India, China, Cambodia
Passing through the ‘Loch Lomond & The Trossachs’ National Park, the train journey from Glasgow to Oban is the most scenic I’ve ever seen. The low hanging clouds cover mountain tops and mist weaves its way between forests and over large expanses of water, I sound poetic but it really is a mythical landscape- one which I get to sit and admire for three hours.
It is quite special, knowing that you’re off to meet someone who will have a massive impact on your life, someone who you will spend everyday living together with for a year. These fates are usually not something we are aware of. So it’s safe to say Dominique (a friend I met on my selection course) and I were pretty nervous as we sat together on the train laughing in panic over all the things that could go wrong.
But of course, everything went fine. At the backpackers hostel I met my overseas partner, Amy, and she was so happy to see me that all the worry of coming across like an absolute weirdo faded away. She is so genuinely lovely, really kindhearted and fun to be around. I was so impressed by her teaching too, she is already a natural at it.
I set my alarm for 4am and the next morning we all packed our bags and in a sleepy haze made our way to the Ferry- which too is a beautiful journey, but I will save myself from describing it and upload a photograph instead.
On arrival we passed the group who had just finished their training course and were on the way home. Our group with all the volunteers going to India, China and Cambodia was by far the largest training group so far this year, with 48 people (I think). I shared a dorm room with four others, including my partner Amy. Each morning we were awoken by the summer interns walking down the corridors singing and knocking pots and pans together- terrifying if you’ve been in a deep slumber.
We received a lot of information over the following days: about safety, keeping healthy and tidy, cultural norms to be aware of, TESOL teaching (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), lesson planning, positive behaviour management strategies and so much more. We were taught a fully immersive TESOL Thai lesson which was so much fun! I am now proud to say I can say several fruit and vegetables in Thai- including pineapple which is สัปปะรด (pronounced sapalot).
I taught two lessons to a small group, which was less scary and more enjoyable than I thought it would be- although it doesn’t quite compare to teaching a group in 40 Indian children who don’t speak English as their first language. Anyway, I am proud to say I managed to stick to my timings exactly (10 minutes and then 20 minutes). To suit the age group I will be working with I taught animals in my first lesson and Haikus in my 20 minute lesson.
One evening we were served delicious curry and rice along with a challenge- to eat with our hands. Once I got over the food burning my fingertips it was really enjoyable and it felt surprising natural. I honestly don’t think it will be too difficult to adapt to, but don’t quote me on that if I’m proven wrong.
Aside from the long and intense sessions we also got free time to explore the beautiful island we were situated on. It is so remote that even on the highest points my phone would not receive any signal. It is such a picturesque setting. On Wednesday, after having filled in the sections of my One Award Booklet (which goes towards our volunteering diploma) and having planned my 20 minutes lesson I went swimming. The waves were high and powerful and crashed down in such a way that any attempts of resisting them were futile. It was so much fun but incredibly cold so when my breathing started to slow I thought it was definitely time to go back to shore.
On the final evening we celebrated having completed the training course with a Ceilidh. Two of the country coordinators, who previously volunteered in India and Sri Lanka, wore saris! I am really looking forward to be wrapped up in beautiful fabrics and to be dressed as elegantly as they were. That night I also wrote my future-self a letter. I will receive it in half a year when our country coordinator, Fra, comes to visit. It is quite strange writing to your future-self; it feels like it’s to a completely different person- which in retrospect I suppose I will be.
Before going to the Isle of Coll for training I was absolutely terrified about going to India. Why did I think that was ever a good idea? How do you even teach? I am going to be so warm for a year… The last point is still true, but having met the other 20 wonderful people on the flight to India with me I no longer feel lonely or scared. We are so supported and having all these people with me and my partner I feel reassured that I will be happy, safe and well taken care of. I can now see through the fog of worry and realise that I have an absolutely amazing year ahead of me.