I think it speaks volumes that someone such as myself, who traditionally never takes photos of anything, ever, and who tends to run away at the sight of a camera lens ended up taking around 250 photos and 30 videos of my experience in Aitutaki, even selfies!, Which just goes to show the beauty of this paradise island. Everywhere you pointed your camera was a stunning photo opportunity just waiting to be taken. There is no where quite like it and I cannot believe that it has been almost 2 months since coming back to England already! I still think about the experience and miss it.
There was so much more the experience than just the beauty of the location though, throughout my 2 weeks in Aitutaki, not only was I able to challenging myself through immersing myself into a completely different culture, I embraced it, trying things I never thought I would've done in my 'bubble' back home in England. This ranged from local delicacies to entertainment and I can honestly say that it is a unique and deeply satisfying feeling to come out of your comfort zone and to experience this beautiful part of the world for what it is - paradise!
As beautiful as the island was, as amazing, unique and unforgettable as the experiences were, for me, what stood out the most was just how kind the local Maori people were. They made me and the rest of the Travel Teacher team feel like A-list celebrities ever since we arrived on their island and I, for one, felt home immediately despite being about as far away from home as was possible to be.
Of course, we were not just there on holiday, we embarked on this journey with Travel Teacher to make a difference to the lives of the Maori people whilst working at Araura College - the only secondary school on the whole island, which should come as little surprise when the population of Aitutaki is only around 2000. I was able to form a plethora of excellent relationships with both staff and students alike during my time at Araura college. I quickly came to realise that when the time came to say goodbye, that it was going to be an emotional day. Despite this awareness, nothing can quite prepare you for when that time does inevitably come. Hundreds of children and all of the staff gathered to welcome us to their school and hundreds gathered to say goodbye. Many gave hugs, many gave gifts, many even gave us presentations as to how our time at their school has impacted them on a personal level. This, coupled with the affirmation from the teachers, was a truly humbling feeling to have had such an impact on so many lives throughout my time on the island. I can honestly say that it went both ways as well.
As an aspiring PE teacher with plenty of experience in the field, for me personally, it is a special feeling when you impart some of your knowledge and skills and wisdom onto a child in a manner which benefits them through interpersonal development. Throughout my experience with Travel Teacher, I found that this epistemological belief that I had previously held was amplified tenfold. The whole package was a unique and unforgettable one and I would absolutely recommend Travel Teacher to anyone with a passion for education and/or travelling. You will be embarking on a journey you will never forget!