GeoVisions Blog

Doctor Who And Volunteer Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Jul 08, 2013

I need to publicly thank my daughter, Molly, who provided background for this post.

I assume you chose to take a look at this Post because you're a Whovian?

As if things could not get more weird with this Blog these days, I'm actually writing about volunteers going abroad who come home and say, "I thought I'd have more of an impact on the world by volunteering abroad."  And I'm doing it via an episode of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who's TARDISDoctor Who is a long-running, British science fiction show that follows The Doctor, a time-traveling alien who is actually a Time Lord.  He travels in his TARDIS that looks like a British Police Box from the 1960s.  You'll see it in the video clip below as well as on the right.

People, (like my daughter Molly), who memorize each episode of 50 years the show has been aired are called "whovians."  People like me who watch only to make their son or daughter happy (but secretly like the show) I call "whosters."  We really haven't made it to "whovian" status.

But, back to those volunteers abroad...

Most of the volunteers we send abroad choose a project where they have an interest, but where they also will have a huge impact.  An impact on the community where they are volunteering, or on the people who live there, or both.  They want to make a positive impact on the level of health care, they want to dig another water well, they want to do research on endangered wildlife or clean up a beach.  Whatever it is they want to do, they have paid money to do it and have taken time from their lives to make it happen.  So it goes with volunteering abroad.

But some return from their project disappointed.  Not in the cultural exchange.  Not in the trip itself.  But feeling like they made only a very small difference.  They had expected to show up with a group, dig a well and paint houses, and they returned feeling as though their work had hardly begun.  Not always.  But much of the time we hear these things from returnees.

Watching an episode of Doctor Who with my daughter, (Vincent and The Doctor) made me think about these returnees.  Because truth be told, if you only spend a day onsite...you're going to make a difference.  You won't find a cure for a disease, but you'll quiet a small child, make a worried parent smile, clean a supply closet that has been unused and dirty for years.

"Vincent and the Doctor" is the tenth episode in the fifth series of BBC One's, Doctor Who.  The episode was first broadcast on June 5, 2010.  (If you're a fan or care, this episode featured an uncredited guest appearance from actor Bill Nighy.)

I digress again.

So we have these volunteers abroad, returning to their home wondering what kind of impact they made when they were at their project.  And we also have this episode of Doctor Who, where Vincent van Gogh wonders if anyone would ever like his paintings.  (van Gogh died, never knowing he would be famous.)

The Doctor travels in the TARDIS with Vincent van Gogh from 1890 to 2010 to the Musée d'Orsay. Van Gogh is stunned at the display of all of his paintings, and becomes emotionally overwhelmed when he overhears art curator Mr. Black, (Bill Nighy) say that van Gogh was "the greatest painter of them all" and "one of the greatest men who ever lived". The Doctor returns an emotionally changed van Gogh back to the past.

Well, go figure.  With all that emotion and the fantastic song "Chances" by the group Athlete (and me hiding some tears) I just naturally thought of all those returnees who might never know the impact their day, their week, their month(s) would have on all those people and communities abroad.  And I was so emotional, I thought if they knew The Doctor...maybe they could get him to use his TARDIS to take them to their project a few years in the future.  I am convinced they would feel exactly like van Gogh from that episode of Doctor Who.  Just bowled over in emotion with the real impact they had from their gift of time and caring.

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and ... bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant." - The Doctor

If you're at all interested, or if you've ever wondered the impact you have had on others in your life...watch this five minute clip from Vincent and The Doctor.  And maybe you'll become a "whoster" for a few minutes.

If we had the chance to go forward, all of us would be impressed with the impact we have had on lives.

Where would you go in the TARDIS?

Tags: Staying Involved, Thank You To Our Volunteers, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad, Randy LeGrant, Connecting

Euro Cup 2012 - Get Involved When You Volunteer Abroad

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Feb 25, 2013

EURO CUP 2012

Brielle Sydor volunteering abroad in ItalyThis is Briells Sydor's second guest post.  Brie was one of our counselors in 2012 on the Italy Summer Camp program. She got caught up in Euro Cup 2012 and explains that "getting involved" in local sports or actvities can increase your enjoyment of the cultural exchange.

For all of you sports fanatics out there: don’t worry about losing that sense of athletic unity and pride when you go abroad—most Europeans are even more spirited than you!

