I was placed at De La Salle College, a primary and secondary school, in gorgeous Thessaloniki, Greece. I spent my days assisting the English department in a number of ways, from creating and giving presentations about American culture, to providing my perspective and knowledge of practical ways the English language is spoken. I particularly loved to work individually and in groups with students, as this provided me with the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level.
The host culture:
My absolute favorite part of Greece's culture, and especially the culture of Thessaloniki, was the hospitality and warmth I received from the people there. From the people I worked with at the school to the strangers I met while doing my daily activities, people really went out of their way to not only make me feel like I wasn't an outsider, but that I was actually an accepted and appreciated member of the community.
Navigating teaching challenges:
The most difficult part of teaching at De La Salle was that I didn't get to see each group of students as much as I would've liked to. I spent my days going back and forth between the primary and secondary schools, and also going between different levels of students at each school, and so while I was able to see a full range of abilities and personalities from my students, I wasn't able to develop as many deep relationships with as many students.
To truly be helpful in your school and community, you have to be as present as you can and let others determine what they need from you; you can make the best of this by taking the good with the bad (which usually isn't bad, just different), and by making authentic, human connections with those you meet.
By teaching in Greece, I gained a number of new skills, such as knowledge of different types of English certificates and exams that are used in Europe, as well as a greater appreciation of how classroom management styles differ across the world. It was fascinating to see how the Greek teachers I worked with ran their classrooms and how their students responded to them, and by observing these teachers, I was able to adapt my skills in this area.
Advice for future students:
My advice for anyone considering the Overseas Program would be not just to keep an open mind while abroad, but to throw your expectations of how you think your experience will go out the door. To truly be helpful in your school and community, you have to be as present as you can and let others determine what they need from you; you can make the best of this by taking the good with the bad (which usually isn't bad, just different), and by making authentic, human connections with those you meet.
This is going to be one of the most fascinating and challenging experiences you've faced yet, so above all, do your best to be in the moment, and make sure you have the right attitude; you won't be disappointed if you do so!