TEFL

Balkan Canadian Association - Teach and Travel

my unfortunate experiences and interaction with ABC

Program: TEFL
Location: Turkey
Posted: Dec 30, 2013
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Balkan Canadian Association - Teach and Travel

Hello.

I caught the travel bug last year and started looking into abroad opportunities. For the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised by what is out there, but every once in a while, people come across something that makes them lose fate in their passions and sometimes people in general. This was my very unfortunate experience with the Balkan Canadian Association(ABC). ABC is an organization that sends youth to Turkey to teach/ intern/ work with an NGO

I was told by my friend about ABC, an organization that gives youth international internship and teaching experience. An organization that also gives young Muslims a chance to learn more about religious scholars that have expertise in all things Islam in a unique camp environment. I was sold, planned my application for months in advance, and committed myself to the application process.

A student coordinator contacted me informing me that interviews would only be held for students that pay sixty bucks at a weekend retreat. I hesitated but was still very excited, after all 160 positions were advertised to be available! I reached the retreat and was shocked by the amount of people that came. About 300 people came! It was impressive. What was not impressive was the rumored interview questions that were asked. One applicant told me that the interviewers had interrogated her about why she does not wear the hijab. Another applicant informed me that her interviewers had questioned her about why she does not pray five times a day and if she believes school work is more important than her prayers. Another applicant told me in disbelief that the panel of interviewers had asked him why he does not have a family member as a reference. Did I begin to doubt the Balkan Canadian Association? Questions did arise in my head, but I am not one to base my opinion solely on what people tell me. I have to admit, I did have hesitations when I realized that no events were planned for the retreat. I had even more hesitations when a student coordinator whispered in my ear that the organization needs some serious work. But I overlooked it all. My interview went well, and I left the retreat feeling like I was about to have a fantastic summer.

I eventually received a chain email by the Balkan Canadian Association requesting for me to submit to a second interview; only two dates were presented in the email, both within just a few days of the email sent. The main coordinator of the program wrote down her number in the email and specifically requested for everyone wanted to schedule the second interview to call her.

I did. No answer, left a message. Two days later I call again. No answer. Only 2 days left until the second interview. I call again, no answer. One day until the interview; sent an email no answer. It was beginning to get frustrating. Finally, I spoke to a student coordinator about it and she was able to schedule the interview. The time slot for the interview was very narrow, so I decided to miss thirty minutes of my university class. Went for the interview, with less enthusiasm but still pretty excited. I left not feeling much different.

About a week later, I received a voicemail message from FEBA, the american equivalent of the organization that handles official affairs. I had been accepted into the program! I was absolutely ecstatic, what I had planned for 6 months was coming to life before my eyes. I told family and friends, took out a loan from the bank to pay the reasonable deposit, came to school the next day with my nose in the air and my expectations in the sky; i was totally day dreaming about Istanbul. I was rudely awakened when my friend who is a student coordinator came up to me with a look of sympathy on her face

” — they sent you the acceptance by accident– I think your on the waitlist”. "I think you should speak to —–( the main coordinator whose name I will not mention). ” I looked at my friends phone, with a message from the main coordinator—” just tell him to ignore the voicemail”.

I was not happy. Called the main coordinators number and again- it went straight to voice mail. I finally decided to call FEBA( the exact same organization) and inquired about the false acceptance. I also anonymously addressed some of the concerns and hesitations that I had about the organization. She said she was taking notes; “things were a bit bumpy on the Canadian side”, and “she would address my concerns at a meeting the following week”. I did not know what to do with the bank loan and emailed the Balkan Canadian Association about what I should do with it. I was shocked when they responded! ” Please come to our office- we would like to speak to you in person”.

If you thought the story was bad up until now, it gets worse, Viewer Discretion is Advised.

I took time out of my university schedule to go to the office. When I arrived I smelled excitement amongst the two official coordinators. I was immediately rushed into a private room. The main coordinator brushed her hair back, took an agitated sigh, started in my eyes for about 5 seconds before excitedly etching out ” We want to confront you about some of the bad opinions you have about the organization”. I began to tell them about the false acceptance and how I had a bank loan that needed to be returned, but I was interrupted by the male main coordinator who to my absolute shock began to recite stories and sentences from the Quran about what happens to backbiters and I should not exemplify traits of an backbiter. I was pretty disturbed that they would use a religious text that I value very much as a weapon to attack me. Might I add, they used the recitation inaccurately. I was stunned and at that moment it made sense. They called me in not explain why I received a false acceptance. and why my phone calls were being ignored, but to jump me with accusations; they wanted to hurl all their bad decisions on my shoulders and call it a day by avoiding all accountability. Obviously they had gotten into trouble and were looking for a scapegoat.