While I was participating as a summer camp counselor in GeoVision’s Italian Summer Camp program this past summer, I was fortunate enough to watch several of the Euro Cup games with the locals. Since I’ve grown up watching my brother play soccer, I thought I knew enough about the rules and intensity of the sport that I would fit right in with the Italians — I was wrong. Soccer—or rather, futbol—is more of a religion than a sport in Europe; everyone watches the games, has at least one jersey, and gets emotionally invested in the outcomes of the matches. The Euro Cup was no exception.

At an outdoor restaurant in Macerata, ItalyAs a volunteer abroad in Macerata, our group of counselors went to a fun restaurant/bar in the center of the city to watch one of the playoff games. A huge projection screen was set up to air the game and all of the tables and seats were occupied well over an hour before kick-off. At the start of the match, everyone in the bar stood to sing the Italian national anthem; it was a beautiful moment of patriotism followed by booming cheers and chants for the team. Over the next few hours, Italy battled Spain through two intense and competitive halves, with the final score resulting in a 1-1 tie. Little did we know, these two teams would meet again in the finals of the 2012 Euro Cup.

Fast-forward about a month to me living in Rome, with Italy and Spain facing off in the Euro Cup Final that evening. My roommates and I spent the day buying our first Italy jerseys and stocking up on Peroni—an Italian beer—for the game. I also took some time to peruse the homepage for European futbol and a great guide if you want some quick facts on the league.

Futbol in ItalyAbout an hour before the start of the match, the three of us ventured down to Circo Massimo, a huge open venue near the Colosseum. IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE. Thousands of Italians were waving huge flags and setting off red and green fireworks; 4 Jumbotron screens aired the game high above the crowd; horns, cheers, and the Italian sports announcer’s voices filled the air. Despite attending an array of college and national sporting events in America, I had never seen anything like this. The enthusiasm and national pride that emulated from the crowd was truly a life-changing experience, and I felt so fortunate and honored that I could be a part of a moment that exhibited this part of the Italian culture.

Unfortunately, that level of excitement and optimism was crushed by a 4-0 loss to Spain. As we filed out of Circo Massimo, it was difficult to comprehend how a stadium that had been overflowing with energy just a few hours before now fell silent and desolate. Even as a bandwagon fan, I felt defeated and could easily detect the new aura of dejection throughout the city.

So, for all of you other traveling sports-lovers out there: get involved. Go see a game or watch one at the local sports bar. Grab a jersey and a beer and (attempt) to sing the national anthem with the rest of the locals. Even if your team suffers a heartbreaking loss like Italy did this summer, the unparalleled experience of being a part of that athletic spirit just might be one of the best things you will do when you volunteer abroad.

Tags: Travel Ideas, Summer Camp Counselors, Italy, Volunteering Abroad, Teach English In Italy

Think Traveling or Volunteering Abroad Is Too Expensive? Think Again

Posted by Alexandra LeGrant on Tue, Oct 16, 2012

Every now and then we like to trot out a post that has done really well over the course of the last few months.  And this is one of them.  This particular post has been read 2,220 times since March.  That's 10 reads a day, 7 days a week for the last 228 days.  So, we thought we'd offer it up to those of you who are new or failed to see it before.  One of the best we have ever written.  Thanks to Alexandra, our Social Media Manager here at GeoVisions for writing it.

 

Traveling Fund

How many times have you told yourself or others that you’ll travel abroad once you have saved enough money?  Now, be honest with yourself, how much money have you really saved?

If you are like most people who are scraping by to pay their bills and are thankful even for a boss from hell just to get a paycheck every two weeks, you probably haven’t saved a penny for your travel the world dream fund.

Take a look at these links to see how some other people made their traveling dreams a reality and how to move past your "it’s too expensive" thoughts that might be holding you back.

Volunteer Forever. This website is amazing and allows you to fund your dreams and bring them to reality. Crowd funding for traveling abroad made easy and straight forward.

http://bit.ly/f0Q5D5. This article tells you why now is the best to time volunteer abroad and take advantage of the financial crisis. There are 5 specific reasons you could probably relate to.

http://bit.ly/gtAoBo. Read this blog entry from a person who spent three years traveling abroad and actually saved money by doing so. It is possible!

http://bit.ly/eJXVTA. Why you should quit your job and travel around the world… Don’t let your excuses hold you back from what you want out of YOUR life.    

