WorldTeach

Program Reviews

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Ryker
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

WorldTeach India Summer Experience

Most Americans, when thinking about the country of India, picture smoggy cities and overpopulation.  This is regrettably true for most of India. However, I spent my summer in the Ladakh region of northern India, and Ladakh is nothing like the rest of India.  On my flight into Leh, as the sun rose softly over the staggering and white Himalayas, I knew that my two-month journey ahead would be unlike anything I had ever experienced.
I was on the flight with the two other WorldTeach volunteers, Ellie and Bindi.  We quickly became close as we bonded over the struggles of altitude adjustment and the wonders of prayer flags snapping in the wind above every home, shop, street, and monastery.  We spent our first week in orientation training, beginning in Leh (Ladakh’s biggest city) and finishing in Sumur, a small village in Nubra Valley five hours away over one of the highest passes in the world.  During orientation, we learned to speak some Ladakhi, adapt to the Ladakhi culture, hand wash clothes, and, most importantly, use a pit toilet. At the end of orientation, I was told that I had been placed at a government school in the nearby village of Tegar.  I became nervous but excited for the opportunity I had anticipated for months.
I moved in with my new host family the day before the first day of school, and they were very welcoming.  I had a host aba and ama (father and mother), an abi (grandmother), and a nomo (little sister) in kindergarten.  We established a routine quickly: After waking up, my host father and I would make the hour-long walk down to the forest with our cow so she could eat for the day.  On a school day, I would then walk to school with my host mom and sister, which only took about five minutes. After school, or if there was no school, I would often help my host father or the community with various work and service projects (like building religious structures).  The first school days, despite my excitement for teaching, were very frustrating for me. Only half of the school’s teachers would even bother to show up, and most school days were canceled due to an absurd number of holidays. I was expecting an untrained but dedicated school staff with a lack of resources; what I encountered instead was a trained but lazy school staff, still with a lack of resources.  My expectations were shattered, and I had challenges ahead of me, but I figured that these were positive challenges and real reasons to need volunteers.
After two slow and rather unsuccessful weeks at this school (there were only four actual school days, and I was never given a schedule), we received heartbreaking news that volunteers were no longer welcome in Nubra Valley.  Although safe, the area is near a contentious border zone with Pakistan and China. So, for reasons unknown to us, we were told to by the military to leave. We didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to our host families, which was sad (although at the end of my journey we reconnected), and for a couple of days, we had no idea what we were going to do for the rest of our experience.  We all felt discouraged that we had come so far to have accomplished nothing. Our staff made some phone calls, though, and arranged for us to continue teaching in a different, far more remote, district called Zanskar. Now, the three of us volunteers would be at the same school. From my journal: “I felt broken. We were going to another area to teach, but we had already wasted so much time in Nubra Valley that I knew it would be completely useless and unimpactful.”
It wasn’t until I arrived at my new school that I began to feel more hopeful about my experience.  The teachers we met initially seemed to be on top of everything and passionate about making the most of our three weeks left.  We began the day after we arrived, and the teachers put us right to work, having us teach classes every period. We had our schedules after only a couple days, and mine included English for preschool, fourth grade, and seventh grade, and computer literacy for a couple of combined classes: second to fourth grades and fifth to seventh grades.  In addition, the school allowed us to tweak the schedule so that we could hold teacher workshops. We worked full hours, ten to four, Monday through Saturday. They even canceled holidays for us to maximize our time! Most days, after school, the other volunteers and I worked on lesson plans for both regular classes and teacher workshops. It was exhausting work, but it was rewarding, and we centered ourselves in the free time we had by engaging with the village members (our new friends!) and exploring the area.  This included activities such as talking with the oldest person in our village, milking a cow, attending a wedding, seeing the water mill, taking pictures in traditional Ladakhi clothing, having tea at neighbors’ houses, visiting monasteries, and, of course, climbing Himalayan mountains.