They were hurt and enraged that I said on the phone to the U.S coordinator that they should work more closely with the Balkan Canadian Association to avoid any false acceptances in the future. They began to yell. They were upset I spoke to the U.S coordinator; they told me she knew “absolutely nothing about anything”. I was apparently a backbiter for speaking out and inquiring about my false acceptance to the organization.

A facebook group was made by hopeful applications of the program who met each other at the paid interviews. On the facebook group people were beginning to communicate to each other and question why the main coordinator was not answering her phone. This was just unacceptable according to the coordinators the Balkan Canadian Association. In a hissy fit, the main coordinator angrily asked why I called throughout the week before my second interview. My response… ” because you told me to in the email”. She gave me a disgusted look.

The meeting ended with the main coordinator stating that the Balkan Canadian Association is one of her children and its painful for her to see her child attacked. She rolled her eyes to the ceiling and angrily proclaimed, “that’s it– that’s all we want to know”. I asked again, “what should I do with the bank loan that I took out?” They responded promptly, “we’ll get back to you by the end of the week”. Of course they did not. I returned the loan, and was lucky that interest was low.

I left feeling pretty stupid for coming. I called the u.s coordinator and told her what had transpired. She stated that they were on the defense because they got in trouble at a meeting. But that is the reason you call in an unsuspecting applicant and hurl insults and accusations at them? Why, because the applicant needed to know what to do with a bank loan after receiving a false acceptance? I was pretty disgusted with this lack of professionalism. I was bothered by how I was accused of everything wrong with the organization because I inquired about a bank loan. I was even more bothered by how quickly and intensely the Balkan Canadian Association threw a U.S coordinator under the bus for addressing concerns by an applicant. Just bringing her name up in front of the Canadian coordinators would require a fire extinguisher. Employers should not put each other down in front of applicants.The message was clear to me at this point. You remotely question the coordinators of the Balkan Canadian Association, you are a backbiter. That would be almost OK if there was not so much to question!

Is this justified? I think its simply wrong, but this horrible meeting might be a blessing in disguise. Of course I never again heard back from the organization. I politely emailed them asking what I should do with the loan, and apologized for any misunderstandings. They did not respond.

From my horrible experience during the application process, I am happy I did not go on the trip. Based on the degree of disorganization in Canada, I cannot imagine what transpired in Turkey for the successful applicants. Maybe I was lucky that things ended the way they did.

The coordinators of the Balkan Canadian Association were simply inconsiderate of their applicants. This case is a horrible cocktail of incompetence mixed with people becoming a bit drunk with power.This is ABC’s second year in Canada( FEBA is much more established and organized). They were overwhelmed, perplexed, inconsistent and tardy. I saw a shady side of an organization that promised the world( literally), A promise that drove me forward despite the warning signs that hit me during my journey as an applicant. Bottom Line. Trust Your Gut. Don’t be submerged by what could be, But analyze facts in front of you. It would have saved me from a very unfortunate dialogue with the Balkan Canadian Association, which will make me doubt all international NGO’s down the line.

Program: TEFL
Location: Turkey
Posted: Dec 30, 2013
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1

Frontier

When coming to Frontier's teaching program in Madagascar, I had an open mind, with no set expectations. What I got out of the project was more than I could have asked for. There is an incredible amount of teaching experience you gain while here, as well as a wide variety to keep you busy. Teaching every day at the primary school in town was really fun. When originally hearing there would be classes of 100 students, it was a bit overwhelming. However, the kids were extremely disciplined, loved learning English, and were always excited to see you. I would get well over 100 enthusiastic hello's a day whether it was during school or seeing the kids around town. The adult class is very interactive and with the level of English they have, you really get to know them on a more personal level. Teaching at Atafondru on Friday can be challenging, yet quite the experience. You will always walk away with good stories from teaching. This has been an incredible and rewarding four weeks. The time flies by too quickly.

Program: TEFL
Location: Madagascar
Posted: Nov 30, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
9
Value:
9

Frontier

Loved the teaching in Madagascar, kids are absolutely amazing and energetic. It's so good to see you can make a difference for them.

Program: TEFL
Location: Madagascar
Posted: Sep 15, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I chose Frontier through word of mouth as I knew they had a vast selection of volunteering opportunities and were rated highly overall on the internet. After my initial skype call with them, I felt immediately reassured that I had chosen a reputable company. They offered me very clear advice about which project I may be most suited to and I felt they were thorough and professional by proceeding with a telephone interview that each potential volunteer must undergo. I ended up opting for the 'teaching in Siem Reap' project as I wanted to work with children and gain a qualification. Frontier's online profile is easy to complete and they upload all the necessary information needed for your specific project.

