Alexa Ball - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I chose to volunteer teach abroad for the experience of being in a classroom on the other side of learning a second language. I have studied Italian for the past four years, both at my home university and abroad, and I am very interested in how individuals learn and teach a second language, particularly English. I plan to study and work in international education in the future and I wanted a more concrete and independent experience abroad.

View of the Alps in Italy

The beautiful Italian Alps.

Why did you choose Greenheart Travel?

I chose my program through Greenheart Travel for the opportunity to teach school-aged children in Italy, which is often hard to find. My program guaranteed a teaching placement and homestay accommodation throughout the duration of the program, which gave me the support I needed. The program also offered a short-term, three month placement, which is exactly what I was looking for to get my feet wet teaching abroad.

What was your favorite part about Torino?

I was located right outside of Torino, the capital of the Piemonte region in Northern Italy. It was great to be near a large city, but enjoy the comforts of suburban life throughout the week. I studied abroad in Rome and traveled throughout Italy, but I had yet to explore Northern Italy, and I enjoyed learning about and experiencing the culture of a new region. The scenery is beautiful and the lifestyle is considerably different than that of the rest of Italy. Still, Torino is a relatively small city which made international travel a bit difficult and pricier.

International teacher with her students in Italy

A class photo with my fifth grade students!

What aspects of your program made it unique? 

It is unique in that it offers you a three month placement in a school. In researching teaching placements abroad, I found mostly summer camps, homestay teaching placements, or jobs teaching adults.

How was the support you received during your program?

Greenheart Travel is an extremely supportive and helpful organization.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I would have come a bit more prepared with lesson plans and materials to save time once in Italy. Italian classrooms generally do not use or have access to as much technology and multimedia resources as their American counterparts, and I wish I had researched more creative ways to present lessons in the classroom beforehand. As a bit of advice, I recommend obtaining a TEFL certification beforehand, I am glad I had that under my belt before starting this experience.

An alleyway in Torino, Italy

My new home, Torino!

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

Day by day my schedule was different as I worked at three different schools with a total of five different teachers, five different levels, and 17 individual classes; a typical day really didn't exist! I would teach anywhere from two to six hours a day, depending on my schedule.

What did you like to do on your free time? 

Any of the activities I did with my host family were memorable parts of my experience. They were incredibly generous in that they invited me to family functions and brought me many places around Torino and in the Alps for day trips. My most memorable experience was a day spent hiking in the Alps with them and their friends. Even spending time with them watching movies and hanging out was great.

Friends sightseeing in Brussels, Belgium

A weekend trip to Brussels with other volunteer teachers!

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I lived with a host family within walking distance of two of my schools and within a bus ride of Torino. I couldn't have asked for a more generous and giving family that truly made me feel at home. My experience wouldn't have been the same without them and they were certainly the best part!

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

My program has given me the reassurance that I want to pursue international education as a career and that I want to one day work in study abroad and exchange. I am grateful for the experience of teaching in a classroom, and I hope to have a similar experience abroad soon. As with any experience abroad, I now feel more independent and confident in my decision making and future travels.