Greenheart Travel

Program Reviews

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Derek
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

If you are looking for a culturally immersive program that will be rewarding every single day look no further! As a first time ESL teacher, I found this program to be a great fit. Other teachers in my group had years of experience and also found it to be a great fit. I felt supported by Lauren and Savannah from Greenheart and I felt extremely supported by ALIARSE, the partner organization in Costa Rica. I arrived with 10 other teachers from around the United States and the United Kingdom. We completed an informative, in-depth orientation in San Jose where we had a chance to do mock lessons, find out our placement locations, get to know each other and the organization and our social workers. Then on Saturday, we left San Jose with our social worker(s) for our new location and new host family!

My host family was by far my favorite part of this program. My host family consisted of a host mom and dad and 4 siblings, two lived in the house and 2 visited often. We frequently had grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members at the house. This really immersed me in the culture and the language. My host family spoke some English but they agreed to only speak Spanish with me so that I could learn more. They invited me everywhere they went and we spent many evenings talking about culture, sports, music, Costa Rica and much more.

The Classroom:
My students were amazing, and I had an equally amazing social worker. I have never met a group of people who wanted to learn more than my students. They were in class every day ready to learn, always asking questions about words, pronunciation, and grammar they have heard. I was the second teacher in my location so the students had 4 months of English class before I started and it has been incredible to see them improve so much in 4 months. I'm able to look back at their first diagnostic test and comments from the first teacher to really see just how far they have come. Many of my students are mothers, some are single mothers. Some just finished high school and some have kids in high school. Almost none of my students knew each other prior to starting the program and in just 8 months they have bonded and formed a tight-knit, supportive community. They spend time together outside of class practicing English and only want the best for each other.

Each location has at least one social worker or more depending on the number of students. The social worker in my location is an incredibly special woman. She truly cares for each and every student, as well as the teacher. She always checks in with the students and provides so much support for them. Because the students come from impoverished backgrounds many of them have obstacles to learning. This is where the social worker comes in. She teaches soft skills, provides emotional support and helps the students mature.

As a first time ESL teacher, I found it very helpful that we were provided lesson plans from ALIARSE. This saved me a lot of time preparing. I still made notes and added some fun games and activities I had learned during my TESOL program, but I did not have to design a curriculum from scratch. There is also flexibility within the curriculum so that you can adapt it to fit the needs of your students. Also, the curriculum is constantly being improved based on feedback from teachers. The curriculum creators were very helpful in explaining the curriculum and providing support for it. Also, ALIARSE provides money for copies and transportation (I chose to walk to class, but if I wanted to take the bus, this would be covered by ALIARSE). This program is still fairly new so it is important that you come with an open mind and are flexible.

If you haven't lived in Costa Rica before it is worth your time. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting from the landscape to the language to the culture and the people. I have truly enjoyed embracing the "pura vida" lifestyle while here. The food is fresh and delicious. The fruit is cheap and from right down the road and came off the tree/bush/etc only days, sometimes hours prior! (Unlike the US where much of the fruit is months old and has traveled thousands of miles).

If you are looking for an adventure, to live in another country, to embrace another culture, to learn another language, to significantly impact Costa Rican people, to step out of your comfort zone, to meet teachers from around the world, to work for an amazing organization, to build your resume, to eat fresh fruit, to experience what "pura vida" truly means this is the program for you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Have an open mind, and be flexible because change is inevitable. Embrace the culture and language. Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the fruit!
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Abigail
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am writing this while still in Italy, having just completed my 10 weeks of teaching in Verbania, Italy. I could not recommend this program enough.

Greenheart provides incredible support and preparation, and the orientation we received was thorough. Orientation was also a blast because I was able to meet the other 20 teachers also being placed in the Piedmont region (most of them near Turin). Everyone was instant, effortless friends and all of my trips around Italy on the weekends involved at least one of these new friends, sometimes more (like the 10 of us who took on Florence for a weekend---such a blast).