I arrived in Siem Reap on July 29th and was rather nervous as this was my first trip abroad alone. I was met promptly by Michael, a volunteer coordinator for the teaching project who was very friendly and chatty. I felt instantly reassured that I had chosen a safe company to travel with.

The volunteer house was basic but comfortable and in a very good location. The rooms were bunk bed dormitories with a shared bathroom. I was pleased to be living with other volunteers as this proved to be very social. Breakfast and lunch could be easily made at the house and we were often able to 'request' certain food items before the 'weekly shop'.

On my first night I was taken to the bike shop as each volunteer is required to rent a bike for the duration of their stay. This is necessary for travelling to and from school each day and short trips around the city at the weekends (although you can take a Tuk Tuk for a fee). Following this, I had dinner at the 'night market' area of the town with all the volunteers and Mike. This was a great chance to meet the other people and ask them questions.

I went to school the next day after my arrival at 7:10am. The cycle to school can be slightly daunting at first, especially if you are jet lagged and adjusting to the heat. Luckily, it gets a lot easier and it is a great way to see the city. I think we cycled around 10km a day so expect to get fit! The first morning I followed close to the other volunteers who easily navigated their way around the traffic and after around 15 minutes we reached the school. I didn't quite know what to expect when meeting the children and Khmer teachers but I felt instantly at ease when I saw their smiling faces and welcoming nature. Because I arrived at a time when there was a large number of other volunteers, I got to experience teaching/observing all of the four classes at the school. I didn't realise we would be given so much responsibility in the classrooms but I guess the best way to experience something new is to throw yourself right into it! Luckily, having others in the same position meant there was a lot of support and advice on hand. It wasn't until my third week that I began planning my own lessons with the help of the Khmer teacher for that class. As there were around 6 volunteers at this time, we were allowed to express a preference for the age group we wanted to teach and by the time we left the school, we had all grown very attached to our classes.

The school day is usually 7:30 - 10:15am in the morning and 1:30 - 5pm (2 classes and a conversation class) in the afternoon. This means there is a long lunch break and I mostly spent this at a pool near to the house. I enjoyed having this time to relax and prepare lessons. (The children who attend school in the morning are not the same as those in the afternoon, although the classes are of similar standard). I felt that having this weekday schedule helped me to adjust to the new experience of teaching and immersed me in the Cambodian culture.

The city very much comes alive at night and so in the evenings I would mostly go out for dinner. There are some delicious and extremely cheap restaurants around the night market area (I would particularly recommend Steven's Corner, Triangle and the $0.50c shake restaurants that border the old market). The Blue Pumpkin is great for ice cream and sweet desserts. You can also watch a free Aspara dance show if you eat dinner at Temple Bar.
The night markets themselves are definitely worth a number of visits and are a great place to buy souvenirs, Cambodian clothing and home ornaments. I bought many pairs of the Cambodian patterned trousers as these are suitable for school and comfortable for cycling. Don't forget to try the street food pancakes which are delicious and only $1!

At the weekends the other volunteers and I would explore the city. We often took a trip to the day market and the supermarket and lounged by the pool. One Saturday we got up at 4:30am to visit Angkor Wat Temple and watch the sunrise. Although it's early I would highly recommend going at this time as it meant far less tourists! We were taken around a selection of the temples by a lovely tuk tuk driver. The only disappointment of the day was all the Cambodian children that tried consistently to sell us merchandise.

As I was in Siem Reap for 5 weeks, I was quite keen to spend one weekend in a different city and so three other volunteers and I took a sleeper bus down to Sihanoukville (beach town) on a Thursday night. The bus was only $13 and despite a very bumpy journey, we managed to all sleep the majority of the way there and back. We found accommodation whilst there and despite the slightly dodgy weather we made the most of our trip by exploring the town, took a boat trip to a nearby island and eating local street food.

I felt the whole experience was a great balance between being on holiday and being a teacher. Each school week was hugely rewarding but tiring too. The Cambodian people were so friendly and happy and the children were polite and enthusiastic. I really appreciated the constant support I received from Michael and Nick during the course of the trip and if I had any concerns they were more than happy to help me out. Michael was mostly at the school with us in the day and not only was this hugely useful if any issues arose whilst teaching, but it also felt like Frontier promoted a team effort and we were all working collectively. He was enthusiastic about teaching and constantly encouraged us (and cooked a couple of tasty meals for us!).

My only slight complaint is I feel that the kit list for this project was somewhat misleading. There are a number of items labelled as 'compulsory' that in fact should be labelled 'optional'. This would have saved me money had I known that I would not need to purchase a couple of the items. Also, the project is expensive and there are more costs on arrival such as the hiring of the bikes, the school t-shirt and the internet. The spending money advised in the field brief is by no means enough for 1 month and we all had to get additional money out.

