WRITTEN BY: Nancy Bucher
India has been a whirlwind of culture, traditions, emotions, spirituality and friendship, and going into my last week of placement in this country of endless possibilities, I want to share my top five travel and teaching tips - not from an experienced, travel expert or teacher, but a young girl who has visited India for the first time to teach young kids and travel, and has had indescribable experiences over here.
You have probably heard it before but it's so true - India is a country full of traditions and a culture extremely different to Australia. I can't roam the streets here in clothes that don't cover my entire legs and shoulders, I can't buy alcohol as it is not appropriate for girls to do so, I do say namaste and smile at strangers who are in the same tuk tuk. So my first tip is to come with an open mind and enjoy and embrace everything about the Indian way of life while traveling here.
Secondly, say yes to every opportunity you can while you're here and throw yourself into the placement - into teaching, into the sports and games with the kids, into eating traditional food, to the experiences and to the adventures. As cliche as the saying may be, it's really true - the more you put into the experience, the more you'll get out of it. As our leader Pankaj always says, everything is possible in India, which also means I always hold degree of caution when in public and I expect the unexpected.
On a teaching note, it is important I think to set realistic teaching goals and expectations for your students and for your teaching - my school placement has been with grade 2 students who don't often have volunteers. The language barrier is very strong and it's tricky to teach some students - others pick up on things so fast. The level of differentiation in my class in high. Be prepared to not be able to teach your students everything you wish. I tell myself each time I enter the class, try your best and baby steps are all you can hope for. Nothing happens overnight and continual practice and the hard work of the future volunteers is what will shape the kids English education.
For first time travellers and teachers, it is important I think to prepare yourself to be overwhelmed, both in school and in daily life here. The students are beautiful but they are just like kids everywhere – they can be cheeky or not want to do as they’re told, and on top of that, there can be many kids in your class, 2 teachers, and a varying but prominent language barrier and levels of ability. As for daily life and routines, prepare yourself to be the centre of attention, just walking the streets or sitting in a tuk tuks, there are stares all round, especially at big groups like us. Shop owners will hassle you to check out their store and beggars will ask for money. Just brush it off. Expect the unexpected. You will find yourself not knowing where you are, which is particularly hard for me because I have a natural urge to always know my sense of direction. One of the best things about travelling with our group and Pankaj is that you will always have people looking out for you.