We're here at the end of the year and I'm going through a lot of travel journals from our volunteers in 2011. There are a lot of great journals in our Community Pages.
One of my favs was by Lauren Linares. Her journal, Vino,Besos y Mas, was joy to read. I am linking to her final entry entitled Ciao for Now. But if you check it out, take a look at her other posts and photos as well. But Ciao For Now provides a great list of "I will miss" sentences.
For example, Lauren will miss the olives, the kisses goodnight from the children she tutored on our program, "Live With A Family In Spain And Teach Them English."
If you plan to go to Spain with GeoVisions, this travel journal is a great place to start. Even if you're going elsewhere, try starting here and then browse through the subgroups where we have more journals from other countries.
Live With A Family In Spain And Teach Them English is a great opportunity to teach English in Spain but have the security of a host family and 3 meals each day. It's a great way to travel to Spain or teach in Spain.
Did you know this program is one of the very few with a "low season" price?
Try to beat 1 month is Spain, living with a family and teaching them English, 3 meals each day and your own room for $895. Yep. Under $900 for the month. And if you can stay for 3 months the fee is $970…less than $100 more for 60 more days. At 3 months, you're spending $11 per day. Try to live and eat in your apartment for that!
Seriously. Check out Lauren's journal and then the program and maybe I'll see you in Spain real soon!
In the meantime, here are some interesting Blogs and posts about living and teaching in Spain I came across and recommend:
Teaching English in Spain: An Interview with Cat Gaa (Part 2)
The Truth About Teaching English In Spain And Beyond
On December 12, Edudemic ran a Blog post we really liked by Jeff Dunn, the Executive Director of Edudemic. They produce a monthly iPad magazine about education and technology. We follow Jeff on Twitter (@Edudemic) because we work with hundreds of teachers each year, placing them in full time teaching positions in Thailand, China, S. Korea and soon in Vietnam and Japan. Their content on the Blog, Twitter and their Facebook page is helpful.
The most recent post we loved was "50 Must-See Teacher Blogs Chosen By You." My brother-in-law is a Math teacher in New York City, and I didn't see his Blog in the list and so I'm going to suggest you take a look at JD2718. It's a great Blog for teachers, especially if you're teaching in New York City.
Because GeoVisions is interested in teach abroad and especially paid teach abroad, I looked through Edudemic's top 50 to see if I could find some Blogs to pass along to our teachers abroad and those getting ready to go overseas and teach. Here is a short list from Edudemic's list of the top 50:
A Journée In Language by Brad Peterson. A great Blog about Etymology and quite a few posts that can help you prepare to teach English abroad.
On of the most incredible and information-rich Blogs on the list for our teachers is An A-Z of ELTby Scott Thornbury. Scott is the author of An A-Z of ELT, an encyclopedia-dictionary of terminology relating to English language and English language teaching. It was published by Macmillan. The Blog is a great online resource if you're headed overseas to teach English as a foreign language. Scott also teaches an online MA TESOL program for the New York School System. He lives in Spain.
English Raven by Jason Renshaw is an interesting Blog. Great posts on getting kids to Blog. And frankly, the best way to teach a language is to have students use it in all sorts of ways, and an online Blog where your students assist is a great way to reinforce language.
Language Moments by Dale Coulter is a great Blog that was a featured Teaching English Blog of the month by the British Council. I loved the lesson plan on using iPhones in the classroom.
I think if you're going to teach abroad, you want to try to find Blogs and Facebook pages that support what you want to accomplish. Read from people who have already gone before you and leave clues to your success. Get involved with their social communities. All good use of your time before you teach in Thailand or teach in South Korea.
I hope you can use some of these ideas. I hope you'll follow Edudemic on Twitter or like them on Facebook.
Do you follow Blogs or Facebook Pages we should also list? Can you recommend them here so we can share?
On December 16, USA Today ran an article entitled Facebook Timeline: 9 Things You Need To Know. Timeline attempts to take your data (text, video, photos, wall posts and links) and turn it into a digital scrapbook.
I case you haven't seen a Timeline, here is what mine looks like. (We are a wild and crazy TaeKwon-Do family of 4 Blackbelts and a green belt.)
Anyway, if you're going to volunteer abroad and live with a host family (90% of our programs involve living with a host family) the first thing you should notice is, ta da, the time line over on the far right.