I had 2 host families during my stay, and each one was fantastic. I consider them close friends now and living in their homes meant traveling with them to their favorite local spots, eating incredible meals together, and sharing our worldly perspectives around the dinner table over local wine. Staying with host families was certainly the most rewarding part of this adventure as I feel I got a very deep sense of Italy culture.

Teaching at the local middle school was a really great experience. It boosted my future teaching career so much. And, be warned, Italian school systems are very disorganized. If you can go with the flow, you'll be okay. That being said, be prepared to run an entire class by yourself because the teacher usually with you took the day off to go skiing. Be prepared for teachers who harshly yell at students and students who yell right back. It's a different system in a different culture so be prepared for it to take a lot of time and energy.

During my time, I've been able to travel to Florence, Venice (for Carnival no less), Naples, Rome, Genoa, Turin, Milan, and even into the Swiss Alps. Every day is an adventure and a chance to eat the most incredible food you've ever had in your life. And the gelato is so good, you'll seek out the best places in every town and have it at least 3 times a week. Embrace it.

I highly recommend this program for anyone who wants to be immersed in a culture, work hard at school, eat amazing food, and travel around Italy/Europe. I never had any issues.

What would you improve about this program?
Implement some sort of program where travelers can set up tutoring services for money as we're working full time and earning nothing for three months. Perhaps would make the program more feasible for more people.
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Michelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Doing this program was one of the best decisions of my life. Greenheart was incredibly supportive throughout all the pre-departure planning and the trip itself. Being a first time traveller, I was also able to apply for the Greenheart Travel First Time Traveller Scholarship which was a huge financial help to me!

Rescue P.A.W.S. became my second home and will forever have a special place in my heart. I was lucky to have an incredible boss and amazing coworkers who I know will be friends for life. My days were spent with puppies or cats in my lap, putting my skills to use in a way that I can confidently say I am proud of. This internship is very self-directed - I came in with project ideas in mind and was able to do all of them. I come from an art background and was even able to illustrate for, and design, a bunch of new merchandise, which isn't something I thought I'd be doing in a marketing internship at all! I loved Rescue P.A.W.S. so much that I even decided to stay a couple of months longer than I had planned. If you're on the fence about doing this program, don't be. What could be better than puppies in Thailand?