When our three weeks of service came to a close, we held a meeting at the school with the parents and grandparents of all the villages in the area.  We squeezed into a little room, and the three of us volunteers had the opportunity to speak to them. With the help of a translator, we talked to them about ways they could continue improving their education system after we left, and we thanked them gratuitously for their hospitality.  In response, they took turns expressing their gratitude and explaining what our efforts meant to them. It was the first time in their history ever receiving volunteers for education, in addition to teacher training. There were many tears as they showered us with gifts, served us tea, and sang us songs.  This response made me feel like my experience was totally successful and completely worthwhile.
Reflecting on the experience with the other volunteers, we talked about how proud we were of the teachers and of our students.  In our teacher workshop, we taught English skills (and how these skills could be applied in classroom instruction), general teaching skills, writing skills, and computer skills.  They were so engaged, and we could see their improvement, especially in the essays we assigned them!
I was especially proud of my seventh graders, four girls, whom I had twice a day for English.  The first couple of weeks with them were incredibly awkward and difficult. They really didn't seem to understand as much English as I expected.  Plus, they were very shy and didn't want to answer any of my questions. Sometimes, we would spend long periods of time in silence while I waited for them to utter an answer in English even remotely close to the actual answer.  So, I decided that it was important that I try to make a point of encouraging and developing their confidence. By the last week, they would speak confidently in English, even if their answer was incorrect, and this made me very happy.  We were even able to study paragraph structure and use this for a full on debate on the last day of school. Which animals are better, cows or yaks?
Despite the brevity of what our main teaching experience turned out to be, we truly felt like we had made a difference.  Even if the young students learned next to nothing from us, we felt that our teacher workshops served as useful training, and that we had inspired a community of parents, teachers, and students to believe that they have the power to “be the change they wish to see in the world.”
WorldTeach operates under the goal that, over many years in any given location, consistent volunteers can drastically improve education in the places that need it most.  The organization also emphasizes that students will have an experience that will significantly motivate and contribute to their future careers in service. The vision of WorldTeach could not have possibly aligned more with my experience; I felt like a small but integral piece of the solution to education challenges worldwide, and my experience majorly shaped my worldview and ambitions.  I learned that I care about climate change much more than I had previously thought, specifically about how it adversely affects vulnerable populations in developing regions. In addition, this experience reinvigorated my passions for bringing quality education, technology, and internet access to developing areas. This summer, I lived through so many indescribable moments and recurrences that contributed to my growth in how I view issues regarding development.  And now, I feel like I truly understand the Ladakhi culture on a level that is difficult for most to attain. Especially as my first longer international stay, this experience greatly influenced my career ambitions and my views on international issues.
My final week in Ladakh was spent on a reflective camping outing.  It was refreshing to talk through many of the experiences we had and the emotions we felt, since a journey like this is, for anyone, difficult to process.  I knew I would miss the pure and imposing mountains that had become my home, but I learned that this home wasn’t defined by the beauty of its landscape. Rather, it was uniquely defined by the love and happiness expressed by every single member of the community, always.  I will miss this land of prayer flags; those mystic rainbow squares of fabric have sent prayers to the heavens for all living beings for thousands of years. I anticipate returning here, to my home village, to my school, to my friends and family, and to the land lost in an eternal time where the birds and the clouds may come and go, but where love and truth transcend.