The truth is, you could actually save yourself money by traveling abroad without much financial preparation. It sounds like a crazy idea, but when you think about how much you spend every week (gas, coffee, lunch with a co-worker, dry cleaning, take-out dinners, entertainment, etc) it really adds up, and you could end up spending $200-$300 a week indulging in your day-to-day expenses and hardly blink an eye.

Add this on top of rent or a mortgage, utilities, car loan, gym fee, phone bill, and cable you are probably spending at least $2,000 a month if not more just to live. Now, maybe you have roommates and live frugally, and actually get by on a lot less than that amount, but I’m going to tell you just how much it would cost you to travel or volunteer abroad and I guarantee the numbers will surprise you…  overflowing piggy bank

1. Sell your car or have a friend or family member drive it and help you out with car payments while you are abroad, it’s a win/win! Cha-ching! Save yourself on rent by subletting your place while you travel. It is considerably less to live with a host family abroad, and with GeoVisions it is included in your program fee along with most of your meals. Entertainment while abroad can be as simple as visiting and touring local sites (often times free), and depending on where you are traveling you can get a meal for just a few dollars (that’s less than what you would pay for your daily latte at Starbucks).  Be sure to steer clear of touristy traps for day trips and rentals, and if you are staying with a host family you should have no problem getting the ‘local’ going rate and finding out where the best deals are.

2. If you’re looking for some extra cash before you travel, have a yard/garage sale and get rid of your clutter at the same time. If you have a lot of ‘stuff’ not only will this result in some extra cash (possibly a few weeks worth of spending money while abroad) but when you come back home you’ll already have your spring cleaning done!

Where to next?3. Traveling the world can be great, but why not enhance your resume by volunteering or working abroad? With GeoVisions, you have the option to participate in Au Pair programs (the placement fee for most is only $850), apply for a PAID internship, or live with a family and teach them conversational English, no teaching experience required. The time you spend on these projects will give you unique experience that you can use when you come home to get a better job than the one you have now! If you don’t want to make a long- term commitment, GeoVisions offers a two-week conversation corps program in Italy for $755 and Spain for only $715. The program fees usually include your room and board along with extensive health insurance.

So, with just a bit of preparation and getting in the right frame of mind (getting past your hesitations), traveling abroad can be a lot simpler than you probably have thought. Of course, don’t just take my word for it, do some research and ask around and be sure to check out those helpful links at the top of this page. Happy traveling!

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Conversation Corps, The Well Prepared Traveler, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad

Live With A Family In France Blog-French Pressed

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Sep 28, 2012

From French Pressed BlogJody Fox is one of our Au Pairs in France.  When we see a blog by one of our participants, we like to point people in that direction.  There are testimonials and there are online reviews.  In fact, we use Rate My Study Abroad for online reviews and you can read online reviews about GeoVisions' Au Pair in France program here.

But reading an active participant's Blog about the actual experience as it's happening is the very best you can do.  It's live, it's relevant and it is much more complete than an online review.

We have volunteer abroad Blogs you can read here.

So back to Jody Fox.  She has a very cool Blog running right now called French Pressed.  If you want to know what it's like to be an Au Pair in France with GeoVisions, look no further.  Check out her Blog.

Are we missing any Blogs?  Do you have one running we haven't mentioned or do you know of one we should read?  Let us know in the comments section, please.

Tags: Conversation Corps, Volunteer Blogs, Volunteering Abroad

Volunteer Abroad And The Resume Dilemma

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Thu, Sep 27, 2012

Guest post by Sherry Ott

Sherry Ott is a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer with one goal in mind - to make you wish you were somewhere else.  She seeks out unique travel experiences and writes about her around the world adventures on www.Ottsworld.com    She’s also a co-founder of www.MeetPlano.com  a website and national travel event teaching you how you can take your very own traveling career break or sabbatical.

Meet Plan Go Logo 

Should you or shouldn’t you – it’s the big resume question?  You’ve finished your volunteering placement and had the time of your life traveling around the area and learning about the culture of your host family or placement.  But now you are staring at that gap on your resume wondering if you should mention your volunteer experience or not.  Is volunteering something that hiring managers even care about?

