Teaching Traveling: Curious about organizations that fund teachers for educational travel around the world?
Let’s welcome Bobbie Downs, an educator who recently returned from one such program in South Korea! Bobbie, tell us a bit about your background.
Bobbie: Hello! I am a 32 year old from New Jersey. I went back to school to get my M.A.T. in Social Studies education after volunteering as a teacher for a Sudanese refugee school in Cairo, Egypt.
I began teaching secondary social studies in 2009, mostly in an alternative school setting. I then became a principal and now serve as the Director of the Educational Services Unit in Burlington County, NJ.
As an educator, I have had the opportunity to travel with several organizations via programs in Poland, Korea, Germany, Chicago, Annapolis, New Orleans, Nashville, DC, Charleston, Orlando, and several other locations.
In addition to my time in Egypt, I have also done volunteer work in Haiti and Brazil. I am absolutely thankful for the teacher travel opportunities that have opened up since becoming an educator.
TT: Yes! Tell us more about your recent trip to Korea.
B: In July 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Korea with the Korean War Legacy Foundation. The program was part of the UN Teacher’s Peace Camp.
During our six-day stay in Korea, we had the opportunity to visit many different locations. From our tour of the DMZ, our overnight temple stay, our visit to the National Cemetery, and our tour of a Korean tech high school, we got to see so many locations that I would never be able to see outside of this program.
Among the most valuable experiences as a teacher was the opportunity to exchange ideas with Korean teachers during a formal presentation, followed by dinner.
As a granddaughter of a Korean War veteran, the opportunity to attend the armistice anniversary celebrations was invaluable. Through talking to other veterans and seeing the appreciation of the South Koreans towards what was accomplished during the war, I felt so much closer to my grandfather. I know that he was proud of his service and would be proud of me for pursuing such an opportunity.
The Korean War Legacy Foundation gives teachers the opportunity to attend research trips such as this, but also hosts several conferences throughout the year. I highly recommend their programs!
TT: What a great resource! Thanks for sharing! Now, how do you find your travel opportunities?
B: I am constantly looking for various opportunities. While I will use Google to look for searches such as “professional development for educators,” I find social media to be the most convenient and helpful tool for finding out opportunities.
The Facebook page “Scholarships, Grants and Summer Institutes for Teachers” has been such a tremendous resource.
I also make sure to ask others on my trips what other opportunities they have done. By the time the trip is over, we each have a list of new teacher travel opportunities!
TT: Brilliant! How did you find the money to fund your travel?
B: For this particular opportunity, most of the expenses were covered. Participants were just responsible for paying half of their airfare cost — a small payment for such a big opportunity!
I know that others have used GoFundMe and other fundraising methods, but during this trip, I paid extra expenses, myself.
TT: Sounds like it was very worth it. Can you tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful?
B: We attended the Korean War Armistice Agreement & Commemorative Ceremony on July 27th. There was a daytime ceremony, and then a program in the evening. These were by far the most memorable experiences for me.
Not only were the programs well done, but it was apparent that there was a genuine appreciation for what the veterans did during the Korean War. To be able to watch clips of the war while sitting in such modernized venues was a stark reminder of how far South Korea has come since the signing of that armistice.
While sitting at dinner, we sat with a Korean military general and several young KATUSAs. The conversations were so powerful. As I sat there that night, I had a much better understanding of the legacy of my grandfather and so many other veterans.
It was clear during those ceremonies that his hadn’t been a “Forgotten War.” I know that without this opportunity, I would never be able to fully comprehend both what I teach in my history books, but also what my changed my grandfather’s life.
TT: So well put! How have your travels impacted you as an educator, and as a person?
B: I am not only a better educator now, but a better citizen. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it is absolutely true. When I talk about something that occurred or a location to which I have traveled, I know that what I am teaching has a whole different meaning because it is now personal to me.
We always discuss trying to make the lessons relevant to our students, but traveling makes the teaching relevant to the teacher. Even when you don’t think students are engaged, as soon as you mention that you were there, the conversation changes — it brings them right in.
I have such a deeper appreciation for my content, but also what it means to be a global citizen.
TT: Absolutely! In closing, what advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
B: My advice for teachers who dream of traveling is to take a risk. When you are going through lists of opportunities, apply for those that might not seem that attractive, or even those that you think you will never be accepted — you never know what can happen!
I have traveled to cities that I never put on my bucket list, but now I am so thankful that I went. When I applied to go to a conference on the Korean War in Orlando, I never imagined that it would connect me to the opportunity to go to South Korea less than a year later.
TT: Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and for sharing these resources, Bobbie! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?