Alumni Spotlight: Megan Sloter

Megan Sloter went to Tanzania in the end of April through beginning of July in 2011. She is from Charles City, IA and lives in Mt Vernon, IA. Megan, 22-years-old, was a full-time student at the time of the trip and now is an Elementary teacher.

Why did you decide to volunteer with IVHQ in Tanzania?

Megan: I was disappointed by the lack of affordable study abroad opportunities at my school for people interested in education, so I started looking into volunteer options I could do on my own over the summer. I wasn't sure if I could actually make it happen when I began researching, so I looked for cheap programs that would allow me to travel somewhere I had always wanted to go but had never thought would happen, and ultimately decided on Africa. I started looking at different countries that I'd like to travel to in Africa and Tanzania had it all - safaris, mountains, beaches, and people in need. IVHQ is an affordable program that some friends had used to go to different countries and had liked, and it also had a teaching program, so I was sold!

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Megan: As a volunteer, my day began early in the morning with breakfast at the house with all the other volunteers, then we would go our own ways to our various placements around the city and rural neighborhoods - hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc. An hour (2 long walks and 2 buses) later, I'd arrive at my classroom full of 16 eager 4-6 year-olds. I taught for anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 hours in the morning, working on math and English with the kids, would have lunch and recess with them, and then either travel to other classrooms and schools associated with my program after lunch or head back to the house.

It was difficult because the students had no English background and few resources (I was teaching in a class alone) but it was also a challenge everyone else in the house faced, so we would share lesson ideas and make plans together and give feedback on how things were going - it was great having the support to go home to! Sometimes I would meet other volunteers in town for the afternoon - there were always projects to work on and supplies to buy at one of our placements! Nights at the house usually involved sitting around outside with my housemates or going out to dinner a few times a week to try new local places and get a feel for the city.

Megan and students at Cheti school where she donated new bathrooms

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Megan: It was special because I went there knowing nobody on the entire continent and left with family. I lived with and met so many great people, was challenged, and was able to make a visible difference in the lives of my students. There were always people at the house who wanted to travel and explore, so each weekend there was a new adventure to go on - anything from waterfall hikes in the mountains to safaris to beach holidays. Trying to describe the experience is nearly impossible, which has just made me hold on that much tighter to the memories and the friendships from the trip.

I think it says a lot that 7 of the people I lived with are going back this summer and many end up returning after their first trip - I know that I plan to return as soon as I can! The culture is so unique and the people want to share their lives and culture with you, so if you go into it with an open mind and open heart, the experience can be life changing.

Explore Tanzania as you volunteer with IVHQ

How has this experience impacted your future?

Megan: I hope to return to Tanzania again in a year (two years after originally having gone) and would love to keep it as a place I return home to every few years. I've remained involved with a non-profit organization I got involved with while teaching there (Cheti Sponsorship Program) and am now proudly sponsoring the education of a former student to get her through primary school.

I've also decided that as I continue my travels throughout my life, I want to do it as much as possible through volunteering. The experience of spending 3 months in a place and living in the culture is so much more rewarding and powerful than being a tourist jumping from country to country.

Professionally, I got experience teaching a classroom all on my own (no resources, no supervisors, language barriers, etc) before going into student teaching my last year of college - it made me so much more confident being in a modern American classroom - I had resources and advisers and anything I could possibly need! I also decided I wanted to teach abroad for a few years and am now signed on to teach in El Salvador following graduation. I'm so excited for the next adventure, but it would have never been something I would have felt like I could do without having this previous experience in Tanzania.