A recent LinkedIn survey found that 41 percent of the professionals surveyed stated that when they are evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. Twenty percent of the hiring managers surveyed agree they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate's volunteer work experience. 

In a recent article about volunteering and it’s career relevance, CNN Money reported "What we're hearing on the employer side is that if the volunteer experience is relevant to your career goal, include it."

Volunteer Abroad on a career break in IndiaSo – how to you make sure that your volunteering experience is relevant to your career?  You can start by choosing your geographic location carefully.  Are you in an industry that manufactures in China, then maybe volunteering in China to learn more about the culture there is a good start.  Or maybe you are in the IT industry and volunteering in places like India will be a good career enhancing experience.

Next you can consider what type of work are you doing on your volunteer assignment.  Are you leading others, managing a classroom and schedule, working with conservation or medicine – there are a world of opportunities out there to volunteer and build your tangible skills and soft skills alike.

When you return, you will need to consider the best way to highlight those experiences to enhance your job search or career.  Volunteering can demonstrate a commitment to character, signal your ability to accomplish a goal, or show that you are a well rounded person.  It will most definitely make you stand out among other applicants. 

And sometimes volunteering has other benefits to your career  - like helping you understand what it is that you love to do, or helps you network and meet new people in different parts of the world who can further your career.

Sherry Ott volunteering in IndiaVolunteering on my career break travels changed the trajectory of my own career and life.  It was through my volunteering assignment in India that essentially Meet Plan Go! was born. Michaela, my now business partner, worked for the company I was volunteering with and we became friends.  Through that friendship we discovered our passion of career break travel and were determined to bring career breaks to American society in the form of Meet Plan Go events across the country!  We are now on a mission to put a career break on every resume.  We are accomplishing this by teaching others how they can take a career break or sabbatical, plan a purposeful itinerary, and return to the workforce again with more experience and knowledge. 

Your volunteering experience as part of your travels is valuable – so don’t hide it on your resume, proudly display it as part of your career travels and accomplishements.

And if you don’t know where to start when it comes to preparing and planning purposeful itineraries as part of longer term extended travel and career breaks – then don’t miss the Meet, Plan, Go! Travel event October 16th in 10 cities across North America.  At each event you’ll be inspired to do meaningful long term travel that includes volunteering among other cool knowledge building ideas.  In addition, you’ll be guided through the process of planning and taking a career break or sabbatical so that you can get started on achieving your own travel dreams. 

To learn more about Meet Plan Go! events – go to www.MeetPlanGo.com and get your tickets to your travel dreams today.

Meet Plan Go Logo

Tags: Make Something Happen, Resume, Volunteering Abroad

The Ripple Effect: Terri Wingham’s Incredible Journey, Part 1

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Mon, Aug 27, 2012

Posted by Anni on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at Journeys for Good.  This Blog Post is used with permission.

GeoVisions note:  Terri Wingham started her "incredible journey" with GeoVisions in Vietnam. This post is an interview done by Journeys for Good regarding Terri's "incredible journey."

Terri Wingham with two cancer survivors

Welcome back to our new interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Terri Wingham, a truly inspirational woman. As a cancer survivor, Terri has been through one of life’s greatest challenges and has come out the other side, vibrantly alive and passionate about to helping others. She has found hope through volunteering.

In her words…

In the last year, I have become a cultivator of hope. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Hope doesn’t make the misery go away or instantly transport you into a mythical utopia where unicorns frolic and vibrant rainbows ignite the sky. But, for me, hope is like holding onto a thick rope while walking through a dark cave. You can’t yet see anything, but you know that if you keep walking and keep holding the rope, you will eventually emerge out of the cold dampness of the cave and into the warmth of the afternoon sun.



Terri Wingham with GeoVisions in Vietnam
Your Adventure of Hope is so inspiring! How did it come about?

In October of 2009, a diagnosis of breast cancer changed my life forever. Single and 30, my life had revolved around my career, my workouts, and my friends. The next 18 months of treatment challenged my physical and emotional limits, but I never anticipated the difficulty of emerging out of chemotherapy and surgeries and feeling like cancer had changed me so much that my old life didn’t fit me anymore. Thankfully, an idea to volunteer in Africa with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS) gave me a chance to heal emotionally and sparked an idea for a foundation to help other cancer survivors volunteer internationally. My recent six-month RTW Adventure of Hope gave me a chance to evaluate a variety of countries and volunteer organizations to determine which ones I want to form long term partnerships with. My selection criteria included pre-departure support, in country support, safety records, and ethical volunteer practices.
 
