Savannah is a recent university graduate who loves to travel, play sports, and enjoys performing arts. She seeks out opportunities to get immersed in new cultures and hone her foreign language skills.
Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I wanted an opportunity to teach abroad without feeling like I was replacing a teacher in another country. This program seemed like a sustainable way to utilize native speakers while developing their own teachers as well.
I also had a great desire to stay in South America, a region I have always had a fondness for and where I speak the language.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Greenheart Travel helped connect me with this program. I had to organize my own flights and housing, but they offered support for most everything else.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Be prepared for challenges and get excited about wherever you are placed. Colombia is very diverse and within each community, schools operate differently as well.
Be ready to go with the flow and keep in context that you are probably getting more of an impact on your life than the school is getting from your short stay. Try to give everything you have to your community while you are there.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
You have a lot of down time, so you control how much you put into your planning and extracurriculars. An average day for me would be planning in the morning in a calm atmosphere in my house and then heading to school from 12 - 6:40 pm. Sometimes I will go to a language exchange after school or play volleyball in the evenings as well.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was feeling unhappy in my placement city. I thought that being without the comforts of home and feeling like a foreigner would start to get to me, but really I have found the opposite to be true. I have learned how much I don't really need what I have at home (i.e. air conditioning and hot water).
For the most part, I still live comfortably and though I still stick out, people are very excited to welcome me to their country. To overcome this fear, I just prepared myself for these challenges and came with low expectations about what would be available to me. In the end, most things exceeded my expectations.
What is something that unites Colombian culture?
For me, in Valledupar, I was shocked by how artistically talented people are here. Everyone (and I mean nearly everyone) is obsessed with music. Every other person I have met is either in a band or knows how to play an instrument and sing. It's one of the first things my students asked me about and it's something that I utilize to engage them in the classroom as well.