Kayla Savage, LE Brazil Alumna, on returning to South America with the Peace Corps
What led you to apply to become an LE volunteer for the summer of 2018?
I have an interest in international development and the Western Hemisphere, and I knew that for my career I needed field experience. I saw flyers around campus for LE, and I decided to meet with the George Washington University Campus Director to learn more. She connected me with my now friend and mentor, Juliette Erath, who was the country director of the Brazil program and encouraged me to apply!
Why did you choose Brazil?
I chose Brazil because I was intrigued by its politics and culture and wanted to learn more Portuguese! I was originally going to apply to Panama to volunteer, but my Spanish at the time wasn't on par with the requirement. I'm so glad I went to Brazil because I learned a new language and was able to understand a country that is crucial to international affairs in the region.
What was your experience like while you were there?
My experience in Brazil was life changing! I was welcomed into my community with open arms, and I became extremely close with my host mom. Navigating intercultural communication was a huge part of my experience, and the more I learned about and listened to my community, the more I was able to become a more effective volunteer.
What challenges did you face, both expected and unexpected, in your role as an English teacher and/or as member in a foreign community?
Being an English teacher was a wonderful adventure of constantly adapting to the skill level and learning environment I found myself teaching in. I loved the challenge of coming to class every day and improvising even if I had the most perfectly planned out lesson, and having fun with my students.
You were recently offered a position as a Secondary Education English Teacher Trainer in the Peace Corps. Can you tell us what this position entails?
I will serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia in the education sector. Peace Corps Colombia volunteers live with host families in semi-rural communities during service. I was hired for the 27-month position as a Secondary Education English Teacher Trainer, so I will work with Colombian teaching counterparts in public schools to enrich their English teaching curriculum.
How did your experience as a LE volunteer teacher in Brazil help prepare or inform you for this Peace Corps role as an English Teacher Trainer?
My experience as an LE volunteer gave me the skills and qualifications needed to apply for this position, and it helped me figure out that I wanted to work in Latin America for a longer period of time to have a more sustainable impact on my community.
Did you already have an interest in international volunteerism or programs prior to volunteering for LE?
Yes, I did have an interest, but I was always weary of volunteerism programs because of the "voluntourism" trap that so many programs fall into. LE and the Peace Corps are great because they are longer term, require cultural awareness and qualifications, and request zero payment from volunteers. In the case of the Peace Corps, the US government pays volunteers a monthly stipend, as well as covers all healthcare during service. Upon return from service, Peace Corps offers fellowships to pay for graduate school, and they give you a sum of money for resettlement back into the United States.
What would you tell young adults about LE, including those who perhaps don't currently have a great interest in international volunteerism or programs?
If you like the challenge of getting out of your comfort zone and have an affinity for empowering others in a classroom setting, LE is for you! If you just want to go on a vacation, LE may not be for you. LE is a fun and amazing experience, but your presence in the community is not just as a foreigner or tourist, you are a volunteer who is helping meet the English learning needs of your area, and that needs to be your first priority.