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Teaching Abroad and Community

We received an email from a current LanguageCorps participant that is teaching English in Asia, and it made me think.  She wrote about how much she enjoyed the LanguageCorps TESOL training program in Cambodia, and how much she liked the other participants in her training group.

In her words:

I absolutely loved the course.  The LanguageCorps staff were everything I could have hoped for and more–friendly, welcoming, well-trained in their area, and familiar with Phnom Penh and Southeast Asia.  The people I trained with were some of the coolest I’ve ever met, and now I have friends all over Asia.  It was a very good month.”

We loved hearing from her and are so glad she enjoyed the TESOL course!  I do think that one of the most appealing aspects of a program like ours, as opposed to just heading off somewhere and trying your luck, is the built in community that a LanguageCorps course provides.  Participants are typically in training groups of 10 or so soon to be teachers, and many say they form life long friendships during this month long period.

And it’s certainly very helpful to have a network of people that you can rely upon when moving to a strange new place.  Your first few weeks in a foreign country can be pretty overwhelming, and when you’re by myself, it can definitely lonely too.  But, participating in a program like ours means that you immediately have people to go out with, eat with, apartment/job hunt with, share helpful advice and concerns with, and on and on.  That community and common ground can go a long way towards minimizing home sickness.

But, this teachers’ letter also got me thinking – is there a negative side to these natural communities that spring up around our programs?  By allowing and encouraging people to bond with the others in their training group, is LanguageCorps preventing people from truly embracing and immersing themselves in the local culture?  Are we creating groups of expats that will only socialize with each other, isolating themselves from the local citizens of the magnificent cities in which they live and teach?

Thankfully, in the vast majority of cases, I think the answer is no.

While many LanguageCorps teachers do take comfort in having a group of like minded people to relate to from the get-go, I think that most participants are in it for the right reasons.  They are teaching English abroad because they want to truly experience living in a new country.  They embrace local customs and make long lasting friendships with local colleagues, students and any other number of people from all different backgrounds.  A LanguageCorps training group is a great starting point, and a great way to get going in the right direction, but you can expect that you’ll soon be branching out as well, leaving your comfort zone far behind.

It’s the best of both worlds, really.  And you never know when it will come in handy to have a friend in Asia 🙂

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