Recently, one of our staff had the opportunity to interview Katie Devlin. Katie is a current volunteer in our Namibia year program and has been able to really dive into her experience there and even making a difference in her school there.
Katie had set out on a mission to experience a country and a culture that was different from that of her own and found what she was looking for in Namibia. Recently, WorldTeach spoke to current Namibia year program participant Katie Devlin. Katie has been in Namibia for about 3 months, working at Brandberg Primary school in Uis, where she mostly teaches 6th and 7th graders math and English. In the interview, we explore what inspired Katie’s decision to teach abroad, why Namibia with WorldTeach and her experiences in the country thus far.
What inspired you to go abroad?
After going to London, I wanted to keep traveling. I’m originally from Australia, so for my next destination, I wanted something with a greater difference. A place totally unique from my previous experiences and somewhere I would be challenged to grow.
Why did you choose WorldTeach?
I found WorldTeach online and I connected to the ethos of the organization. The idea of serving as a global citizen and connecting with others, through cultural immersion.
Why did you ultimately decide to go to Namibia?
I have always wanted to live in Africa. I didn’t really know much about Namibia before seeing it as a WorldTeach option, but the more I researched the more I felt it was a great fit. It seemed like an opportunity to have a rewarding experience, travel, and be surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
Did you have any expectations of the country or culture?
Well, I thought it would be very rural and very dry, which it is. It is also very family oriented. I think I underestimated how much communication would be possible. Everyone here knows multiple languages and English is the common tongue. Communication can still sometimes be a challenge, but it’s great to be able to express myself and I’ve been able to pick up a few local words as well.
How are you finding your time in Namibia?
I have been here for 3 months and I think I am still settling in. So far it has been mainly great, everyone is accommodating and so kind. I still feel culture shock, but that’s part of the experience.
Many people have trouble picturing themselves in the program, can you describe an average day in the life?
Each day is different, but normal teaching days do follow a fairly similar pattern. Staff meetings happen each morning, except Mondays. On Mondays instead of a meeting, there is a student assembly, where all the students in the school line up, sing and are addressed by the Principal. Classes start early; in my school the students must wait for the teacher to enter the classroom so the first part of the day is always unlocking the classroom, ushering the students in, and making sure that each student is settled with the books they need and a pen. The morning class periods run quickly and then after a short morning tea break, students return for afternoon lessons. All lessons end at 1:10 and from there, children will go home for lunch. For students who need extra assistance, there are also
study periods that run until 3. All the teachers are required to track the students we help so we can ensure they are making the necessary improvements. Most of my days end by 3 and then it can vary. Sometimes I spend time in the library with students, work on grading, or go and hang out with other teachers.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment so far?
I have been working with a special needs learner, using play-doh and blocks to work on counting numbers. Recently, I had a local teacher come and ask me how she could do similar activities to also work with the learner and others who need more attention.
What has been your most challenging adjustment so far?
Cold showers each morning. It’s not ideal, but it’s also what I wanted, to go and do something outside of my comfort zone. (Can we add something about corporal punishment here)
If you could start over what is one thing you would do differently?
I would have packed fewer clothes and brought more teaching supplies. There is a local supermarket nearby, but even with that, there is a lack of resources.
Is there anything else you would like to say to those thinking about going abroad?
Just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? In the end, it’s always going to be a positive experience and a way to meet new people; even the bad days are making you stronger.
You heard her go for it! WorldTeach would like to thank Katie for taking the time to do this interview with us. If you’re interested in hearing more about Katie’s experiences visit her travel blog here. If you’re interested in learning more about our WorldTeach programs visit us on our webpage.