Two Ambassador Teachers, two decades, and multiple teaching tours
Did you know that some Ambassador Teachers return to teach in the U.S. for multiple tours? As participants in the BridgeUSA exchange visitor program, our Ambassador Teachers spend up to five years teaching in U.S. schools and then return to their home countries to share their new ideas and experiences with their families, schools, and communities. However, Ambassador Teachers are welcome to return to teach in the U.S. multiple times (after fulfilling a two-year residency requirement, in most cases).
Today, we caught up with two current Ambassador Teachers who have returned to teach in the U.S. for multiple stints:
- Gustavo, originally from Colombia, is now in his first year of his third tour.
- Karol, originally from Colombia, is now in her third year of her second tour.
Read on to find out what brings these educators back to the U.S. and what they have learned along the way.
What was it like teaching in the U.S. the first time around?
Deciding to teach in the U.S. can be a leap of faith, especially for someone who hasn’t lived or traveled outside of their home country. When asked why they wanted to initially teach in the U.S., Gustavo and Karol unanimously agreed that they wanted the experience of teaching abroad as well as the opportunity to be immersed in American culture.
During the first year or two, many Ambassador Teachers experience culture shock by living and working in a new country. For many teachers like Gustavo and Karol, a transition they also encountered is adjusting to the U.S. school system and learning to adapt to a new working environment.
Gustavo: The first three years were really challenging since it was the first time I left my country and became immersed in a completely different culture. The adaptation process was hard at first since I had to deal with challenging students and a new classroom environment. However, the drive to be successful and the willingness to get the best of this experience was the fuel that kept me going, and things began to improve as I became accustomed to living in the U.S.
Karol: On my first experience, I was an ESL teacher in Virginia. In the beginning, it was very challenging. I had little knowledge of the U.S. education system and how things are handled. However, I absolutely loved every single part of the experience. I learned so much from the teachers I worked with, I was able to travel and even share those places with my parents when they came to visit. It was just wonderful.
What benefits are there for teaching in the U.S.?
Teaching in the U.S. helps educators broaden their perspectives and be presented with opportunities they might not have access to in their home countries. When Ambassador Teachers return home, they are then able to embrace these new ideas and experiences.
For both Gustavo and Karol, their time in the U.S. led to greater long-term success for their teaching careers in their home countries.
Gustavo: When I returned home, I was offered better job opportunities because of my experience teaching and living in the U.S.
Karol: I got a teaching position in a very-well-recognized school in Bogota. I taught there for two years and was named the teacher of the year in the 2018–2019 school year. I think a lot of what I did was directly influenced by all the things I saw from the teachers in the U.S.
In addition, teachers who return for multiple tours feel that being a cultural exchange teacher has impacted their lives in many ways beyond teaching.
Gustavo: So far, I have dedicated nine years of my life to Participate Learning, and all those years have positively changed everything in it. I have improved immensely as a professional and as a person. I was able to get my master’s degree in N.C. back in 2015, and that international diploma has opened the doors of the world for me.
Karol: It has brought so much to my life. Not only for teaching practice but also for my personal life. It has opened my eyes and made me more aware of how different and rich the world is.
How is the experience different each time?
Adjusting to living and working in a new country can be a difficult transition each time. When asked if the challenges are the same for returning Ambassador Teachers, it was unanimous that even though the first tour was initially a more difficult adjustment, it helped alleviate some of the transition stresses for the following stints.
Karol: The first time everything was new. The country, the school system, the people, all the places, so everything was challenging. Now, this second time the challenge is different. I was lucky enough to be the one to start the dual language program in my county. It has been an amazing journey. I think the program has grown so much and part of that is because of my work. So that makes the challenge even higher, and the results very satisfying.
Reflecting on their favorite moments
As Gustavo and Karol have returned to the U.S. throughout different stages of life, we asked them to share a few of their favorite memories throughout their experiences.
Karol: Seeing firsthand how beautiful it is to teach native English speakers with no Spanish at all, and witness how much they grow in proficiency by the end of the year. It is wonderful to witness that progression.
Gustavo: The excitement of moving to a new country and getting to know a new culture. Every single experience was new in my daily life, and in my teaching experience, every day offered me an opportunity to be creative and test my endurance. I am in my third tour now and I am holding high expectations for what is going to happen next. I have learned that each tour is different and one must adapt to the particular characteristics of each school community.
Are you interested in teaching in the U.S. or returning to teach with us for another tour like Gustavo and Karol? Visit our teach in the U.S. webpage, where you can explore all of the requirements to apply.