TeachingTraveling.com: Fellow Boston teacher Emma, thanks so much for talking with us! Please tell us about your background.
Emma: I’m from Rhode Island, and I’ve been teaching science (Biology and Chemistry) in Boston for 4 years. After I graduated from college, I spent two years teaching English in Ecuador through WorldTeach.
TT: Awesome! Describe your time teaching in Ecuador.
E: I lived and taught English in Ecuador for two years. I lived with a host family for a year in Portoviejo, which is a really hot, dry, non-touristy city on the coast of Ecuador, and I taught community classes at a university there.
Then I lived in Quito for a year and taught in a similar setting. I went through a program called WorldTeach, so they set me up with the homestay and the job in Portoviejo.
After my year was up, I came home to RI as planned, but I wasn’t ready to be back! So after a few months of living with my parents, I went back to Ecuador and worked in Quito through contacts I had met through WorldTeach.
TT: How did you find this teaching traveling opportunity?
E: I found WorldTeach online after doing a pretty extensive search for long-term travel to Latin America. I was looking for something that would allow me to stay in one place and not be totally broke by the end of it. WorldTeach was exactly what I was looking for.
TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?
E: As I was finishing my senior year of college, I decided I wanted to live in Latin America and REALLY learn Spanish. I actually became obsessed with this idea, and I felt I couldn’t rest until I did it.
So, I lived at home for the 9 months after I graduated and waitressed at a pub. I had to pay a fee to WorldTeach for placement and training, plus I needed money for travel costs, but overall I didn’t end up losing that much money because I got paid a salary while I was working in Ecuador.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny or powerful.
E: I think the funniest moment of the two years (and believe me, there were many bizarre cultural misunderstandings) was during the time that my parents and sister came to visit me. I brought my family to one of my classes to meet my students. At the end of the class, one of my students announced that they had canceled the next day’s class and that we would instead be going to a party at Jimmy’s house in honor of my family.
Seeing my very white, American dad be forced to dance Reggaeton with my students at 10 in the morning while drinking beer and eating raw fish was one of the most unusual moments of my life.
TT: That’s a phenomenal image. So how have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
E: Living abroad has definitely given me an appreciation for ways in which culture influences a person’s approach to learning. For example, cheating on tests was the norm in Portoviejo. It wasn’t seen as a bad thing; it was just what you did to help out your classmates. Ecuadorian culture is much more communally oriented than U.S. culture, and giving another student the answer was the nice, polite thing to do.
Back in the classroom at home in Boston, I try to keep cultural differences in mind in the classroom, where so many different ethnic and family cultures all come together and influence students’ attitudes and behaviors around learning and interacting with peers. Also, I can speak Spanish, which is a definite perk with my students and their families.
TT: Indeed! Now, how have your travels impacted you as a person?
E: Ahhh… big question. At risk of sounding cliche, they were life-changing, perspective-widening, eye-opening, all those things that travel brochures and study abroad catalogs claim.
I lived in another family’s home FOR A YEAR, went weeks without speaking to another native English speaker, learned a new language, navigated a new culture, and learned how to be a teacher all in two years. I learned an immense amount about myself.
I also saw and experienced things I will never see in the United States. I went to an indigenous village at about 12,000 feet above the Equator and was served boiled guinea pig. I saw 6 year old street children swallowing fire at 10 pm on the street corners in Quito.
Living in another country really gave me a new perspective on my own country and its enormous strengths and weaknesses, as well as on the world in general and on myself and how make my way in it.
TT: Well-said! What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
E: Go! Don’t wait. If you have the itch, go. You will not regret it. Even if it is all terrible, at least you can look back and say you went. And you will have learned more than by staying here. Go!!
TT: Thanks so much for your words of wisdom and motivating experience, Emma! Yay for Boston teachers who travel!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 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 cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!