, blocking a driveway in a small yet bustling town.
It was just me and the students in the car. We were playing a word game where we would make up a story, one word at a time, switching off with the donation of that word. A car behind us honked furiously at us to move from the driveway. I did not want to try and move our car and gestured to the people behind us that it would be two minutes.
Honking continued and the driver stormed out of his car towards ours. He went to the passenger door and looked at me as I signed to him to go back to his car. When he opened our car’s door, my instincts changed. In no way would I ever venture towards aggression, it is always the absolute last option in my mind, but I had two of my students in the back seat with me and my parental role was unleashed. I was their teacher and at that moment, their protector. When this angry man went to open the car door and get in to possibly move the car or yell at us, my eyes sparked with fire and warned him to leave. I yelled an abrupt, “get out,” and calmly, yet firmly, blocked his entrance with a hand to his chest. His aggression deflated as he quietly retreated back to his car.
I believe that there is a teaching moment in everything that we do. How would I address my sudden change in temperament to my young observers? I decided to apologize to them and explain why I reacted in this way. It was also an opportunity to let them know that violence is the absolute last method of confrontation.
This moment has stayed with me for a long time and will remain within me. My role as a teacher was clearly more than only broadening the horizons of my students; I deeply cared for them, and felt obligated to shield them from potential misfortune.
TT: Amazing story! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
B: After teaching in a foreign country I have learned to be patient. Yes, patience is indeed a virtue, a very challenging virtue to possess. While I have not nearly mastered the skill of patience, I feel I have a greater understanding why it is necessary in the teaching world. Every student learns at a different pace and cannot be forces along the average path. The best teachers are the ones that see the students as individuals and not a collective group.
Traveling gives a person a different perspective on people that are not familiar. All too often, we make a judgment about somebody we do not know, solely based on their appearance. Once you travel, you realize that making personality judgments is pointless and simply a justification for superiority. Traveling has taught me to learn about a student before building any expectations, and before making any assumptions. I have taken this philosophy to my interactions with the people I meet every day. In the business world, talk to individuals, look at them in the eyes, listen to them and get to know them before making any assumptions. It shows them you care about more than an almighty dollar, which in turn, will often lead to more of these dollars.
TT: Love it. How have your travels impacted you as a person?
B: Everything I see, I see with different eyes.
Every day you hear people mention that they “want” some thing, or “need” a new pair of shoes. Many of us in the Western world are unable to determine the difference between what it is they want and what they believe they need. After seeing much of the world and how people live in different circumstances, it is easier to determine the difference between what it is I want and what I need. Once this is defined, half of my worries disappeared and the rest of them became less important. Happiness is so much easier to achieve with more knowledge of the world!
TT: So true. What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
B: In order to become the person that you dream of being, you must challenge yourself to venture into a new world. This adventure will clear the dust from your core personality and will give you the opportunity for greater self-discovery. While engaged in this ultimate search of self, you will have the opportunity to help others attain their goals and gain inspiration to their dreams.
You want to see a new world, live abroad, or teach in a foreign country, you CAN do it. The hardest step is the first one, make that step and the others will fall into place.
TT: Brad, thank you so much for this fascinating, useful interview! Readers, if you’re interested in trekking up a gorgeous mountain in Nepal and then teaching a local community, check out Brad’s organization, Trek to Teach!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!