If I am going to have you live in my home with my kids, I am going to start clicking on those dates and look at what you were writing and posting and then take a look at those photos you were sharing with the world.
There are scrapbooks that sit in your closet and you show your best friend every so often. And then there are digital scrapbooks that just never go away and everyone on the planet can see them. Your Facebook Timeline is one of those types of scrapbooks.
So how much can your new potential host family really see if they click the years you were crazy in college? According to the USA Today article, "Your privacy settings on old posts will remain. A post shared four years ago that was set to be viewable to just friends will continue to be viewable to just friends. The only concern here lies in how a user's definition of friend has changed. A photo or status update that in college that was OK for friends might not be OK for friends now, which might include coworkers." So you really do want to go back in all those posts and photos and make sure you have your settings exactly right.
On the other side of the coin, and something you really do want to think about, is having some of your posts and your photos available for everyone to see. Why? Potential employers are going to go through your site for sure. And your potential host family will also want to rifle through your photos. If you have some set for the entire world to see, you will be directing exactly who sees what and when. Would you rather have your new employer or your new host family see your talent for chugging beer, or loving man's best friend? You can really use the new Timeline feature to put your best...um...lips forward.
You can also go back into your photo library and upload photos from your youthier youth, date them and have them appear in the right year. This makes your Facebook Timeline a great way to showcase yourself to employers and host families. Dedicate a weekend to bringing Facebook up to date with your life. Decide who can see what photos and posts and Timeline can be a great advantage in your life. All you have to do is find that photo of you volunteering in a local park, upload it to Facebook, adjust the date to 2007, and it will appear in the proper order in the new Timeline.
Another item you will want to use is expanding on important posts. According to the article, "The Activity Log is the best place to edit a Timeline. Facebook has built a very helpful new page called the Activity Log, which can be accessed from a profile page, that shows every single piece of content Facebook has from a user. Each item can be deleted or tweaked from this page." So now you can expand on your posts about your graduation, what you want to do with your life, why you want to volunteer abroad or teach abroad and how great of an addition you are going to make to your new host family.
Lastly, make sure you use the "Only Me" feature. As you're editing your Timeline, if you find something you simply cannot part with but you don't want ANYONE to see, mark it as visible to "Only Me." Double check that, and then you're good to go.
Everyone needs to understand that what you put on the Internet stays on the Internet. Facebook is letting you control who sees what, but you need to make time every now and then to tweak your settings and keep yourself safe.
Anyone out there using Timeline in a creative way? Do you have other ideas to share that would make it a useful tool for getting a job or convincing your new host family they are going to love you?
This Blog post is pulled with permission from Sherry Ott of Ottsworld and Meet Plan Go. Meet Plan Go is the leading career break movement in North America; encouraging and teaching others how to travel the world and have it be beneficial to your career. You can also "like" Meet Plan Go on Facebook. As of this post, they can smell that 3,000th fan.
Sherry participated on GeoVisions' Conversation Corps Jordan program in 2011. We can't begin to tell readers how moved we were when Sherry proclaimed in her Blog, "I don’t like to travel any more. This was the ultimate cultural exchange and in a weird way I have a hard time assigning it the term ‘travel’. I felt as if I lived there."
And so, of course, we were delighted to read Sherry's most recent Blog post, Top Career Break Destinations For 2012. Jordan was right up there at Number 1, and Sherry provided a link to the Conversation Corps Jordan page as a resource if you're planning on visiting Jordan in 2012. And, we're very pleased Jordan is the Number 1 destination of people considering a Career Break.
Here is the part of Sherry's "Top Destination" post about Jordan:
Don’t know where to go on your career break? We asked our event hosts for their top destination picks for 2012 and hopefully they will be added to your list.
From Sherry Ott of Ottsworld
Jordan should be on your career break travel itinerary not only because of the mind blowing ancient city of Petra, but more so because of the people. Jordan surprised me in many ways, but the most surprising thing was the generosity, kindness, and openness of the people. It was the first country in which I didn’t feel like a walking dollar bill, simply a tourist to sell to. Instead I felt like people really wanted to get to know ME, understand my culture, family, background, and thoughts on the world. It was an exchange in the true sense; normally all over a glass of tea.