How did you decide where to go and what organizations to work with?

In selecting my target countries, I knew I wanted to volunteer on almost every continent so I could compare locations. I also selected countries I thought would appeal to other survivors and had relatively established volunteer practices.


After my incredibly positive experience volunteering with CCS in Cape Town, I knew I wanted to involve one of the their other project sites in my trip around the world. At the time, going to India made me the most nervous, so I chose to partner with CCS there because I knew they would take care of every little detail and ensure I felt completely safe.


As I started to actively plan how I could make the Adventure of Hope happen, I saw a Leave-A-Review contest on the GO Overseas website for $2500 subsidy towards a flight around the world. With luck on my side, I won the contest and built a relationship with Mitch Gordon and Tucker Hutchinson of GO Overseas. They have both been phenomenal in supporting me and they facilitated introductions to some of the best organizations in the volunteering industry. I feel very luck that GVN, GVI, IVHQ, ProWorld, and GeoVisions joined CCS in sponsoring my program fees to volunteer in 6 different countries.


Terri Wingham with a cancer survivor


Could you talk a bit about how your struggle with cancer has informed your volunteering work? In other words, do you feel like it has changed the way you relate to other people, specifically people who are suffering?

My experience with cancer changed my perspective on life and struggle. First of all, having experienced cancer, I don’t ever take for granted my health and how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and do this kind of work. In 2010, I could barely travel from my bed to the couch, so you can only imagine how many pinch-myself moments I had on my Adventure of Hope. Secondly, my experience with cancer has given me more compassion and I feel in a better position to witness people’s suffering without pitying them. Pity creates a wall between the volunteer and the person he or she is helping. Instead, compassion allows me to see people for more than their suffering or their struggles, if that makes sense?
 
Do you think spending time with underprivileged people has helped you gain perspective on your own pain and fear?

Absolutely. Some of the “underprivileged” people I met actually had so much more love and optimism in their lives than some of the most “privileged” people I know in the more developed world. I met people who would offer me their last cup of chai tea or invite me to eat with them, even if it meant they went hungry. In many countries around the world, people expect life to be a struggle, but it doesn’t stop them from getting up in the morning and doing whatever they have to do to survive. In my moments of fear over the cancer coming back, I remember this resilience and it gives me strength.

 

You can visit Terri's website to learn more.

Tags: Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Make Something Happen, Volunteering Abroad, Conversation Partner-Vietnam

Volunteer and Explore with GeoVisions

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Posted by Anni on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at Journeys for Good.  This Blog Post is used with permission.

African Angels
It’s been a while since I wrote about a volunteer organization on the business side of the volunteering equation. The for-profit volunteer industry is one of the main engines driving our global increase in volunteer travel. These are travel companies that provide a vital service for communities in need while they offer great travel and volunteering adventures to their customers. The links between tourism and volunteering continue to blur as itineraries increasingly include volunteering stints amidst sightseeing and outdoor adventure. Often volunteering opportunities are half-time and include room and board, permitting a much more long-term vacation than would otherwise be possible.


I hope that eventually, we will all feel responsible for the places we visit. Rather than simply visiting a place for a few weeks to enjoy its beauty, we will all feel the need to give back. We owe the world a little of our time and attention, especially when we also get to experience the luxury and majesty of a place. Going on vacation is an incredible privilege. Most people alive today will never get on a plane. They will never have two weeks off to swim, play and explore, spending money on delicious dinners and souvenirs for friends back home. These are the privileges of the global 1%. The more tourists who make the switch from vacation to volunteer, the more progress we make. I think it often starts small and grows until travelers fall firmly on the volunteering side of the tourism-volunteer spectrum. GeoVisions specializes in these travelers.

Local girl at Feynan
GeoVisions was founded in 2001 to help connect volunteer travelers with sustainable projects in a variety of countries. They work closely with their volunteers to match goals with experience. They offer a wide range of programs and many of them include opportunities for earning room and board to support longer stays overseas. For example, volunteers can work in Vietnam for 15 hours each week in exchange for room and board and can spend the rest of their time exploring and traveling. GeoVisions also offer some paid positions, including a one-year paid position teaching in Thailand.

