Alumni Spotlight: Conrad Wilson Thorpe

My wife and I sold our business and retired early, only to find that we were bored. We took a TEFL course and now combine our passions for travel and teaching.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because it came highly recommended from a friend and experienced teacher. We arranged a Skype interview and listened to their description of the program. The training and support sounded just right for us. They were passionate, enthusiastic, informative and caring. We have volunteered before but never had this level of scrutiny. They really do want to make sure that you are right for the project and also that the project is right for you. It exceeded our expectations in every way possible.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CWF helped us as much as they could. We gave them our flight details and they helped us with the visa application process. We arrived a week before the program started and they met us at the airport. They recommended a decent hotel for us before showing us round some longer term rental accommodations. We chose not to stay in the teacher house and we soon found a suitable apartment close to the school. There was a full orientation and safety program, with guided city, river and food excursions. We had two optional trips to see the work that CWF does with the monies raised.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Just turn up with an open and positive attitude. We had a great mix of nationalities, ages and abilities but everyone learnt something from each other. The students are the main reason for you being there, and they don't disappoint. They are respectful, grateful, and very shy at first. Respect their laws and customs and you will make friends for life.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We worked 5 days a week from 3-30 pm to 8-30 pm in the classroom. There was additional lesson planning to do either at home or the school. Some of the other teachers did mornings, which I think started at 6-30. Most of the students work or study during the day and therefore have to come before or after a hard day. The school has all the resources you would expect for printing, copying, etc.

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 is standing up in front of a room full of people and delivering a lesson. It still is, but I have a lot more confidence in my own ability. I now appreciate the value of good and thorough lesson planning. I also learnt that lessons should be fun for you and the students. They learn so much more when they are having a good time.

Is there any other advice you'd like to share with prospective travelers?

Try and mix with the locals as much as possible. Use local bars and restaurants, they really appreciate your patronage and it's not long until you're accepted as a local yourself. You might even pay locals prices instead of tourist prices. See and do whatever you can, whenever you can, because time flies by, and soon it's time to leave and say goodbye.