The people are enough reason to go to Jordan, but if you need more, then consider the sites of Petra, the ancient ruins in the city of Amman, floating in the Dead Sea, and hiking in some of the most stunning landscape you’ll see in the world. The food is also a perk of travel in Jordan; falafel, hummus, flat bread, fresh vegetables, delicious coffee and tea cooked in ways you’ve never experienced will make your taste buds sore! Cost to travel there are relatively low and it’s simple to travel independently as the country is small, but has good infrastructure.
Put this gem of the Middle East on your career break list as it’s a chance to really see the Middle East that we hear so much about. It will provide you a chance to form your own opinions on the Middle East instead of the one we are fed on the news.
Resources to help you plan your travel to Jordan:
Conversation Corps Jordan
If you're interested in taking a Career Break, Meet Plan Go has a lot of resources, one called Basic Training. There is also a national event each year for people to gather to learn more about Career Breaks, and to start planning. There are also online classes you can take with them to learn how to make this happen for you, and how it can enhance your career.
If you're interested in the Conversation Corps, contact us and we will happily talk to you about the 19 different countries where you can be a member of the Corps.
So you've joined The Conversation Corps
Next item on the "Things To Do" list is write a "Host Family" letter. Here is one recently submitted to us. Yes, this is real:
Dear Potential Host Family,
I love French fashion and French food. I want to come to Paris and spend my time learning how to design French clothes and show the French fashion industry what I know about French fashion. I'm also a really good cook so I think that will help me fit in to the culture.
1. Your "Dear Family" letter is the most important part of your packet. GeoVisions is out there "marketing" you to families seeking tutors. Tell them why you have a passion to visit their country. Explain why you have a keen interest in languages and communication. Write something funny about conversational English and that you know it's not only difficult but most of the time doesn't make any sense...even to Americans. Let them know something about your own family and what you've been doing the last few years with your life. Tell them how friendly you are and that you know one of your "duties" is to respect their family's rules. You are eager to try all kinds of things and you look forward to meeting them.
2. When you submit your five photos you want us to show to your prospective host family, keep in mind only your closest of friends are interested in your tattoos, piercings and your talent of holding 5 beer bottles with your toes while standing on your head...on the bar. Mom and Dad are not especially interested in showing your bikini-clad body at spring break to their teen-aged sons. They don't care what you look like asleep with the marker drawings on your body that your friends drew on you after you passed out. They want to see you with clothes on, with your own family, with your friends doing ordinary activities.
3. Use humor, but don't go overboard. Don't do this, which is an actual letter we were asked to share with a potential host family:
Dear Host Family,
I want to come live with you because I hate my own family and living with you could not suck more than the family I live with now. I am embarrassed about my own family and since no one here knows you...you have to be a step up. My father is gone and I have no idea where he is nor do I care. My mother dates an undersea welder who's main function it is not to get blown up. My sister dates every man in [location left out to protect the innocent].
4. Don't demand Paris, Rome, Rio, Barcelona, Bangkok, or San Jose. Tell your potential family you are eager to go where you are needed. It's OK to tell them you hope it is easy to find public transportation where they live because one of the reasons you want to come to their country is to learn as much as you can about their COUNTRY. You don't want to tell them you want a central apartment in Madrid to allow you to stay in the clubs until 4:00 a.m. making your return to awaken them early in the morning much easier and safer.
5. Let the family know you hope to travel as much as possible and that if they choose you, you would love to set up a tutoring schedule that matches their expectations to learn Conversational English and also takes into your consideration how much you want to experience their country. Don't go thinking you are going to SIT in their home all week on the Internet. Plan the activities you want to do, read up on the area and make a list of things to do, ask GeoVisions for other hints and ideas to make your 1, 2 or 3 months rewarding...to your host family and to you.
GeoVisions can help you prepare the very best Dear Family letter and packet to guarantee your placement. Our staff has a lot of experience and are available to help you when you decide to join the Conversation Corps.
I bring my TaeKwon-Do to work everyday. For the longest time, I had my 1st Degree Black Belt certificate hanging on my office wall. Then a few years later I tested and was awarded my 2nd Degree Black Belt and I thought hanging that certificate up with the other would be just a little too much, so I took the 1st Degree certificate down. We have an amazing Conversation Corps
poster, incorporating a tutor's journal entry and some host family and travel photos to take it's place.
GeoVisions has a lot of family involved, and so does TaeKwon-Do. My son, Christopher, heads up our west coast operation. He's a 1st Degree Black Belt. And my daughter, Alexandra, helps us with some social media and she's a Green Belt. My two youngest children take out the trash, and empty our recycling bins…both of them are 1st Degree Black Belts. Here is a photo of four of us at a recent tournament bringing home 8 medals. 18 years combined training.
