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Elementary Art Teacher Travel in Eastern Europe During School Breaks

Sarah with shoe statues on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary.
Sarah with shoe statues on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary.

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Sarah Clarke! Sarah, tell us about yourself.

Sarah: I live and teach in North Carolina, but I am originally from Canada! I studied Art and Anthropology in University and am now in my second year as an Elementary Art Teacher. I also taught high school visual art for a year. I love teaching art because it is such a dynamic subject.

Every human culture in the world has created art, and it is something that is always evolving. The wonderful thing about being an elementary art teacher too is the lack of grades! I don’t have to worry about rubrics or assessment, we can just focus on making art and expressing ourselves!

Studying art is what also opened my eyes to the world. I took all kinds of art history classes in university — Mayan art, Greek and Roman art, African art, and many more. Learning about different art made me want to visit the places to see it for myself!

TT: Wonderful! Tell us about your travels.

S: I travel during my annual breaks from school. Last summer I spent six weeks backpacking through Eastern Europe. The trip began in Budapest and I traveled through Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania for two weeks.

I then returned to Budapest and spent two weeks taking Hungarian language classes and absorbing as much Hungarian culture as I could. The last two weeks were spent in Poland, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. It was busy summer, but an incredible experience. At the moment, I’m currently making plans for next summer and for a shorter trip during my spring break.

Rugs in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.
Rugs in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey.

TT: Fabulous. How did you find this travel opportunity?

S: I came up with this opportunity on my own! I knew I wanted to spend my summer traveling and I wanted to spend time in Budapest, so that is what the trip was built around. My grandmother is Hungarian and I wanted my first independent trip to include my heritage. I did all the research and arranged everything myself.

TT: How did you fund this trip?

S: I saved up all year for this trip! I sacrificed my social life and my appearance a little bit (no manicures or new clothes!) but it was definitely worth it. My grandmother also assisted me with the Hungarian language classes and my apartment in Budapest. She always wanted me to travel to Hungary to learn her native language.

Sarah at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery.
Sarah at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery.

TT: What was the most powerful thing you saw?

S: One of the most powerful experiences I had this summer was visiting Auschwitz in Poland. It really proved to me how necessary travel is. Reading about something in a book and then actually seeing history with your own eyes is remarkable.

Communicating with people in Hungarian, befriending an Iranian family in Istanbul, and just traveling independently were also very power experiences to me.

TT: How has travel impacted your teaching?

S: Traveling has had a huge impact on my teaching! I teach in 3 different schools and by name I am an itinerant art teacher (which is just a fancy way of saying traveling art teacher!). I have no problem transitioning from different types of schools and connecting with children.

It’s amazing to introduce a weaving project to my 4th graders and show them woven rugs from the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, Istanbul. Teaching symmetry is so much more fun when I can discuss symmetrical architecture like churches, mosques or castles that I have actually been to!

I am always using my travels to inspire art projects or to enhance ones I have done in the past. Likewise, teaching has also had an impact on my traveling. I can easily adapt to many situations, I’m patient, and much more relaxed when things go wrong!

Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland.

TT: Love it! How has travel affected you as a person?

S: Travel has added so much richness to my life. I am grateful for all that I have, and love learning about different cultures and all of the many ways to live life. I can’t imagine not traveling and only having one perspective of the world. Travel has made me more tolerant and accepting of differences and definitely an overall stronger person and teacher.

TT: What advice do you have for teachers who dream of travel?

S: Take advantage of your annual leave time! We are so lucky to have it. Make the most of all the long weekends, go somewhere for the summer, and travel during your spring break! Save as much as you can and just go!

One of the 21st century skills we are responsible for is global awareness. In order to be globally aware, you have to experience the world first hand. All good teachers know that learning can’t always take place in a classroom!

Sarah, hiking in Untersburg in Austria. Tempted to also explore the world?
Sarah, hiking in Untersburg in Austria. Tempted to also explore the world?

TT: Thanks so much, Sarah! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Sarah? Do check out her blog at!


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Saturday 16th of February 2013

Hi, I'm an Art Major and I am trying to graduate with my bachelor's degree. Thank you so much for the information. You have inspired me to travel and see the world.

Lillie of

Sunday 17th of February 2013

Hooray! :)


Monday 10th of December 2012

Thank you!! I completely agree that travel should be compulsory for teachers. I am shocked by the number of teachers I encounter who have barely even left their home state.


Monday 10th of December 2012

This is a great interview. I come from a teaching background and I am surprised how many teachers stay at home when they could have all the world under their feet literally if only they tried a bit harder. Travel does make teachers better teachers and better people, I would make travel for teachers compulsory.

The World Wanderer

Sunday 9th of December 2012

LOVE the interview! It's so funny how many teachers don't travel, with all that time off. I'm in my 6th year teaching, and I think travel has made me a better teacher. I show my students pictures and teach them about the world - and they listen because I've been there, they aren't just reading about it. When students can make a connection, they understand.

I have yet to visit n Budapest,Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Poland, and Romania, but they are definitely on my list. :)

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