What and Why… but Where? Reflections on a year abroad to teach and learn Unfortunately I’m writing this first article without knowing probably the most important thing about my trip…where I’m going! Having studied Geography for four years, I’ve learnt about the importance and distinctiveness of a place, despite the supposedly homogenising influences wrought by the unstoppable force that is modern globalization. So I realise that choosing where to go is a pretty big deal.
Although I don’t know exactly where I’m headed, I know that I want to go to Spanish-speaking Latin America – the prime candidates are Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador. I reckon Chile would be the best, based on nothing in particular except the elongated shape of the country (which means a coast is never far away!) and a vague idea that it might be cooler and safer than a few of the other destinations. I want to explore this region mostly because I know incredibly little about it, especially in terms of history and culture, and feel a real need to discover somewhere new….
I speak some Spanish which is one reason I want to travel to this region… or rather I did after taking two years of classes at university for extra credits (in First and Second Year) – can I still speak it after two years without much practice? I’ll be rusty at best – I can only remember having spoken Spanish on three occasions for a prolonged period since my classes ended: with my Polish friend Lukasz (whose Spanish isn’t exactly ‘native speaker’), with a Spanish woman in an Irish bar in Dublin and with some Mexicans after a couple of drinks. Better start revising my reflexive verbs then…
I also know that I want to teach English, using the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate from a course I did last summer. It’s a great means to an end: a way to travel and explore somewhere new.
Having spent my Third Year studying abroad in Singapore (and travelling widely around the region), I’m not as daunted as I might have been otherwise. I already have most of the main inoculations and some experience of crossing tricky borders, negotiating visa admin stuff and staying safe whilst having a lot of fun and surviving public transport.
A lot of research is needed: insurance, visas, flight prices, teaching jobs, knowledge of local laws and customs, country-specific info, accommodation, and most importantly, the price of beer.
For more details about how to prepare for a trip abroad check out the FCO’s travel advice pages and Know Before You Go campaign: www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo. I will also be signing up to their social media feeds so that I can get updates whilst abroad, on Facebook /fcotravel and on Twitter @fcotravel.