?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Life transitions - volunteering abroad

womanwithsuitcase

It seems the time has come. All my life, I've constantly thought about it. Packing my bags and moving to another country to live short term. Long term for me isn't an option for one simple reason. I'm too close to my family - they are my emotional support system in life, and my main social circle. To be half-way around the world from them for an extended period of time will not work, nor be beneficial to my emotional health. Where to go is the main question, and how to support myself while I'm there?

I'm already on my third career in life, and have grown bored with it - now I'm ready for the fourth. Working in the legal field has run it's course, and after 15 years the downsides now outweigh the upsides. Being a lawyer has been intellectually stimulating, challenging, and of course provided me with a very high salary during the last decade. However, money has never been a driving force in my life, and I'm really a simple person, not craving many material possessions beyond the basics. I began to research possible options and discovered one program that seems to fit all my parameters...

TLG

In 2010, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia implemented a program called "Teach and Learn with Georgia" (TLG). The purpose is to recruit native English speakers, and throw them into the villages of Georgia to work with local teachers in elementary schools. There's a slight chance you will be placed in a main city like Tbilisi or Batumi, but most teachers are positioned in more remote parts of the country. You live with a local host family, and are totally integrated into their daily life. Almost everyone who has worked in the TLG program says there are huge language barriers, which make the transition of living with a new host family challenging. This is all part of the experience.

The threshold requirements to apply are very minimal, and it's not even necessary to have TESL/TEFL certification, although I can easily obtain either certification by attending local courses. The program is attractive because it's short term, unlike the Peace Corps or some other humanitarian organization where you have almost no control over the country into which you're placed, and you must commit at least 2 - 3 years of your life living there.

I've completed my application for acceptance into TLG, and there is only one piece to finish before I push the "send" button and electronically transmit the data to the main offices in Tbilisi. It's the part I struggle with most - a personal essay about myself, and why I should be accepted as a teacher in the program. While I find it easy to write about others, it's sometimes difficult to formulate accolades about myself. And, of course, there are huge hesitations and worries about accepting the position if it's offered to me.

The first is that I've never been to Georgia, although I'll travel there in October. Second, am I really ready to give up almost every modern convenience to which I've become accustomed here in the USA? I've read almost every blog written by Westerners who have worked in the TLG program since its inception. They all echo the same sentiments, especially the female volunteers - the villages into which you're placed often have limited running water, the villagers will treat you like a queen and you will be an extreme curiosity to them. If you're single - they will bring every eligible Georgian bachelor and introduce you to him, as they can hardly fathom that a woman is not married in her mid-20's. And how will they treat a 43 year old, single female? :)) There are many other cultural distinctions and frustrations they write about, but this is the reason you work in such a program. To feel, breathe and experience another way of life...

The pay is also an issue, as you work for a pittance - 750 GEL/per month, after taxes it equals 600 GEL. However, I will have to pay my host family 200 GEL, which leaves less than $200 per month. Perhaps this is a huge wage for Georgia, but it is nowhere near enough to cover my monthly student loan repayments for my doctorate degree ($680/month). I'm still waiting for confirmation these loans can be deferred for a short period of time if I'm engaged in volunteer/humanitarian work.

So, what do you think? Am I crazy? Would you move to a foreign country without first visiting it?

I'll keep you updated on the progress of this situation, which has been time consuming both mentally and paper-work wise...stay tuned. :)

Comments

( 159 comments — Leave a comment )
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
(Deleted comment)
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:11 pm (UTC)
Why? There is no reward without risk. :))
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 12:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kichiro_sora - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kichiro_sora - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 13th, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 13th, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 13th, 2016 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 13th, 2016 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 13th, 2016 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - mneniemoeumenya - Jun. 8th, 2016 12:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 8th, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
moskitow
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:22 pm (UTC)
Don't go to Georgia.....if you want to teach English in another country consider Asia. My friend's daughter is teaching English in Korea. The pay is decent(she can afford to travel around and even to England for a weekend) And conditions are very civilized. The only problem is - they wouldn't let you to try on any clothes(which is one size - xsmall there!) if you want to buy anything, cause they are afraid you stretch them and no Korean woman would buy :)
Or go to Georgia but decide after your trip there in October!
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:29 pm (UTC)
For the high paying jobs in Asia, you need more experience in teaching English, so they are not an option at this point. Plus, Asia is just too far away, and the culture is not of primary interest to me. :) I know there is an eternal debate as to whether Georgia is European or Asian, or a combination of both....but it seems more European to me based on my discussions with Georgians. Perhaps it's best to wait until after October when I visit Georgia to get a feel for it. But this will delay the opportunity by almost a year, as the teaching opportunities become available at the start of each school year in August. About clothes, it's funny. :)) I think a rather strong, independent woman like me will experience many frustrations in Georgia, yet also many delights. :)
(no subject) - white_walker - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - white_walker - Jun. 7th, 2016 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 7th, 2016 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
baby_rhino
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:48 pm (UTC)
You are brave! I wouldn't risk going to a country whose language I don't speak and live with a host family there :)
I went to Germany for a year as au pair, and I lived in a family there, but I spoke some German (and understood a lot more than I could say). Though the experience was a bit common with yours in a way - I could speak and understand hoch deutsch ("general German" they speak on the TV, for example) but the family lived in a small village in Bavaria. The parents in the family spoke (or at least tried to speak) hoch deutsch, but almost everybody else spoke Bavarian, which doesn't have much in common with hoch deutsch. I volunteered with a group of handicapped people there, and most of them didn't speak a word of hoch deutsch - that was a challenge! :)

