Alicia Williams

Alicia came to the Toronto Go Global Expo in 2015, and six months later found herself teaching English in Colombia.

Name: Alicia Williams
Attended the 2015 Toronto Go Global Expo
Organization: Greenheart Travel
Type of program: Volunteer, Teaching English
Where are you now? Living in Montreal and teaching English online to adults around the world.

Why did you attend the Go Global Expo? What were you hoping for?
I initially attended the Go Global Expo to get ideas about tours and short-term volunteer opportunities. My plan was to take some time off from work and do a bit of travelling.

I visited many different booths, including Greenheart Travel. I looked at their brochures and listened to the rep talk about what Greenheart offers, and I was just about to leave the booth when she mentioned that there was a Teach in Colombia program. That piqued my interest and I went to their meetup later that evening to learn more. About a month later, I applied to that program and in March 2016 I was in Colombia.

What did you do while overseas?
I was placed in Armenia, Quindio, Colombia from March to November 2016. I was part of the Ministry of Education’s Colombia Bilingüe program that places native-English speaking teachers in high schools around the country. I was teaching English to students in grades eight through eleven.

What’s your favourite story from your time abroad?
One day, I was teaching my 11th graders and a couple of them were kind of goofing off. They started to ask me something in Spanish, and I responded with "in English". They said (in their best teenage whiny voices) "No profé, no ingles... frances." My students had no idea that I could speak a bit of French. So, I said "Ah, oui! Parlez-vous français?" The shock on their faces was absolutely priceless. But, it also made them curious about Canadian culture, and I got to share with them that Canada is a bilingual country and that I had to learn French in school just as they were learning English in school. It was a really cool moment and I think it had a positive effect on them because after that day, they spoke in English and seemed to have a bit more of an interest in learning it.

What personal or professional goals did the Go Global Expo help you to fulfill?
Personally, I had always wanted to live abroad. It’s one thing to learn about other cultures, but being immersed in another culture is a very different experience. I also developed a new kind of appreciation for Canadian culture that I don’t think I would have had without going abroad.

Professionally, the Expo helped me to make a career transition to teaching English. I had known since 2008 that I wanted to teach English abroad, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I finally took the plunge.

The Go Global Expo definitely directly impacted my life, and not just because I came across Greenheart Travel which led me to an amazing opportunity. I learned about different ways people do travel, and do it meaningfully. I never realized there were so many options available to work, volunteer, and learn abroad, and not all of them cater solely to the Millennial demographic. I came across opportunities for those who are mid-career and looking to take a break or transition to a new career. I feel that the Go Global Expo made some of these opportunities visible for those of us in an older age group.

For people who are looking for international opportunities, I would definitely recommend attending the Go Global Expo to see the various options available. It will help with researching the right opportunity.