My first 3 days in the USA as a cultural exchange teacher
I have heard and read about many teaching abroad experiences as a kind of cruise on the Caribbean, a paid vacation or sight-seeing with a paycheck. I must say it is not that easy. But in the end, it is totally worth the challenge.
There are so many things to do before arriving to the U.S., but Participate really helped make this process as smooth as possible, upon and after arrival. Let me share with you all my experiences before and after arriving in the U.S., and how it has been so far.
After I successfully passed both of my interviews with Participate, I had to gather a lot of papers, which took a while, but the one that worried me the most was the visa process. I must say that this was actually pretty easy thanks to my Participate Admissions Specialist. She guided me and helped me every step of the way. She explained all the papers I needed to take with me, and soon I was ready to fly.
I had a good job back in my home country of Honduras. I was very comfortable and had my family close, my friends from childhood, my neighborhood and all of those things we take for granted. I had it all, but I decided to come to a country in which I had nothing instead. People may think this was one of my less logical decisions, but there were adventures to be had and memories to be built. So I got on a plane.
People may think this was one of my less logical decisions, but there were adventures to be had and memories to be built. So I got on a plane.
I did not really think about what I had left behind that much until I landed in Atlanta. All through the airport and on my connecting flight to Raleigh, I felt overwhelmed and anxious. I remember asking myself, “Did I make the right decision?’’ I was worried about how I was going to get from the airport in Raleigh to my hotel. That worry disappeared when I saw the two ladies with the huge Participate sign by the claiming area. They were so nice and I felt welcomed. They had my shuttle ready and everything was set at the hotel. I was more than ready to sleep.
The following two days I got to know the city, which is beautiful. I immediately witnessed that Southern hospitality everybody talks about. On the third day, my orientation week began. All of those doubts such as “How am I going to get around?” “Where am I going to live?” “Where can I buy a car?” “I don’t know anything about teaching in the U.S.” were answered that week.
All of those doubts such as 'How am I going to get around?' 'Where am I going to live?' 'Where can I buy a car?' 'I don’t know anything about teaching in the U.S.' were answered that week.
Participate really takes care of every single detail, they even got me some resources and materials to take to my school! I learned about banking, driving in the U.S., the educational system and about the beauty of North Carolina. I learned tons of activities I can do with my students here, about the thousands of resources Participate provides to its teachers and how to access them, I even got advised on how to save money.
One of the best things that happened during my orientation week was making friends from all over the world. We shared teaching experiences from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Jamaica, and my home country, Honduras, and today we are still in touch and keep sharing experiences.
The last day of orientation I was taken to my school district where my local advisor (another Participate teacher) was waiting for me. And here I am today, teaching third grade at Siler City Elementary. I established an amazing rapport with my students, I get along so well with my GLT (grade level team, be ready for acronyms, schools love them), and I’m having fun.
Moving to the U.S. has not been a piece of cake, but everything I have experienced so far is totally worth it, and life would be boring if everything was so easy. Besides, the Participate team is always there to help.
Teachers, be ready for your life to change, you are just going to love it.
Ricardo Valladares is a cultural exchange teacher from Honduras. Learn more about teaching in the U.S. and applying to Participate’s program.