Overall it was a unique experience that allowed me to learn a great deal about teaching, introduced me to an entirely new culture, boosted my self confidence and made me further appreciate those less fortunate. I feel that Frontier themselves provided excellent support both prior to and during my time away. I was lucky to be on the project with other volunteers who were like-minded and friendly. We all bonded during our time in Siem Reap and it was great to help one another with lesson preparations and teaching. I will miss the children but I know that Frontier will continue their productive work in Cambodia and I hope that more volunteers choose this exciting and immensely rewarding project!

Program: TEFL
Location: Cambodia
Posted: Sep 5, 2013
Overall:
8
Support:
8
Value:
6

RCDP Nepal

It was my first time travelling abroad by myself and there were many things that I was worried about. However, when I reached the airport, I was greeted by a friendly face and from that point onwards, I felt comfortable. All my questions were answered, the accommodation was nice and I was placed in an orphanage in Kathmandu, like I had requested. Volunteering in the orphanage has been the most rewarding experience I have had so far; the children are beautiful and so welcoming. I am extremely grateful to RCDP for arranging everything and for making everything run smoothly. As I am about to leave Nepal, I wish that I had stayed much longer than the 11 days and I will definitely return again next year to complete the Annapura trek and visit Chitwan and Pokhara with RCDP.

Program: TEFL
Location: Nepal
Posted: Sep 5, 2013
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
9

Frontier

I'm so glad that I went away for my first volunteering trip with Frontier. The in country staff were encouraging and very helpful and easy to talk to so if there was a problem you knew you could talk to someone. The project was really well organised with structured days making it very easy to settle into the project and feel comfortable in Cambodia. Overall the experience was amazing and I had such a good time. I would recommend Frontier to other people. Even looking into maybe doing another project!

Program: TEFL
Location: Cambodia
Posted: Sep 3, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
8
Value:
6

Frontier

I've really loved my time here in madagascar. The teaching programme is extremely rewarding and well supported. It's great to feel like you are making a difference whilst also benefiting yourself by gaining excellent TEFL qualifications. Would love to teach in madagascar again in the future!

Program: TEFL
Location: Madagascar
Posted: Sep 1, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I went to Madagascar with frontier for four weeks of teaching - one of the most memorable four weeks of my life.
The best things about the trip were: the classes and the people I met out there.

It was the summer holidays for the Madagascan children, but luckily that still meant plenty of teaching! During the week, every morning we had a short sunny walk through Hell-Ville to the school. Here we would teach, mostly in pairs, girls and boys with ages from about 8 to 16. Often a little shy at first, they were always incredibly keen to learn and it was brilliant seeing them improve! (I only have basic GCSE french which I can hardly remember but I still managed - Marzia the teaching co-ordinator was always around to help translate and explain if ever we needed some). Then three afternoons a week we would also teach the adult class. These were very different as many of the adults were very capable in English conversation and writing, and incredibly enthusiastic to become even better!! As you will find the malagasy are incredibly friendly - once after class they took us to find the best street food in Hell-Ville. And most memorable was our final night teaching, where one student performed a rap he had written, another pair performed (a slightly out of tune) cover of 'call me maybe', ending with everyone to singing and dancing along.

The teaching house is basic, but as long as everyone made the effort to look after it was a great place to stay - in the centre of town with access to the roof with a beautiful view day and night, not far from the market, the schools or the local bar Nandipo's where we could get wifi and the occasional cheeky pizza! We enjoyed making use of the local food to cook all our meals. Spending all day everyday together and sharing such an experience, everyone in the teaching house becomes close very quickly .. a bit like a family! I miss everyone there and I wish I could do the whole experience all over again!!

Program: TEFL
Location: Africa
Posted: Aug 26, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Comments

Thanks for your review of the Madagascar Teaching project.

RCDP Nepal

RCDP has given me endless support during my stay in Nepal and made me feel very relaxed and welcome from the moment I arrived. I was always able to contact someone about my project and they were very accommodating! I stayed in a town called Kirtipur, just 5km outside of Kathmandu which was a great location. The teaching project in the local school was fantastic and I was met with great enthusiasm by the children and the teachers. My host family were also very friendly and I felt very relaxed and at home with them. My only regret is that I was not able to stay longer in Nepal as I feel there is a lot more I would like to do on my project, as well as seeing more of the country! I know for certain that I will return to Nepal and when I do my host family and school will be the first place I visit. The hostel in Kalanki where all the volunteers are dropped when they arrive/leave is a great place to meet like minded volunteers and it is like one big family! There is so much I will miss about Nepal and have had such a positive and exciting experience here. A special thanks to Hom as well for answering all my emails and questions before and during my stay in Nepal.

Program: TEFL
Location: Nepal
Posted: Aug 25, 2013
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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