She's since returned to the United States to pursue a Masters degree at New York University in Social and Cultural Analysis, with specific focuses on transnational studies, race, gender & sexuality, and of course, East Africa. She'll also be working diligently to turn The Nyota Fund into a successful 501c3 non-profit organization in her free time. Marisa loves travelling, drinking tea, reading newspapers, and looking for the next interaction that will change her life, with the hopes of improving the lives of others in the process.
Why did you decide to teach abroad with WorldTeach in Tanzania?
Marisa: I knew I wanted to do a year of volunteer teaching somewhere in East Africa during my first year out of college; I looked at a few different programs that send teachers to Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. However, there were a few things that drew me to WorldTeach's program -- the first was their close relationship with Tanzania's Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. I thought it was important for the NGO's work to be sponsored and supported by the local government. Also, when you're a WorldTeach volunteer, you are guaranteed to live with a roommate. And when you're living off the beaten path, I knew it would be nice to have a familiar (English-speaking) face! Finally, the one year volunteer contract fit in perfectly with my desire to go to graduate school upon completion of my year abroad. These three things made all of the difference!
What made this teach abroad experience unique and special?
Marisa: I think the communities in which we are placed really made all of the difference. School districts and specific schools have to request (and be granted) the opportunity to have a WorldTeach volunteer come...as well as provide them with housing. That means that you can expect your host community to not only be excited to have you there, but that they've been looking forward to your arrival just as much as you have! Because of that mutual excitement, volunteer teachers can feel pretty at ease in their new home. Tanzanians are known for their happiness and hospitality! I walked away from my year abroad with so many meaningful memories and experiences, and even a Tanzanian Mom!
How has this experience impacted your future?
Marisa: My teach abroad experience solidified my desires to pursue a career in the classroom -- after working in Tanzania I know I want to go in to teaching professionally after I complete graduate school. I think the skills I acquired while in Tanzania (living simply, acting meaningfully, and being open to new experiences) will follow me throughout my life, be it in a personal or a professional setting.
While I was in Tanzania, I also started a scholarship fund for high-achieving, low-income secondary school students in my school district. The Nyota Fund ("Nyota" means 'star' in Swahili) is on its way to becoming a registered 501c3 here in the United States and will then pursue NGO status in Tanzania as well. This scholarship fund means a lot for both me and the members of the community where I spent my year...and will link me back to Tanzania for years to come! (To learn more, you can check out our website at www.thenyotafund.org)
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering teaching abroad in Tanzania?
Marisa: Living in a host country so different from your own isn't easy. It isn't easy the first day, and it isn't easy on the last day. What's important is to take the experience one day at a time, don't sweat the small stuff (or the big stuff), and use every opportunity you can to be outside and interacting with others! Anticipate a rainy season...so pack a Kindle and download a lot of books!