The reason I bring TaeKown-Do to work everyday is not because it's fun, or a great diversion…both true in their own respect. It's because we run GeoVisions
by the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. I have been very successful at weaving those five tenets into every aspect of my life (personal and professional) and I've been very successful at getting GeoVisions to the place where it is without effort to weave all Five Tenets into our organization.
For any reader who is not familiar with the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do, they areCourtesyIntegrityPerseveranceSelf-ControlIndomitable Spirit
What do these five tenets have to do with volunteer abroad and teach abroad?Courtesy"Enduring respect for and consideration of self and others. Politeness. Humility."
We know there are many organizations offering volunteer abroad programs and others with teaching jobs abroad. We know the Internet contains websites you probably should not trust and at the very best you should approach as suspect. We can start by being courteous. We respect that you are willing to spend your hard-earned money and your precious time to go abroad on one of our programs. At every touch point we are going to define courtesy for you.Integrity"Steadfast adherence to a strict moral and ethical code. Honesty. Loyalty."
Followers of this Blog know I write about some form of Integrity all the time. I get lots of Twitter comments about my rants on volunteer abroad or voluntourism. In my view, volunteer abroad has gone to the dogs. I'm embarrassed that people who really do want to make a difference when they travel would bump into some of the organizations I see offering these programs. And I don't see my counterparts writing similar posts, nor has even one of them defended the actions of our industry. I think I'm writing to the atmosphere and I also think I'm cranky because I've dedicated 37 years to this…and I look around and hang my head in shame at some of these characters masquerading as volunteer abroad organizations.
Nothing in business is more important as having a STRICT moral and ethical code. At the same time, consumers also must have integrity. We'll be ethical, honest and loyal to you. We'll do what we tell you we will do and we will stand by you, even after you return to your home after your project. You must do the same. We see integrity as a two-way street. Reciprocal. After all, that's what business is. It's a reciprocal relationship, and we work hard to earn your respect.Perseverance"To persist in an endeavor or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition or discouragement. Dedication."
Ugh. Try running a company in this financial environment. Try tracking 7 foreign currencies each day. We have to keep track of ever-changing visa regulations (the visa you use to get into a country, not the visa you use to pay your bill) and government regulations. Our Work and Travel program is regulated by the U.S. State Department and just wading through all the new government regulations is like trying to walk in quick-sand.
I mentioned in my last post that we had twice the number of competitors in 2011 as we did in 2010. We chose innovation as our way of persevering. We refuse to compete on price. We will put our heads together and innovate our way through the regs and the economy and the ones who "pile on." Just last week we found a website in Morocco and a website in France who copied our Conversation Corps program exactly word for word. The week before that an organization in China simply copied our pages…company colors, typeface and all.Self-Control"The ability of a person to exert their will over the inhibitions, impulses, emotions or desires of their body or self. Patience. Discipline."
2012 is going to be a game-changer for GeoVisions. Our new programs (no one else is offering them, but it won't take long for many to copy them) will move us forward and enable even more people to volunteer abroad in a way no one ever thought possible before. Our staff is positioned to provide stellar customer service and to spend a lot of time with our volunteers and teachers. We want to make certain you meet your goals. We have learned how to keep a vigilant eye on the voluntourism industry, and keep our heads down and move our volunteers forward all at the same time. That comes with being flexible and strong…TaeKwon-Do traits (no tenets).Indomitable Spirit"Having the right attitude and maintaining inner strength regardless of winning or losing. Not allowing one’s principles to be broken, defeated, or conquered. Bravery. Courage."
Write what you will. Say what you will. These are our principles. If you have a problem, call me. I'm the guy at the top. You want to whine on the Internet? Fine. You want something fixed? Call me. My direct line is +1 (203) 453-5838. When you hear the recording (a very nice British lady) just press the 1 button on your telephone followed by the # button. That will ring at my desk. If I'm there, I'll pick it up and fix what it is that has you troubled, quickly. If I'm not there, leave a message. Unless I'm on an overnight flight to another country, I'll return your call within 24 hours. You have my direct line in this Blog Post as my word.
Of course, if you want to call and tell me how great things are…I'd love to hear that too.
These are the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. These are the adopted Five Tenets of GeoVisions. You can bet your lungs on them.