They are focused both on the volunteer and on the work/teach abroad traveler. I think this is a particularly accessible organization for the first-time volunteer because they are so focused on the details. They’ve been around long enough to have solid connections to their overseas projects. They carefully plan volunteers’ itineraries and are available in-country to help with any problems that arise. As an organization, they are “young enough to know what’s needed in the twenty-first century, and old enough to have learned what’s not needed.” They’ve got a great blog where volunteers can learn more about real volunteer experiences.


Here at Journeys for Good, we are committed to growing a community of global citizens. We celebrate volunteer travel experiences, volunteer heroes, and organizations that make a difference.

Tags: Teach Abroad, Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Working For A Better World, Volunteering Abroad

Smell That Coffee: Teach Abroad At A Hotel In Colombia

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Thu, Jul 26, 2012
You
Are you a male or a female?  Are you in good health?  Is English your first language?

The hotel with you will tutor the staff in EnglishThe Assignment
Tutor hotel staff in English.  Hotel staff means the people who clean the rooms, work the front desk, cook the food and the people who keep things running.  All the staff at the hotel want to improve their English.  The minimum length of your assignment needs to be one month.  But you will start where the last tutors left off.  You may stay up to 3 months maximum.

Where you will live, eat and teach
The hotel is small.  18 rooms and 4 suites.  The hotel is located outside of Armenia.  The owner of the hotel is committed to having his staff improve their English.  You will have your own private room (and bath) and you will have all of your meals from the restaurant at the hotel.  Because you will tutor the staff, your room and all of your meals are FREE.  Your room and private bath is framed with a spectacular view.  You will be surrounded by Panaca National Park and many coffee farms.

Floating down the La Vieja RiverOther Activities
The local school has welcomed other tutors to help them out a few hours each week.  You are welcome to go to the school and tutor children in English in what GeoVisions calls "the English corner."  This activity gets you out of the hotel, gets you in front of children who want to improve their English, and gets you involved in the community.  Improve your Spanish, take Salsa and Merengue dance lessons or using bamboo rafts, ride down the La Vieja River.

We can tell you that the owner took our last tutor there on some tours.  That isn't to say he'll take YOU, but if he likes you and you're doing a great job we see no reason you won't get to see a lot of the area, improve your Spanish, and learn more about rural living in Colombia.

Dining hall at the hotelHow We Help You
You will be supported by our own ESL Teacher on staff, Betsy.  She runs our Help Me Teach desk.  She is available by Skype or email.  Just let her know what you need help with given what the staff needs to learn and she'll provide a lot of personalized help.

You will also have a FREE membership in the ESL Lounge.  There you can download games, worksheets, flash cards and other aids to help in your classes and make your classes fun.  We provide our own teaching materials also, which you can download and take with you, or download at the hotel.

We have a manned 24 hour emergency service and you have the best travel and medical insurance out there.

swimming pool at nightExperience
You do not need to have teaching experience to qualify.  You will be interviewed by Skype, you must be a native English speaker, and you need to have excitement about teaching English in a very beautiful and very relaxed setting.  GeoVisions has sent tutors to this hotel already, so you will have notes as to what lessons have been used and where to start.  You will be expected to do the same for the next round of tutors coming in after you.

What Do I Do Next?
Hate this idea?  Click here.  Love this idea?  Click here.

We are looking for our next tutors to send to Colombia to live and tutor at this hotel. Contact Us if you want to be the next tutor at a hotel in Colombia.  Because we can accommodate only 1 tutor at a time, space is limited.

Tags: Conversation Partner, Teach Abroad, Colombia, Volunteering Abroad

I'm Looking For A Great Volunteer Abroad Review Site

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Wed, Jul 25, 2012

thumbs up on online review sitesWe have weighed in countless times on this Blog about online reviews. What is so ironic about online reviews is that consumers read these reviews to find out more about organizations like GeoVisions. They look for more information like, are there more positive than negative comments? What do people say online about us or the experience they had abroad? What consumers shouldn't have to think about is, "Can I trust the review site itself?" Yet, it is a question few consumers ask.