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The most unfamiliar thing I ate was a scorpion. It tasted like crunchy plastic.
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Haley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A few years ago I was searching the internet for a way to travel to another country but stay longer than a normal vacation. After weeks of searching I found Green Heart Travel's program to Colombia. I studied history and focused on Latin America so this was instantly my favorite program I'd seen. After applying and going through a few interviews, I was on my way to Colombia within 6 months. For the following 6 months I not only had an amazing time with my students and teachers at my school but also traveled the entire country which included snow and glaciers, beaches, mountains, ancient ruins, urban cities, colonial towns, and lots of beautiful hikes with waterfalls and mountains everywhere. Everywhere I went the people were so friendly and I never felt unsafe at anytime. I would highly recommend taking a chance and traveling to Colombia and would definitely recommend Green Heart Travel for all of their help and organization throughout my time there and even after returning.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
One weekend I decided to take a hiking tour up to glacier that sits in between two volcanoes. The way up was fairly easy but continued to get colder and had more snow on the ground the higher we went. After reaching the top it began snowing so the guides said to take your last pictures and start heading down (there were a lot of people and quite a few guides but the trail was clearly marked so we were able to start walking ourselves). As I started walking down it got very foggy and was hard to see which way to go. A few others caught up to me and also were unsure of the way down. A few seconds later a guide came running down to us, kind of frantically searching and talking on his walkie talkie. Eventually he was certain of the correct way down and guided us in that direction. I really enjoyed the entire hike and tour but it was a little scary not being able to see very well which direction to head knowing you could easily go the wrong way and fall off the edge... but I made it and am super happy I went on the tour!
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Lauren
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I came to China via Greenheart having used them already in 2015 to complete a programme in Thailand. Once again, Greenheart were very well organised, pragmatic and supportive throughout the entire process. Greenheart had less involvement in the programme than when I went to the teaching placement in Thailand, as there was no introductory weeks of lessons, activities etc. I was regularly in contact with Greenheart staff however, who were especially supportive when I was having a tough time in my homestay struggling with cultural difference and homesickness. The lady I spoke to had suggestions, encouragement and liaised with my boss of the company that I was handed over to, in order to help me though my issues and feel more at home in China. By the end I didn't want to leave! I also had an alumni discount for this programme, which is also great as we all know that money can be an issue when you have itchy feet. I would definitely recommend the home-stay programmes as an immersive and humbling experience, however i might suggest going on a paid teaching programme first like I did in order to get to grips with culture shock and first-time working abroad with others in the same boat before going it alone.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Chicken feet. Deep fried duck bones. Rice wine. Apart from these three awful things, China had the best food I've had in my life. Chinese home cooking rocks!
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Lauren
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Greenheart are fantastic at providing support from the moment you land in the country. I arrived and was picked up by a driver arranged by greenheart, and then driven to my hotel room (sharing with another teacher). We then spent the next week having all our important documents sorted, applications for teaching jobs filled out and phones sorted, as well as Thai lessons, culture lessons, teaching lessons and wonderful activities such as muai thai and visiting an elephant sanctuary. I felt 100% supported by greenheart staff to get a teaching job, although flexibility on this front was required on my part as this changed once or twice before it was finalised. as well as emotionally and psychically supported for the rest of my time in Thailand. I ended up working for a school and a learning centre in Ayutthaya, a beautiful historic town, the learning centre was fantastic, wonderfully organised and gave me a variety of students in terms of age and requirements. The school was far less organised and I had some trouble here trying to make my lessons a success, however, I felt i could call upon Greenheart should I encounter any problems. I found the culture and language lessons provided by Greenheart at the beginning very helpful, as well as technical support of getting a SIM card and bank account, all of which would have been very difficult to do alone. I had a wonderful placement and a perfect place to live, and still keep in touch now with some of the fellow teacher I met there. A fantastic experience, so much so that I decided to use Greenheart again in 2018 for a home stay programme in China.

What would you improve about this program?
Of course it would be nice if the programme was a little more affordable for everyone, although I did make plenty of money once I was out there. I also got discount for my next programme.
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Lux
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Not a good program at all! Overpriced! Basic needs were not even covered. Greenheart does not follow through with what they tell you they will give you. Felt more like a workaway experience. Was not given 3 meals a day and hot water did not work properly in homestay. None of the money goes to the host families so the organization overcharges volunteers and pockets the money. Organization does not reply to emails in a timely manner and when complaints are brought up, nothing is done about it. Local support is very poor. Very bad experience overall. Felt ripped off.
I did not receive "Three home-cooked meals a day for duration of program" that I was supposed to receive for the whole duration of my stay.
I definitely did not get the support I needed from the local staff for the $500 they received from me. The least they could have done for me was tell me to book my train ticket earlier before I arrived because I had to pay 100 euro for a train ticket that would normally cost 15-30 euro if I had booked it at least a week in advance.
The hot water did not work in the washroom they had given me to use. It would only work for about 10 minutes and then would completely stop. Therefore, I was only able to shower once a week! This should have been checked for the $500 I paid for the "Host family search, screening, and placement process" and the "background check".
I also do not understand why I had to pay $100 for the "Comprehensive medical/accident insurance" when all that was done was the registration for this. Moreover, I had my own medical insurance so this should have been optional.
I also did not even receive the package that I was supposed to receive via mail form Greenheart.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
When I brought up the issue to Greenheart of not being fed 3 meals a day and nothing was done about it!
Response from Greenheart Travel

Hi Luxmy, thank you for your review. As discussed with you via email already, the Teach English in a Homestay program includes many services, including program support, insurance, and host family vetting. We list what is included in the program on our cost page on the website, and we are upfront and transparent with the cost of the program and where your program fee goes. Though you have a local coordinator to reach out to for cultural questions and guidance, the role of this person is not a travel agent, and pick up and transportation to your host city from the airport is explicitly not included in the program fee. Homestay teachers are told they need to book transportation to their host city ahead of arrival. Three meals a day are covered by the host family in exchange for your tutoring, and after you let Greenheart Travel know about your concerns over the host family’s expectations we spoke with them and they assured us they were providing you with three meals per day. Your host family’s house was screened and searched properly. You did not inform Greenheart of your host family’s hot water issue while you were on the program so we could not ask the host family about this while you were there. Your host family has been part of the program for several years and this is the first time we have received any negative feedback. Finally, medical and accident insurance is included in this program and most of our programs. We enroll our travelers and it covers them for the duration of their stay, it is not simply a registration, it’s important coverage in case of a medical emergency while you are on program.

