Aneta Toborikova - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

It wasn't my first time abroad, actually I had lived in several other countries before; and once you start with these adventures, it seems that you can never stop. You cannot just sit at home and think of all the things that are out there. I have always been a teacher, so when I saw an opportunity to go to teach to Colombia, I didn't hesitate.

Why did you choose More Than English?

I chose my organization because it was very small and family-based. Since I knew that I was going very far, I didn't want to be stuck in a big company that administers hundreds of schools and doesn't pay attention to the teachers. And, I also wanted to go to a region where I can actually help and make a difference. The program that I chose was exactly everything that I was looking for.

Sunset on the coast in Tayrona National Park in Colombia
Tayrona, the most beautiful national park

What was your favorite part about your location?

There are zillion things that I could name here. It is just an amazing place full of friendly and open people; actually, it was the people that made me fall in love with the country, every single one of them. Everyone will walk the extra mile to ensure that you are safe and happy here. The landscapes and countryside are also breathtaking. You can find anything from mountains to deserts, from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast. And the little towns are just lovely; the colonial architecture makes all the towns and villages look really cute and you just can't help love it here.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Now it seems that literally everything was unique. The early mornings when I was cycling to the school and the sun rise that I could watch every morning behind the mountains. The children who were so smart, so active, so amazing. The colleagues and the moments that we spend together. The weekends that we spent in the local bars getting to know the culture or, on the contrary, the moments that we spent in rock bars searching for something familiar to our own culture. The weekends and holidays spent travelling around the country and meeting new people, learning about the differences between the regions here. There doesn't seem to be anything that wouldn't be unique.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I lived with the director of the school where I taught, so she was always present to help and to support me. It made a big difference to me, because even during the difficult days, I wasn't alone. Alejandro, the creator of the project, couldn't be there because he wasn't in Colombia, and yet he kept texting almost every day to make sure that I wasn't lacking anything. The support was almost 24/7 and I couldn't be more grateful to them.

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

I wish I had more classroom experience before coming to Colombia. I did have many years of teaching, but most of it was in private classes with adult students. Being in the classroom was suddenly a very different thing and I wish I had been more prepared.

Vew of Mongui, Colombia
Mongui, an amazingly lovely village

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

On a typical day I woke up at 5 a.m., prepared all the things that I needed for that day, and at 5:40 a.m., I left the apartment and cycled to the school (there was an option to go to school by car, but it was about half an hour cycling and I enjoyed the morning exercise). Once there I changed and got all the materials ready. The classes started at 6:30 a.m. and typically there were three two-hour lessons, so I would meet three different classes every day. After two classes, there was a break, and after the break, there was the last class. We finished at 1:15 p.m. and had lunch at the school.

After the lunch, I cycled back home and prepared for classes the next day or corrected quizzes, or whatever there needed to be done. In the afternoon, I would meet my friends, go out for a coffee, talk to my family, or read. I used to go to sleep at around 9 p.m. (because I do need to sleep my eight hours).

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

More than anything, I enjoyed travelling. We had quite a few holidays (one week in Easter, three weeks in June/July, and one week in October, plus various bank holidays throughout the year), and I was happy to take advantage of this free time. Colombia is an amazing country and everyone can find what is appealing to them. I spent my holidays travelling mainly to the Caribbean coast. It is always warm there, the sea and landscape is charming, and the people are the friendliest people in the whole world. Cities like Cartagena or Santa Marta and national parks, like Tayrona, are absolutely unique and definitely worth visiting.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I shared an apartment with the director of the school and my colleague who taught English at the primary level. What I liked the best was their company, the opportunity to share, comment on what was going on and discuss various problems that arose, and get help and support when I needed it.

Colorful street in Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, one of the most famous and colourful Colombian cities

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

They should know that it's gonna be the best and the most difficult time of their life, or at least so it was for me. From the work point of view, it was amazing, the children were great and I can't imagine anything better than what I experienced there. However, due to lack of my experience, it wasn't always easy. Classroom management is not an easy task, especially with kids that are as active as the Colombian ones. If you apply for the program, you should know that it's not gonna be a rose garden. It is going to be tough work, and it's gonna be the best thing that you have ever experienced.

How has your time abroad impacted your life?

I moved to another city and I kept living in Colombia. I am super happy here and I don't think that I will be going home any time soon. So, the impact has been very profound. I have a new job, more confidence and humility, and more experience to bring the children than the previous year.

Would you recommend More Than English to others? Why?

I would! Always, and with my whole heart, because you will experience the life in Colombia, you will meet amazing people, and you will learn a lot about yourself. You will become a better teacher and you will be able to give more to others.