When you go to a review site, be smart. Of course we want you to review your GeoVisions experience. And we have recently decided to include Rate My Study Abroad in our online review suite of review sites. We are adding to our online presence, not reducing it. It is imperative to us that people find honest reviews (good and bad) about their GeoVisions experience. But we don't think a consumer should have to worry about the site where they post the review. There are good ones and there are not-so-good ones.

If you only ask one question, ask where the site is located. Are there real people behind it? If GeoVisions didn't put up a physical address and a telephone number, would your trust go down? Of course it would. Where are we? How do you find us? Ask the same thing of the site where you post a review. Yelp's headquarters is in San Francisco. Craig's List? SFO. Angie's List is located in Indianapolis.

Here are four sites we just picked out who are interested in your review. Hopefully this information will be helpful to you.

GoOverseas will take your review. If you click their Contact button, you will see they are located in Berkeley, CA. And they have a telephone number, too. They belong to WYSE Travel Confederation and they are an accredited business of the BBB. If you find a program that interests you, you can see easily see if the program has any reviews or not. The "Ratings and Reviews" button is easy to spot and the "Rate This Program" button is also easy to see and to leave a review is very easy and straightforward.  These people return email quickly and are extremely patient.

Online review ratingsGoAbroad will also take your review, although they call it a testimonial. Find a program you like. OK…pick "Live With A Family In France And Teach Them English." When you click that link, you'll see a testimonial about GeoVisions over on the right side of the page. There is also a tab where you can see all of the testimonials about GeoVisions and of course a button that allows you to add your own review. Very easy. If you click the About Us button, you will see GoAbroad is located in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado. GoAbroad is affiliated with the BBB and NAFSA.

Abroad Reviews will also happily take your review. If you click the Contact Us button, there is no address and no telephone number. You can send an email, but unless you do a reverse IP check, you won't know until you get a reply that it is coming from a server in New Zealand. If you click on About This Site, you will see a full page of "Legal" stuff most consumers simply will not read. They also exact a $500 fee from providers to be "verified." If you pay the $500 you can "contest" a review. If you don't pay the $500 you cannot contest any review. So far only 4 out of literally hundreds of organizations have been gullible enough to become verified on this site.

What is also very funny (to us anyway) is that when you click on the Verified Programs button and then click the "What's This?" link, you will see this text:

Scared that all you have to go on is a website you stumbled upon and emails from a person you don’t know based in country half way around the world??

Worried that as soon as you’ve paid your deposit you will never hear from them again??

The internet [sic] is a faceless world so we are doing what we can to help!

It is ironic to us that there is no phone and no address. So for all their bravado about a "faceless Internet" they are "trying to fix", they have yet to put any official face on their own site. On this site, unfortunately it is still a "faceless world."

Rate My Study Abroad also wants your review. And in a few months there will also be Rate My Volunteer Abroad and Rate My Teach Abroad and there could be a host of other "Rate My…" coming. Who knows? Powered by an association with GoAbroad (see above) this company captures programs and projects on GoAbroad and incorporates them on Rate My Study Abroad (as well as listing most colleges and universities own study abroad programs) and includes that big engine on GoAbroad with an amazing widget. Organizations and schools can add the RMSA widget to their own sites and program pages. We love that aspect of working with them.

holding up online review ratings cardsWhat makes this review site so powerful though is that organizations can couple a review with an evaluation. So the review is public and goes out to everyone on Rate My Study Abroad. The program evaluation is private and goes to the organization to improve their services and projects. This company is in Fort Collins, CO and returns emails and phone calls almost instantly.  They accept NO ADVERTISING and of course "paying for verification" is a no-no.  They are the only real independent review site out there at this time.

So here are four sites you can use to find out more about GeoVisions.

There is a new site coming that will incorporate reviews with fundraising for an overseas project.  That site, Volunteer Forever will be live soon.  This site looks to be a one-stop shop by having you create a profile, look at projects abroad and then fundraise to make your dream a reality.

We hope this information helps you evaluate the evaluations!  Happy reading and writing.

Tags: Program Reviews, Volunteering Abroad

Volunteer Abroad: Do You Fit In?

Posted by Randy LeGrant on Tue, Jul 24, 2012

A GeoVisions volunteer abroad with her host brother and sisterYesterday I wrote a post about "How I See You." I thought I would follow up that post with actual comments from GeoVisions' volunteers in-country right now. I hope you'll read some of them to see if you think you fit in.