What would you improve about this program?
Brief training for teachers during orientation
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Bindi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a Lifetime

I flew to Ladakh with Voygr, through an organization called WorldTeach. I did not know what to expect, but the moment I met the staff - Caitlin, Behzad, Rashid and our guide Rigzin, all the puzzle pieces came together. They are an extremely caring and intelligent group. They made our experience extremely beneficial and planned everything thoroughly. Because they are locals of Ladakh and India, they knew all the best places, and where to go to find them. Seeing the grand Himalayan mountains and learning the history behind many of the glaciers opened my eyes to the world. We were able to experience Yak irrigation, cow milking, the ladakhi culture, their food, a ladakhi wedding, and wear traditional outfits. Ladakh, is a must-see area with breathtaking views and a vastness in culture.

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Laura
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Memorable Experience

What a year. When I first got to the Marshall Islands, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. There were unique aspects of the Marshallese culture that I had to adjust to, and teaching was especially hard. However, after a few months, I got into the swing of things and life became more natural. By the end of the year, I did not want to leave.

WorldTeach provides you with the necessities. You get a small stipend which is enough to survive on (but I would recommend bringing some savings). There is a three week orientation at the beginning of the year where they cover the basics life safety in the culture, some language, basic teaching principles. Once they send you into the your community, the field director will check on you throughout the year and is available in the case of an emergency. However, for the most part you are on your own. The best support comes from your fellow volunteers and within your own community.

During the course of this year, I felt like I had become part of such a special community and learned about these people far beyond what any traveler could see. Life in the Marshall Islands is slow and difficult. However, if you are up for the challenge, willing to step outside of your comfort zone and have an open mind, then the satisfaction you will feel from the impact you make and relationships you build, far exceed the obstacles.

What would you improve about this program?
It would be nice to receive some more support from the staff. I lived on the same island as the field director, yet never really developed a relationship with her. \
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Lori
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

NiHao China!

My year spend teaching English in a Chinese middle school was full of so many amazing challenges and experiences. It was such a unique experience in such a beautiful country. The students I taught were kind and so fun to get to know. The food and culture was a great experience. The travelling I did while I was in China was definitely a highlight to my year. One of my favorite memories was spending a Lantern festival with several of my Senior students and getting to know them better outside of school! The kids work so hard in school, it was great to get to know them better and have fun with them!

What would you improve about this program?
This program has an excellent orientation service program, however I feel like it needed to include more hands on instruction on teaching high school students with very limited English speaking skills.
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Camilla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Review - Camilla Payne

My experience was excellent. The things that made it a little harder were the lack of teaching resources and training, which made settling into the new job a little harder. Otherwise, everything that comes with moving to a new country and living within a different language were to be expected.
Future participants should know that even though this is a tropical location that it will not be like a holiday. this is a working job where you should really put all your effort into doing to the best of you ability - even if you are finding the transition tough. Even though you will leave afterwards it doesn't mean that you can or should give up when things get a little tougher. Stick it out and you will be rewarded!

What would you improve about this program?
A more rigorous teaching and Marshallese language training given either throughout orientation or even throughout the year.
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Megan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A great year!

WorldTeach is good at helping with the visa process, which is great because it’s complicated to get a Z visa (work visa). They provide a good orientation at the start of the program and TEFL certification. There’s someone in country there to support volunteers. For my year, the program was called China Global Education Fellowship and we were placed in different cities and towns in Hunan province. You can choose if you want to be in a city or a more rural area. I chose city, so I was placed in ZhuZhou, a small million of a few million. I teach oral English at Nanfang High School (Nanfang zhong xue). Some volunteers teach at high school’s and others at middle schools. The contract is for 16 hours of teaching a week. My school has two English clubs, called English Corners in China, and some don’t have them. You can start one if you want. Classes are pretty large, so English Corners are one way to talk with students in small groups. You get a stipend of 3,000 RMB/month, which is about what Chinese teachers make. I’ve has such a great experience, that I’m staying for another year!

What would you improve about this program?
It would be great if WorldTecah could offer more scholarship opportunities for grad schools, etc.
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Kristi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I decided to do WorldTeach Costa Rica a little over ten years ago because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, learn Spanish, and help people. My actual experience way surpassed these goals. It’s difficult to summarize all of the amazing things about the country and program: the people, the environment, the time to be alone and challenge yourself. I was probably a little too rose-colored glasses at times (I was fresh out of undergrad), but now that I reflect back more critically on what happened that year, I have a deeper appreciation for WT and what the MEP was trying to do. My main job was co-teaching kinder-3rd grade, and that was challenging and rewarding. I was also lucky to have a great family, who I am still in touch with and hope to visit again soon, and to live in an area where there was always something to do (having another WT volunteer in my town was so much fun!). I enjoyed the little trips with the other volunteers and having my WT best friend come visit whenever she could! The directors were great in prepping us, Orosi was a perfect training site, and I felt lucky to have the support. This program also introduced me to teaching, which I thought at the time would be my eventual path. It also gave me something unique to talk about in job interviews and grad school applications.

