Dear ISR, I’m a faithful member and have been for many years. I’m writing today to say that some of your members seem to have forgotten why we go overseas. I agree, there are schools out there that take advantage of their foreign hired staff. That’s just the way it is. If I had wanted to simply teach kids, I personally would have stayed home and avoided such treatment. But I went overseas for the experience of immersing in a different culture and I refuse to let anyone ruin it for me.
Putting aside the aggravation of a poor school, I’ve been reflecting on how living and teaching overseas has changed my perception of myself and the world around me. I went overseas for just such an experience.
Being in the presence of wonders like the great pyramids, famous museums, renown archaeological sites and incredible landscapes of history has certainly played a big part in altering my perceptions. But for me, the impact of these places eventually runs together into a collage of faded memories.
I’ve had the good fortune to see some fabulous places, but they only get partial credit for influencing my perception of the world. For me, it’s the people I’ve met overseas who have had the greatest influence on me — people who befriended me, dined with me, shared experiences, talked politics, laughed, sighed, and welcomed me to more than just a glimpse of their culture. You could say my main motive for going overseas was to get to know people of different cultures. Here’s one such experience:
Sorin, my neighbor who lived across the hall from me in an old communist block building in Romania, had been active in the movement to dispose of the dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, just a scant few years before my arrival. His stores of hiding from government soldiers, or finding himself living on the streets after his home had been domineered by the military, put my stories of life growing up in New York into perspective.
Sorin and I came from two distinctly different worlds, yet we connected on many unspoken levels. The stark contrast in our backgrounds actually created a prominent backdrop through which we each realized things about ourselves and the world around us. Had we not met I don’t believe either of us would have had such realizations.
I’ve had the good fortune to teach in 9 countries and travel in 50. I won’t go into the details of other relationships that strongly influenced my life but they are many and the people I’ve met remain clear and bright in my mind. I’m very curious to hear about the experiences that influenced international educators in ways they would have missed out on had they stayed in their home country. If you would please post this as a blog topic I would very much appreciate it.
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