We informed you during your online pre-departure that we were having issues sending packages with Canadian customs, so unfortunately your package was sent back. After this happened, we offered to send it again, but you said this was not necessary. We aimed to do our best to support you during your program and respond to your questions and feedback in a timely manner and we do stand by the support and service provided before and during your program.

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Bronwyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What an amazing adventure. My Host Family could not be More than they are: Wonderful Wonderful Human Beings and Friends for Life. Liliana and Paolo showed me how to Luve as an Italian; they proudly took me to see and experience at least half of their beautiful country. I stayed in homes of family and friends across Italy and up and down Italy. I visited Amazing places tourists don’t generally know - BELLISSIMO. We sang laughed and argued our way up and down and back and forth across Italia. Liliana and Paolo I Love You Both and will be back as promised.
Your country is beautiful, you certainly have the right to be so proud of it - voted the most beautiful country in the world in 2018, Your people are amazingly welcoming friendly and helpful.
Milano Metro ur um - lost again, wrong train again - wow another adventure, another place seen and experienced.
I cannot thank Greenheart enough for the experience you introduced me to.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Immerse yourself in the life you have the opportunity to Live.
Enjoy every moment good and not so good - you can learn from it all.
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Fiona
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Overall my experience being a student of Greenheart travel was a good one. I originally chose them because people were so helpful and kind as I went through the many steps to start my journey. They were always there to answer emails, assure my parents and answer questions we had.
Although, there where some less than positive experiences as well. I was placed in a family where not all members of the family wanted a student in their house, and the family rules seemed to change and get stricter over time. In the end after months of disagreement and at least one meeting with a local coordinator trying to resolve things, I actually got moved to another family after being kicked out. It wasn’t entirely the family’s fault at all, there where situations I handled incorrectly. But in the end when I received a letter of probation for exploring farther than I was supposed they also included completely untrue statements not related to what I did wrong. I feel they greatly misrepresented me, which really hurt.
A solution was found and I was placed in a welcoming, wonderful family that completely changed my experience for the better.
I wouldn't go one way or the other to recommend or not recommend. I would say do your research on multiple programs. The best way being to look at a reviews. See what people say about the rules and the family they where placed with to make a decision.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Flying across the world and dealing with customs and long flights alone was defiantly the most nerve racking.
Songkran Celebration with M.6 Students
Zak
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I first began researching teaching programs around Asia I never thought it was as complex and confusing as it is. I found Greenheart and they were encouraging and helpful. They don't hold your hand through every step, but they are supportive and make sure you feel informed and safe as you prepare for a huge leap into the unknown. As mentioned, the teaching world in Thailand/SE Asia can be complex. You'll work with partner organizations/agencies, since Greenheart doesn't actually serve or have access to every school in the country. Fortunately, I personally never had any major issues or emergencies while navigating some of the confusing transitions throughout the teaching process, but I always felt that Greenheart had my back and would have done their best to help had I needed it. I completed the TESOL course and initial placement, and fell in love with Thailand. I have since transitioned to other jobs, but I attribute a lot of my initial success to the fact that I came through Greenheart.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you've never worked in a foreign country before, this experience will be very very very challenging at times. DO NOT expect Thailand to cater to your every need. It's a beautiful, friendly place to live and work, but the program is not a vacation. The Thai community loves having foreign teachers, but they expect you (rightfully so) to live up to their expectations and to respect and adapt to their culture. Not the other way around. It's not always easy, but it can be absolutely transformative if you're open to it.