The Home Stretch

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Written by  October 29, 2016

The challenges faced as the end of the school year—and a return home—approaches.

When thinking about what to write for this post, the first word that came to mind is "fatigue."

There are only a few more weeks left in the school year here in Colombia and I am tired. But, so is everyone else. The students are tired and begin to show that fatigue in a variety of ways. One of my best students—who usually does his class work with enthusiasm and leads the other students to do the work as well—has resorted to negotiating to not do any work. Believe me, at this stage I empathize.

But this is a universal experience. Teachers and students all over the world begin to run out of steam as the end of the school year approaches. Where I feel the added challenge comes for those of us who are teaching abroad is the anticipation of going home. There is an anxiousness that comes with realizing that within a couple of months, you will be home; recounting the stories of your time abroad with family and friends, taking in the various sights and activities that your city offers, and indulging in some of your favourite foods. (I’ve already decided the first order of business when I get back to Canada is to get poutine.)

Teachers and students run out of steam at the end of the school year. For those of us who are teaching abroad, an added challenge is the anticipation of going home. 

I had difficulty adjusting to life in Colombia during the first three months for a few reasons, but one of them was culture shock. Then I started to feel more comfortable with the way things are done in Colombia and with my students. Education is very casual and informal—at least at my school—and I learned that being a friend to your students is more productive than just being their teacher.

The other challenge of teaching abroad is your time with your students is coming to an end. Again, this is also a universal experience, but when teaching abroad it’s that you’re leaving the country and the likelihood of seeing your students again is slim. While I hope that all my students succeed in life, there are a few in particular that I have high hopes for, and wish that I could be there to see them become the adults that they aspire to be. These are the ones that I want to see use their English skills to open up opportunities for themselves that they wouldn’t have had if they hadn’t applied themselves to learning English.

When I arrived in March, I didn’t know what to expect. I had read about different experiences other teachers have had when teaching abroad and knew that no two experiences are alike. However, the one thing that these experiences had in common was how much these teachers grew as people and how much they cared about their students. As bumpy a road it has been I am grateful for this experience and surprised at how much of an impact my students have had on me. I only hope that they have learned as much from me as I have from them.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Alicia Williams

Alicia Williams is an English Teaching Fellow with Heart for Change in Colombia. Living in the Eje Cafetero, she has learned to take time for coffee, rather than getting coffee to go. She plans to live abroad for awhile.

Website: aliciaisincolombia.wordpress.com

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