What would you improve about this program?
I’m so sad to see this program is no longer offered. I read some reviews that the program cost was too much... not sure how much it increased, but I imagine it can’t be more than rent, food, and teacher/language training for a year. But anyway, if I could help at all to bring it back, I would :)
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William
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Island Life

Having the opportunity to volunteer in the Marshall Islands through WorldTeach was an amazing experience that I would recommend to any graduate who wants to give back. It was an amazing experience! Getting to be immersed in the Marshallese culture was an enriching and rewarding experience. The Marshallese are some of the most welcoming and friendly people I've had the pleasure of meeting. Walking around the island you are invited into the community members homes to share meals and talk. You very quickly are seen as a member of the community and become involved with events from feasts to sporting competitions that are frequently held. It truly is an experience of a life time to visit, volunteer and become a member of a community that most people in the world don't know about let alone will ever have the opportunity to visit.

What would you improve about this program?
This program could be improved by adding additional opportunities to travel to other atolls during service.
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Jennifer
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A good fit

I had always wanted to do an immersion program in another country. I was drawn to WorldTeach's programs because they only required a one year commitment (as opposed to the Peace Corps), although when it was time to leave, I seriously considered staying for another year because I realized that one year was not enough time to really make significant changes. In fact, I only started to "find my groove" at the start of the second semester. I did stay a few extra months and participated in a teacher training program on Majuro.

I chose to live on an outer island because I wanted the challenge of being totally out of my comfort zone. I definitely got what I asked for! If you choose the outer island experience, you will not have a lot of contact (especially not immediate) with home or fellow volunteers. That was difficult at times when you really wanted to talk to someone that could relate to what you are experiencing. However, there were arrangements made for occasional visits to other islands, semi regular radio check-ins, a volunteer contact assigned to help you get needed items from the main island, and good old fashion snail mail, which takes on a whole new meaning when you are relying on the inconsistency of the RMI planes to deliver much anticipated correspondence and care packages.

The program overall was a good fit for me. The return volunteer who interviewed me helped with my expectations as well, even going as far as to lend me items she found helpful during her time. While at times I felt really alone, when I really needed assistance, like when I needed to change host families, the field director came to my aid and facilitated the move with ease handling the delicate balance of not offending anyone while still getting me a more hospitable family.

Some of my favorite parts of the experience were the natural beauty that I was able to enjoy every day - the beach, the water, the trees; the friendships I made with other volunteers whom I never would have met in my little Midwest bubble; the ability to experience a different culture and people (while often frustrating) allowed me to see a different way of life, allowed me to slow down and reassess what I considered important; and the events and activities I was invited to participate in on my home island, such as first birthdays, small island picnics, and mat weaving lessons.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked more instruction in the Marshallese language and maybe something arranged for continued instruction while on island, although, I suppose that could be instigated by the volunteer. More teacher instruction during orientation particularly dealing with the obstacles that outer island volunteers will face and ways to work with limited resources. Also, some focus on outcomes and expectations - what is the end goal at your school? How do you plan to get there? This might be difficult however, due to the fact that the schools are all so different even among the outer islands.
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Janaea
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Madness in Majol

Living in the Marshall Islands (I was on Guegeegue/Ebeye on Kwajalein Atoll) was definitely the most challenging, fun, and unique experience I have had. Although it required a lot of flexibility (months without wifi, limited school supplies, etc), I would never trade the relationships I formed with my students and coworkers. My favorite part about teaching was getting to know my students as individuals, not just students in my classroom. The island I was on was friendly and had a strong sense of community. WorldTeach was also incredibly supportive throughout the year and really made me feel like I wasn't alone. Although I missed my friends and family, I wouldn't change anything about my time there. Not only did I learn a lot about myself and the culture there, but I also got to enjoy countless sunrises and sunsets by the ocean/lagoon. It was breathtaking!