Most people can probably relate to the fact that you don’t get to travel the world very much when you are a teacher in your home country (and definitely before you start your career in teaching). For me personally, I had only been able to travel to 10 different countries before I moved away to start my first international school teaching placement.
Of course, I realize that ten countries might be a lot for the majority of the world’s citizens. Most people would be lucky to have the chance and money to travel to that many countries in the world. But for some people, it only makes them desire to see even more!
There is something addictive about traveling to and experiencing firsthand the many different countries in this world. You do see a lot of similarities (i.e. there’s always a fruit seller selling his/her fruit, the local barber has some shop cutting people’s hair, etc.), but the fun part is seeing the different things or even how each countries does that same things slightly differently.
Now you might be wondering how did I get to those ten countries before I started working at international schools, being that I hadn’t started my career yet or was only making a state school’s salary for a teacher just starting out. The first one was because I decided to do a study abroad program through my university, to Spain. I believe I was a junior at the time. Even though I went to that country to study for only 2.5 months, I made sure to visit two of the neighboring countries during my time there (France and Portugal). So, now I was up three countries visited in just one year! It was in Europe too, before the Euro currency had taken over, so I feel lucky that I got the chance to see those countries before the big change. Because this was a study abroad program through my university, I did have to pay for this “trip”, but it would have been a very similar amount if I had just stayed at my university to study there instead.
Just a year later after that study abroad experience, I found another program that would take me to another country, and a very unique and interesting one at that…Russia! I went through a program called Camp Counselors USA. You do have a pay some money to go on this program, but it wasn’t that much and many people also got paid some money while they were there. Basically, you have to work and teach English at one of the many summer camps all around Russia (a popular tradition there). This adventure was the first time I could experience being completely immersed in a language that wasn’t my home language. Though stressful at times, I have many wonderful memories of that trip. Russia is a country that many people just simply don’t know that much about. I’m so lucky to get a chance to have an insight into this beautiful country and its lovely people.
That’s now four countries, in total.
Then many years passed until I had my next foreign country adventure. I thank the big tax refund that I received that year which allowed me to buy a ticket to Colombia! I decided to go there because one of my friends was living there. You guessed it, she was working at an international school there. You are simply a fool if you do not go and visit your friend when they are living abroad. Traveling to a foreign country can be scary. But if you have a friend there, there is simply nothing to worry about any more because they know the way around there and know what to do and what not to do. Another big money saver is that you can just stay at their place while you’re visiting. Now we are at five countries!
A few years after Colombia, a friend tipped me off to another program for teachers. One where you could travel completely for free, all expenses paid for a three-week trip. The program was called People to People Student Ambassador Program. My first placement with them was to travel to all four countries of the British Isles. Even though it was a free trip doing amazing things traveling around these countries, your main job is to be a chaperone to 30-40 middle or high school students. But it isn’t that bad at all. Looking back, you really get to do very unique things that you probably wouldn’t have done traveling there by yourself. You also stay at quite nice hotels that you probably wouldn’t have booked and paid for if the money was coming out of your own wallet! The total countries visited now is up to nine.
The last country that I visited before I took my first international school job was to Australia. It was a dream to go there! And I got to go there for free as well, through the same People to People Student Ambassador Program. Three weeks traveling around Eastern Australia was definitely a dream come true! Back then, no way did I have the money to fund this kind of trip if I was going to travel there on my own. Australia was country number 10!
Once that country visit was over with, a few weeks after actually, I hopped onto an airplane to start my first international school teaching placement. I have worked at three international schools in total now. Throughout those 10+ years working at international schools, I have now visited over 70 countries!
Have I visited enough now and is my desire to explore the world waning? I don’t think so. The dream to experience different countries and cultures firsthand is still pretty strong. Even if I moved back to my home country and ran out of “extra” money to traveling with, I’m certain I would find some ways again to explore new countries for free or for very cheap means. There are probably even more programs out there nowadays, especially for teachers. Luckily, my international school teacher/expat lifestyle is still affording me the opportunity to travel on my own and/or with my partner. It still gets me excited to open up Kayak.com and start searching for my next trip/adventure!
This article was submitted to us by a guest author and ISC member.continue reading