Jessie Beck

Jessie Beck

Go Overseas Writer

A Washington DC native, Jessie Beck studied in Dakar and Malta, taught in Costa Rica, and volunteered with the Peace Corps in Madagascar before ending up at Go Overseas as Editor / Content Marketing Director. She has since moved to work at Asana.

Undergraduate University
George Mason University
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My Articles

My Reviews

Jessie Beck
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic organization working with wild elephants in Sri Lanka

Last October, I spent two weeks volunteering with Greenheart Travel in Sri Lanka with my partner. We had a fantastic experience overall.

The placement is remote, in the middle of the jungle, but there’s electricity and running water at (almost) all times and if you pick up a SIM card in the airport on your way in, you’re able to get 3G and phone reception on your phone.

Staff on the ground were super friendly and welcoming, though I will admit that we weren’t given the most thorough introduction to the field house when we first arrived — a film crew from the U.S. was arriving the same time as us, and I think it ended up being a little chaotic.

I also want to make it clear that to get to the site, you have to take a 2-3 hour train ride and then a 4 hour *bus* ride. Totally fine, but if you’re like me, you don’t really want to go chugging a bottle of water before a trip like that.

Apart from logistics, the area surrounding the field house and most of the areas where we conducted research were stunning. We were only able to see elephants on one day when we went into the national park, but hey, it’s wildlife, they do what they want, right?

Also, the food was delicious, but I’d suggest volunteers bring a few snacks of their own… especially if you want more fresh produce with your meals.

Impact: I was only there for two weeks and, although I learned a lot about the human elephant conflict and can now educate others on it, I didn’t really do much to directly contribute to the project. Still, the organization itself is doing great work to support the community and elephant conservation, so regardless, I feel very good about supporting this organization.

Support: Greenheart’s staff was incredibly supportive from the start. They checked in with us several times before and during our trip to make sure everything was going well. Staff at the local Sri Lankan organization was a little hands off (which, as an experienced traveler, I liked), but available to answer any of our questions, help us figure out bus times, etc.

Value: A little expensive considering that travel in Sri Lanka is very, very, very cheap.

Fun: Okay — I gave this one a 7 because yes, I had fun (I brought a fantastic book, was there with someone I love hanging out with, and enjoyed the company of the other volunteers), but if I’m supposedly “rating the social scene”, well, er, lets be honest: there’s not much of a social scene in the middle of a jungle.

Safety: Overall very good. I do think it would have been worthwhile to go over some safety protocol for being around wild elephants though.

Overall: There are definitely a few small things that could be improved with this program, but fortunately Greenheart and the local staff both were incredibly receptive to our feedback, and I have full confidence that they’ll take it to heart. Nonetheless, it was an incredible and completely unique travel experience — even for someone who has been to over 30 countries!

Bonus: The house had 6-week old kittens while we were there. So cute.

What would you improve about this program?
- Quick run down of where things in the field house are on arrival
- A better explanation of our tasks as volunteers in orientation
- Fix the mosquito nets (someone bring 'em some ducktape!!)
Jessie Beck
Yes, I recommend this program

Unique location; unforgettable study abroad experience!

I studied abroad at UoM for the 2008 - 2009 academic year via a direct exchange through my university (George Mason University). Initially, I was looking for a program that would allow me to take courses in my major (anthropology) at an English speaking university -- yet I still wanted to go off the beaten path. Malta was a great compromise -- though admittedly I hadn't even heard of the island before deciding to study abroad there! Overall, it was a great experience -- though not without its ups and downs -- but I have nothing but great things to say about the staff, support, and quality of my study abroad program.


Most of my courses were quite good, and I was able to take a lot of anthropology courses -- which were super interesting given that I was for once studying another culture while being in another culture. Class sizes were small (for my major at least), and over the course of a year, I got to know my professors and the other few anthropology students at UoM pretty well. It was very immersive.

However, some of the classes were hit or miss. I had one professor state "I just kind of make it up as I go," so I dropped that course!

Sometimes, professors would switch into Maltese (unintentionally) when teaching, but were usually pretty understanding when myself or one of the other students raised our hands to ask them to switch back to English (technically the language of instruction at the university).

Another thing to keep in mind is that given the way UoM is structured, it was sometimes difficult to take courses outside of my major. For example, I wanted to take a creative writing course but was told that that particular course was only open to English majors. Not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind if you're trying to plan out which credits to get done while abroad.


I ended up not staying at the University Residence with the rest of the foreign students (since Malta is so small, most local students continue to live with their families while in college, and well after, so there aren't any official student dorms). Instead, I got an apartment off campus with a couple of other foreign students. Again, the only local students living in apartments tend to be those commuting from Gozo, Malta's smaller island, and they tend to just stay in the Msida / Gzira area for the week, and go home on the weekends.

The university is about an hour walk / 20 minute bus ride from Valletta, the capitol, and from St. Paul / Paceville / St. Julien -- where most students go for a night out. Staying around the area was nice and super convenient for getting around, though I felt like I missed out on a lot of the socialization that those staying at the University Residence got to be a part of.

UoM / the Erasmus reps do organize social events for exchange students though. Definitely go and get to meet other students!

Also while I was there, the staff at UoM helped me set up a weekly volunteer job working with refugees at the Refugee Camp in Marsa through the Red Cross. It was fantastic to get to see a side of Malta I wouldn't have otherwise, and I'd highly recommend looking into a volunteer position if you're there for the full academic year. For just a semester, it might not be enough time.


Getting around Malta with just English was perfectly fine. Everyone speaks Maltese and English. Cost of living in Malta is super cheap. If you're looking for a more budget study abroad destination, Malta is it. At the same time, it is very, very, very small and can feel that way sometimes.


- Pastizzi (delicious and cheap snack!) and Ftira sandwiches.
- A visit to the blue grotto
- Wine bars in Valetta
- A night out in Paceville -- I especially loved the reggae bar!
- Getting to know your Maltese classmates :)
- Birgufest in Birgu / Vittoriosa.
- Carnival on Gozo
- Films at the cultural center in Valetta

What would you improve about this program?
More housing options beyond the university residence / help connecting with potential housemates before arrival.
Jessie Beck
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic and Immersive Study Abroad Program

I spent one month studying Wolof, French, and cultural studies at ACI Baobab through George Mason University in the summer of 2007, and it was one of the most fantastic abroad experiences I ever could have hoped for.

The staff at ACI Baobab was incredibly supportive, our classes were well run, and we hardly ever were lacking for great activities, excursions, or courses.

Our host families were fantastic as well -- I ended up being paired with a family that had two daughters my age and a 4-year old nephew (who, by the way, kicked my butt at dancing... naturally). In true Senegalese style, they welcomed me into their family and -- years later -- hope to see them again some day :)

Also, their cultural training before the start of our homestay was incredibly helpful and just another reason why I'd rank them as supportive and fantastic with their academics!

What would you improve about this program?
Hard to know at this point if this was part of our orientation or not, but a little run down on how to deal with *ahem* stomach issues (before they happened) would have been helpful.
Jessie Beck
Yes, I recommend this program

Great CELTA course

It's been a few years, but when I decided that I wanted to teach abroad, I went to Teaching House New York to get CELTA certified. Overall, the program was rigorous and intense, but it really helped prepare me for teaching abroad. They gave great instruction in methodology, and integrated practice teaching into every day of our program. Support was great, and they have a job search engine exclusive to Teaching House alumni that later helped me find a substitute position.

What would you improve about this program?
Kind of expensive.