Good luck with your trip to Georgia! And good luck with getting your placement as a teacher! I hear the people in Georgia are extremely friendly (I know only a few personally, though. And I like people from Armenia better for some reason))
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:53 pm (UTC)
It seems the parents in the host family will know Russian, so I can communicate basic phrases in this language. Part of the purpose of living with a host family is to help their children learn English. Volunteers are required to dedicate separate time to teach the host family's children. The whole idea is scary, full of uncertainty and the outcome could be disastrous. Or life changing. :) All Georgians I communicate with now are wonderful. Very friendly and helpful. What did you do with your handicapped people in your volunteer work?
(no subject) - baby_rhino - Jun. 6th, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - baby_rhino - Jun. 6th, 2016 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cecille_abril - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - baby_rhino - Jun. 6th, 2016 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cecille_abril - Jun. 6th, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - baby_rhino - Jun. 6th, 2016 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
selfmade
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:48 pm (UTC)
Never been to country of Georgia, but heard lots of good things about georgian people. They are very warm and welcoming.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:53 pm (UTC)
So far this has been my experience, at least virtually. :) The Georgians have been very kind and generous.

Edited at 2016-06-06 12:54 pm (UTC)
perycalypsis
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:58 pm (UTC)
Too corny option, have you ever thought about
crawling wet jungle with ak-47?
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 12:59 pm (UTC)
I don't see anything corny about it....why do you think so?
(no subject) - perycalypsis - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
ign
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:14 pm (UTC)
You're saying it is "short term", but what does it mean in practical terms? Months? A year?

And yes, being in a country whose native language you can't understand or even read could be intimidating (unless you can communicate with locals in Russian to some extent...) So if I were planning something like that, I would spend a bit of time learning basic Georgian.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:16 pm (UTC)
Time period is 6 - 12 months, with possibility to renew your contract, if desired.
(no subject) - ign - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
olena_bogdanova
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
Wow. Georgia is a very beautiful country, and people there are very friendly.
Also there a lot of good wine and food is amazing.
Men there treat women with respect.
I would take such opportunity, believe me, im teaching in China. Georgia is much better.
P.s. Guys there are sooooooooo handsome!!!))))

Edited at 2016-06-06 01:26 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:26 pm (UTC)
You're teaching English in China? Perhaps you also should apply for the TLG program then? :)) I don't think many people know about this program honestly. I'm not really drawn to Asian culture, so I never considered moving to this region of the world temporarily. What are the main challenges you face being a foreign teacher in China?
P.S.: Yes, the Georgian men are a bit wild, untamed and exotic for a Westerner. :)) I like their rugged appearance.

Edited at 2016-06-06 01:27 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - olena_bogdanova - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - olena_bogdanova - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 01:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
nar_row
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:28 pm (UTC)
You are not crazy. You are an intelligent woman, Shannon. :)

But I'm not sure I understand what exactly you are looking for.

Are you just bored and nothing more?

Edited at 2016-06-06 01:32 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :) I'm bored, tired of this profession, my life goals are not aligned with the mentality of my law firm, where everyone is concerned about climbing the corporate ladder, getting a bigger and better "title." It is not what I want to do with my life. I've been very blessed with opportunities, a wonderful, loving family....my personality is such that I can speak with and make almost anyone comfortable and at ease. I can use this to my advantage to help others, to give back and try to make the world a better place - if only for a few people.

