Enjoy the following blog post from Ellie Miller (India Summer 2018) about her time in Ladakh, and be sure to register for the upcoming India webinar to learn more about the WorldTeach India Summer program (departing June 2019). You’ll hear directly from alumni and field staff about their experience in Ladakh and our partnership with Voygr Expeditions. Register here!
Flying into Leh is nothing short of spectacular. Before the program I’d seen so many pictures of the amazing landscape, but experiencing it for the first time is breathtaking. This was my first impression when I came to teach in Ladakh. Any initial feelings of fear and nervousness were quickly wiped out for me, and it didn’t take very long for the other teachers and I to form close friendships. Before the actual teaching started we had time to explore Leh and get accustomed to the culture, which really helped with the transition into homestay life. I was placed with two other volunteers in Abran, a small village in the Zanskar Valley. This area was gorgeous, surround by staggering mountains alongside a river. We had limited power and no service, but moving off the grid was refreshing, and I didn’t miss technology as much as I would have thought.
One of the other volunteers, Bindi, lived in the same homestay as me throughout the whole program. It was helpful to have someone to bounce off class ideas with and confide in when I got homesick. During the time not spent teaching we had the opportunity to do many cool things such as visit monasteries, sleep under the stars at Doksa, (a field where some villagers take most of the yaks and cows for summer) and explore the mountains. It was common to be invited into villager’s houses for tea and answer questions about what my life is like back home. We got to help milk cows, have dinners with other teachers, and speak to the oldest man in Abran. Part of the wonderful nature of Ladakh is how welcoming every person is, and how grateful they were that we had come to teach.
The part of teaching that made me the most nervous was teaching itself, as I didn’t know what to expect or how to run each day’s lesson plan. This fear passed quickly as I got to know the kids and the teachers. Zanskar was very rural, so the kids had low English comprehension which was a big challenge. We played a lot of games to practice vocabulary, and after a few days they grew more outgoing and tried to have more English conversations with me. Rigzin, a native Ladakhi with our in-country partner, stayed with us in Zanskar to help translate classes, and was an integral role in my ability to really reach the students. The in-country team took every opportunity to teach us about the culture and give us the best opportunity to have an impact on the students and teachers we were working with.
The best part of teaching was the teacher workshops I ran with my fellow volunteers. During extended lunch periods we would sit down with all the teachers and talk to them about grammar, lesson planning, and teaching strategies. This was so fulfilling because I could see how much they wanted to learn too, and how strongly they cared about their students. It also felt good to know that we were leaving the teachers with skills they could continue to improve, because they are the people from whom the real change and success will come from. Leaving Zanskar and Ladakh was really hard for me, and I definitely felt reverse culture shock when I came home, but this was a life changing experience that has shaped me in ways I couldn’t imagine.