The Courage of Volunteering Abroad
WorldTeach volunteer Matt Mills speaks to the great and lasting effects that a year volunteering abroad with WorldTeach can make. Matt talks about the importance of courage, both gaining courage and instilling it in those you meet. Teaching in a new country, a new culture, and with new people can not only be exciting but also frightening. Matt explains the necessity of stepping out of one’s comfort zone to embrace the unknown and attain the truly life-altering sense of fulfillment that comes with teaching abroad.
A Lesson in Courage
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the acknowledgment that something is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear- not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
Looking back and reflecting over my experience as a WorldTeach volunteer in Tanzania, one of the most important pieces of wisdom and lessons that I learned and can give to future volunteers is that the experience of living and teaching as a volunteer abroad is truly what you make it to be. As I prepare to return home, I leave with a feeling of genuine pride and fulfillment about what I have accomplished during this experience, and it was more than I ever could have hoped it to be. As both a traveler and a teacher fully immersed in a foreign culture, I reached many personal and professional goals, overcame a lot of tough obstacles and experienced plenty of highs and lows along my journey. Thinking about all the innumerable challenges and rewarding moments I’ve experienced over the past year, I have discovered that the key to success as a WorldTeach volunteer means facing every new challenge and opportunity that you encounter with a courageous mind, heart and soul, even (and sometimes especially) if it makes you afraid. Living and teaching in a culture so unique and so different from your own brings with it daily experiences that are all new, exciting, demanding, emotional and sometimes scary. With each of these experiences comes the acknowledgment of fear and the choice to have the courage to overcome that fear so that you can truly make a difference in and out of the classroom and make the most of every moment that an adventure like this can bring.
From the moment I arrived into the beautiful, unique and dynamic culture of Tanzania, I knew that this year would forever change who I was and how I would see the world around me. Every new experience was a step into the unknown, exposing me to new challenges that would test my character and form my worldview. Whether it was the first time using public transportation, bargaining for food at the market, moving into my new home, getting to know my new colleagues, or entering the classroom for the first time, every new encounter was always accompanied by at least some amount of trepidation and fear. Yet by having the courage to face each fear I was able to open myself up to so many truly amazing and unforgettable moments that made my year in Tanzania so rewarding. From courageously facing each fear, I met many teachers, neighbors and students that I now call my close friends; I came to fully understand and appreciate an amazing culture so diverse and unique from my own; and I helped to make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of my students, at my schools and in my community.
As a WorldTeach volunteer knowing that there was always something more important than whatever fears I faced, I also learned what it genuinely means to devote yourself to serving a community in need and the rewards that come with that devotion and service. Teaching in Tanzania was easily one of the most challenging experiences of my life, but I leave knowing that gave everything I had to rise to that challenge for my students and my community with the hope that I have inspired them as much as they have inspired me. As I face the difficult task of leaving my schools, my students, my friends and my home in Tanzania, my hope is that I have given them the courage to face their own fears and live up to the potential for great things that I saw in each of the students that I had the honor to teach. My year as an English teacher in Tanzania required much dedication, hard work, and sacrifice, but knowing that I have made a positive impact in my community is enough reward for that commitment to last a lifetime.
Ending my year of service as a WorldTeach volunteer in Tanzania has been immensely difficult, especially as I reflect back upon all that I have personally and professionally achieved, say goodbye to the friends I’ve gained, appreciate the challenge and joy of teaching, and think about how I have changed as a person from when I arrived. Adapting to life in another culture and devoting myself to make a difference in a community in a developing country was filled with many moments of fear that I knew I had to find a way to overcome. Facing those fears and having the courage to persevere through them helped to make my time in Tanzania the most unforgettable and rewarding experience of my life. I leave Tanzania with a sense of excitement, sadness and pride, but also with a new found sense of courage that I know will help me to conquer any fear and challenge that lies ahead of me when I return home.