I find myself very busy these last days before I travel to Georgia for my teach abroad program. Mostly I am trying to finish applications to graduate school. I know that it will be far more difficult to get these applications completed after my arrival, while I am striving to understand and adapt to the new culture around me. Unfortunately I will likely need to apply to some fellowships while abroad, but I am determined to take one step at a time – be accepted first and then go from there.
The upside of all this prep is that I do have experience in these kinds of crazy adventures. After undergraduate school at the University of Michigan I did what many Wolverines have done before me, I joined the U.S. Peace Corps. I was a secondary school teacher in Tanzania for 2 years and followed that with a stint in Korea teaching kindergarten. This adventure in Georgia will actually be the least amount of time I’ve spent teaching in a foreign country, and not the first time I’ve taught with few materials. It will be my first time in Europe though, which should be fun. I’ve followed an odd route abroad, having never visited the traditional sites for Americans. I jumped straight to East Africa and never looked back. At this point the more normal sites don’t hold all that much appeal. I like the wild and unusual. From all reports, Georgia looks like it will fit this bill.
Despite my love of the unusual though, I am making some last minute trips to the grocery store to load up on my small comforts. In my experience it’s the simple things, like Kool-aid, Easy-Mac, or taco-flavoring, which can really add sparkle to a homesick day abroad. I also might stock a roll of tp, just in case. Before venturing outside the West, you might not believe how many nations favor their left hands and a bucket of water to solve all bathroom dilemmas, but it is true. That is one bit of cultural adapting I have never adjusted to, and I don’t plan on it anytime soon. Georgia may lean towards western norms, but better safe than sorry, right?
As for the rest, I’ll be packing my bags and crossing my fingers. I’m sure major necessities will be available in the capital city. I’m well acquainted with the point and nod version of shopping. Teaching resources are a concern, but I think it’ll be more a list in my head of activities, rather than books in my bag. It is my experience that working with resources and materials at hand is the best way to operate. I know those may be scanty things, but bringing every shade of sharpie with me (like I did packing for Tanzania) won’t bring sustainable development of teaching methods – only new ideas will do that. Some maps might be useful. I’ll like them anyway, even if the school has their own.
In the philosophical sense, I am not sure what I hope to find in Georgia. In Tanzania I was looking for direction and in Korea I wanted to make some money. Now that I have a little of both, I guess I’m just open to the unexpected. In the professional sense, it will be a challenge to see how far my teaching skills have progressed. I’m much more confident leading a class than I was as a newbie in Tanzania. I hope I can make a greater impact in Georgia, where the resources may be similarly basic.
In general I am, as always, nervously excited about the upcoming challenges. Living with a host family heads that list; it’s very useful, but also stressful. I look forward to learning another language well. In addition, I’m eager to be one step closer to fulfilling a personal goal of seeing all 7 continents. Really though, it’s all those things you can’t anticipate to which I hope I can adapt. I take my determination with me in hopes it will see me through the unexpected obstacles. With these ideas swirling I find myself getting ever more energized for the upcoming adventure.