Read her evaluation of project N8 ‘Teaching in Nepal’ to learn more about her experience of Nepal and volunteering through Outreach:
What did you think of the application and interview process?
I thought the application and interview process was really good, I felt like you took the time to understand what I wanted to get out of the experience and were happy to answer all of my questions. It was also really fast and easy.
What did you think of the briefing and administration process before you departed?
Yes I felt prepared because I was able to ask questions by email. The brief was also useful and I really liked the online teacher training course.
Did you feel your in-country coordinator was supportive and helpful, on arrival and throughout your stay?
Yes Ram Hari was very helpful, he always said if I had any problems I could ask him and he phoned to make sure I was OK.
How was your accommodation and meals?
The family I stayed with were lovely and their house was comfortable (once I got used to the lack of toilet paper!). I had rice and vegetables twice a day and a snack in the afternoon. The food was always very nice. However, when I ate at places where food had been prepared for lots of people eg a rice feeding ceremony I got diarrhoea so I would recommend that future volunteers are wary about eating at other places!
Please tell us as much as you can about a typical day on the project?
School was between 10 and 4, Sunday to Friday (excluding the numerous holidays!). I normally taught 6-7 periods out of the 8 periods in a day. There is a half hour break when the teachers go to the canteen for tea/a snack.
The classes are from nursery to class 10 and I was able to teach every class, although I taught the youngest classes rarely because they spoke almost no English. Sometimes I was co-teaching with the other English teacher, which was good in the sense that it meant that he could explain what I was saying in Nepali if the students didn’t understand. The other periods I covered for absent teachers teaching a range of subjects (a teacher was absent I think every day except 1!).
This was good because it meant I wasn’t taking the class of a teacher who was already there but it meant I couldn’t prepare for the classes in advance which was a shame. The students’ discipline was generally good. The students’ ability level varied a lot. The brightest students were doing incredibly well and I found the standard that they were expected to be at to be higher than the standard in England of an equivalent class.
However, many students were not at this standard and spoke little English, which was difficult for them because all the subjects were taught in an English medium. All the students found it difficult to understand me at first because their, and their teachers’, English pronunciation is very poor. However, after some time it became easier as they became used to my accent. The students all had textbooks that I could use to know what to teach.
Do you feel you made a positive contribution to your project?
I feel a made a small positive contribution by forcing my students to speak in English in class rather than Nepali if they wanted to be understood, which meant they practised speaking English rather than just reading/writing it. They also became used to my English accent and pronunciation. I also think I made a positive contribution by helping students who lived near me with their studies. However, I think my contribution was limited by my short stay there (2 months) and because it was a bad time to go. I was personally constrained to a time when they some school holidays, then they had lots of days off for various holidays eg constitution day, children’s day, education day etc.
What will be your fondest memory?
I have two! One is a programme the village held for a festival, Teej. The majority of the village came together to a communal place and there were various speeches and people singing and dancing. I spent most of the programme feeling very nervous because everyone said I would have to dance, which I am terrible at, but it was actually really nice dancing with the other women and children.
Then everyone ate together and lots of people who I hadn’t met before came and spoke to me and were very friendly. I felt like I had become part of the community and it was an opportunity to meet lots of people who were all very happy that I had danced!
The second memory was teaching class six. We had a really good lesson so I said we could play hangman at the end. I’ve never known a class enjoy hangman so much but they were all so excited every time they got the answer. At the end of every lesson the students would always stand up and say ‘thank you miss, for teaching us’ but this day they were so enthusiastic and that felt really nice.
How could your experience have been improved?
I would recommend trying to avoid going at the same time as I went (although I didn’t have a choice). The test days and holidays are set at the start of the year so it might be useful to ask the principal if it is a good time to go. One of the hardest things was the language barrier so potentially spending a day in Kathmandu having some language lessons before going to the project would have been useful. I also saw another volunteer had brought a very useful Nepali book in Kathmandu so I would recommend trying to buy a Nepali book before going.
What advice do you have for future volunteers on this project e.g. what to bring, how to prepare, how to behave?
I brought the Lonely Planet Nepali phrasebook which I found to be really useful, although I think it would be possible to buy better ones in Kathmandu so I would also suggest looking there as well.
In terms of clothes, I taught in a long skirt and shirt (short-sleeved is fine) and I assume trousers would also be OK. At home I always wore loose trousers and a t-shirt. There is no point taking shorts! Whilst I was there (Aug-Sept) it was always hot so I didn’t need a jumper but I heard that it becomes colder later in the year. I wouldn’t worry about needing lots of clothes – I felt like I had more than most people there. For shoes a good pair of flip flops is essential and I wore walking-type trainers to teach in which I found to be good. I would suggest bringing something to do e.g. I did Sudoku because I had quite a lot of time in the evening with nothing to do.
I would recommend trying to work out a schedule of classes to teach, although this is difficult because when there is an absent teacher in some ways it seems stupid to co-teach and then leave one class untaught. I suggested to the principal that I could do speaking practice with small groups of students outside the classroom but this wasn’t really possible while I was there because there was a lot of construction work going on and there was no available space. However, this might become possible in the future and I think the students would really benefit from the chance to practise speaking English and it would also provide an opportunity for cultural exchange. The culture is conservative and I had to be very sensible – the family expected me to back home by 6:30.
Overall, do you feel your experience represented good value for money?
Would you recommend this experience to others?
Yes, I would recommend it to people who want to experience a rural lifestyle and learn about the Nepalese culture and way of life. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody – it was a slow way of life, there wasn’t that much to do and the language barrier was a real challenge. However, I learnt so much and I found the Nepalese people to be so warm and generous so I formed close relationships in a really short period of time. So I would say it was a challenging but rewarding experience.
For more information on this project review N8 Teaching in Nepal, or to discuss what would be the right project for you introduce yourself through our Application form and we’ll set up a time to talk without any commitment from you