I don't have grand illusions of saving the world, but to change the course of even a single person's life for the better is meaningful, and more rewarding than sitting behind a desk. I don't know why it's so hard for people to understand really. :)) I can give you a prime example. My law firm is moving to another location at the end of the month, thus we are all cleaning out our offices. I arrived this morning to see all these business jackets and nice sweaters in a big trash can in the hall! Can you imagine? I can't relate to the mentality of people who would throw such things away, when they can easily be taken to goodwill, given to someone less fortunate, etc...So, I gathered them from the trash bin and will deliver to a local charitable organization tonight. I think it's just another shining example and sign that I should move along in life, away from this profession, shallow people with no perspective...yes, I believe in such "signs." :))


 photo IMG_1919 1_zps8wfre43z.jpg
(no subject) - nar_row - Jun. 7th, 2016 05:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 7th, 2016 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
ivalnick
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:34 pm (UTC)
It is only your choice. He is worthy of respect.
But I would not risk.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
Georgia is not the only option, but I don't see the point in moving to some Western European country where life/society and culture isn't that much different than the USA. The purpose is to experience a bit of culture shock and entirely different way of life.
(no subject) - ivalnick - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
seadevil001
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:46 pm (UTC)
So, may I ask what kind of reward you are looking for?
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
Looking for? New experiences, fulfilling work, connecting people around the globe rather than dividing....many other things.
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seadevil001 - Jun. 6th, 2016 04:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
romanklimenko
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
Wow! this will be a bold move
It's crazy for sure. But still I'm little bit jealous. I cannot afford dropping everything and leaving for the Journey.
Family, house, job....a lot of liabilities
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:03 pm (UTC)
For me - no husband, no children, no debt outside of my student loans. My car is paid for, I have no credit card debt, I own a home but have a solid renter. My situation can't be compared to those with children and family. I have freedom they don't have, much less responsibilities....my choices in life have been deliberate, always working toward some goal and grander scheme to make the world a better place. This is just another chapter in the ongoing novel. :) I know many people crave all forms of stability, comfort and consider anything else too challenging or scary. This is not my mentality really. To each their own, of course. :)

Edited at 2016-06-06 02:06 pm (UTC)
kremlin_curant
Jun. 6th, 2016 01:51 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. Challenging. But you are the best choice to be such a missionary for Georgia.
Go. Don't hesitate. Don't be afraid of bachelors. After you slept in Russian hut in next room to several country men you can't be scared of no sexual harassment.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:04 pm (UTC)
Afraid of bachelors? :)) Georgian men are very small in stature. I think I could easily beat them up, if necessary. :)) But I don't anticipate that it will be necessary. Thanks for the support and encouragement! :)


Edited at 2016-06-06 02:07 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - kremlin_curant - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kremlin_curant - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
maksipes
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:18 pm (UTC)
o man, as soon as I learned that you are bored with your dead end job I thought you have to go to a third world country to teach English. This is so popular among those english speakers who want to change their boring life and this is really easy to do. You always can find a place to work and live as an English teacher, especially in China and Japan and Korea. You should consider these countries they're more wealthy to pay you a reasonable wage, and they are love to study English. You also can go to Russia, to Moscow, for instance.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 02:23 pm (UTC)
I have no desire to live in Moscow, or anywhere in Russia, even short-term. For Asia, you typically need prior teaching experience and TEFL certification. About the pay - well the salary nor money are a driving force in this decision. It is about the experience. My job is not "dead end." If I wanted, I could easily become a partner in my law firm, making 200 - 300k a year. And for what? To sit at my desk 12 - 14 hours a day, slaving away for big corporations? No thanks. :) Better to be poor and soulful than rich and miserable, with a bitter disposition. The latter describes a huge portion of lawyers. There is a reason that lawyers have one of the highest rates of alcoholism of all professions.
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maksipes - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Maks J-Fry - Jun. 7th, 2016 07:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 7th, 2016 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kichiro_sora - Jun. 6th, 2016 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
iamschik
Jun. 6th, 2016 03:30 pm (UTC)
Hi Shannon,
On one hand, Georgian people are world famous for their hospitality, so blogger pesen_net recommends to bring to Georgia extra liver: your own will not be enough:) To will have to drink gallons of wine, otherwise it would be a horrible insult to your hosts. Of course, you may say, doctor prohibited you drinking and see, how that will fly.
The same story with men attitude towards single women. Of course, you may lie that you are engaged. So, without lying you are in danger. Every day life can be difficult: it's not just a lack of running water, it's a lack of hot water that gets you down. If you were a man, you would have to grow beard.
peacetraveler22
Jun. 6th, 2016 03:41 pm (UTC)
Hi! :) I don't drink much, so I will have to formulate a plan to avoid these gallons of chacha and wine without insulting hosts. :)) Male attitude toward single women? Well, I have read a lot of articles on this topic and Georgia, and am not sure if they are over-exaggerated. I guess I will not find out until I visit the country...I'll be sure to write about my experiences there during the October journey.
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
( 159 comments — Leave a comment )

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by yoksel