After about 3 days from arriving at your project or host family, we send an email asking if you arrived safely, how you're feeling, where you are located and how we can get in touch with you. About 2 weeks later, we ask you to write back in 25 words or less describing your situation.

Most people come to us realizing they have offered to volunteer abroad and that they are not on a tour. It isn't GeoVisions' responsibility to make sure you're enjoying yourself. That's all on you. What we provide at GeoVisions is a project that needs your help (no matter how little or how much) and a place to live along with food and great insurance. What you do on your own is totally up to you.

I'm amazed (only infrequently) how many people expect to be pampered and how many people expect that they are going to go change the world. If you are one of those types of people, don't volunteer abroad with GeoVisions. Please…go bother one of our competitors and make their lives miserable.

To see if you fit in, here are actual comments from our volunteers abroad right now. If you like what you see, you fit in!

All of these comments are coming from the right place. These volunteers aren't writing about themselves and what they had hoped to do or change. The are writing about the experience and what it takes to be of service abroad. They certainly do fit in.

So in 25 words or less (OK...a few don't know how to count) here are some of the "fitters-in" at GeoVisions.

Enjoy!

I would say it is very hard, adjusting, which I am still doing. But worth it to see another part of the world. I have had my good and bad moments but am just waiting till i settle in more and feel more comfortable here. I have barely slept here which is not a good thing at all, and sometimes feel isolated by the language barrier.

My programme, working with two children, 4 and 9, is very hands on and one to one. The whole family are getting involved in helping me with Spanish and practicing sentences in English together. They are a very busy family so there are always things to write and draw about.

It's a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and learn about a different culture.

Two volunteers in PeruAn amazing experience, a great way to experience local life in Spain! Great people, fun kids and inspiring culture.

4 hours a day teaching English at the Camp. Challenging, but fun. A lot of free time for fun and travels. Provided with a safety net that feels like family.

I could have not asked for a better family to be paired with. They are all so welcoming and loving; I feel as though I am really a part in their family. This experience has been splendid in every way.

This is very challenging, but it is a challenge worth taking! Although I am spending a lot of time helping the family with their English, I have had plenty of time to explore.

It is an exciting adventure. You are truly surrounded by the culture and learn the life style and customs of the family you work with.

I love it!!! I'm having the time of my life plus I got placed with an amazing family. I can't believe it's almost one month :(

It is a life changing experience. It opens your eyes to the astonishing similarities to be found in every couture and the captivating differences that make each nation, each region and city, unique.

It's been a lot of fun. I've gotten to know a lot of the people in the town I'm staying in and the family really well. I wish I was traveling more but there is still time.

A very different experience, a cultural adventure, language immersion, lots of childcare, lots of opportunities to meet other young foreigners.

It is fun and difficult at the same time. Every day is different. It takes a lot of patience.

Very interesting exchange of culture and language. You will make a lot of new friends.

Everything has been going very well in Jordan. I've been learning a lot. Culture shock wasn't too bad. The main difference is the food, but I acclimated quickly.

Colombia is awesome, food, weather, and people are extremely friendly. The weather has been in the high 70's early 80's. I'm glad I made the switch from Bogota to Quimbaya. I'm surrounded by coffee and banana farms. Have a good day.

teaching in a classroom in ChinaMoscow is such a fascinating city! It's fast-paced, huge, with tons of people and things to see. I'll find myself wandering the city in random directions just because I'm bound to find interesting places. The language barrier can be tricky sometimes, but that is mostly just because I hate to be such a foreigner, I try and fit in as much as possible.

This has been the hardest thing I've ever done. I have grown and learned copiously and feel that I have been changed and strengthened tremendously by this experience.

No matter what part of the world you are from, good people are good people. Despite any of our differing beliefs, my host family and I have found common ground and really care about each other.

A great opportunity to connect with a different culture while giving something back.

I love my experience in Costa Rica. Words cannot even explain how much I have gained from it. I have grown in confidence so much, it has been absolutely amazing. I am forever recommending it to my friends or random people even.

Tags: Conversation Partner, Reasons To Volunteer Abroad, Conversation Corps, Thank You To Our Volunteers, Volunteering Abroad