I was just taking a quick look at Transitions Abroad (a great resource for first hand volunteer and travel stories – as I’ve mentioned!), and I noticed a featured post about working at an Italian Summer Camp. This caught my eye because a) the camp counselor abroad industry is primarily driven by folks coming to the United States, and opportunities for Americans to be counselors abroad are much less common and b) I’ve always wanted to learn Italian. Since I’m not looking to quit my day job for now, I thought I would explore the opportunity a bit more to share it with you.
I don’t actually know anything about GeoVisions, the company that sponsors this volunteer abroad experience, but what I do know is that it looks pretty amazing. I don’t know if it’s the photo of the guys on the waterslide that appears on the homepage, or the fact that I work in an office without any windows, but I have never want to be summer camp counselor in Italy more than I do at this very moment.
But let’s take a look at the details of GeoVisions programs to see if it lives up to the hype that I have created:
The bulk of GeoVisions’ programming appears to be the Conservation Corps and Conversation Partners programs, which place people around the world (Italy, Costa Rica, Galapagos, Jordan, Ghana, Lebanon, Turkey, Thailand…even an ecolodge! The Conversation Corps and Conversation Partners programs are essentially volunteer placements, but your "volunteer job" is just speaking English to your host family for a few hours a day. You pay a flat fee of about $1,500 (depending on the location) for room & board, insurance, airport pick-up and general support. Any time not spent conversing is yours for travel and exploration. Conversation Partner placements are similar to Conversation Corps, but you might be working at a central location (like a business) offering personal tutoring to local workers, rather than with a family.
There are a few paid opportunities available through GeoVisions as well, although interestingly enough they also charge a fee for those. Essentially, you pay upfront for the placement, airport pick-up, and on-the ground support and then the placement itself pays you a wage. There are three kinds of paid jobs abroad through GeoVisions: Nanny jobs, Teaching jobs, and paid internships. As I’m writing this, there is one paid internship on the site, which is offered in Chile. The job is interviewing students who are applying for visas to travel to the United States, which actually sounds very cool. The au pair jobs are all over, including Amsterdam, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey, and they include airfare (reimbursement), about $475/year, visa fees, and health insurance. That’s really not a bad deal when you’ve only paid a $950 program fee! Teaching jobs are available in Thailand and South Korea, and visa, airfare and insurance is included in the program fee.
About the job: I could definitely see some themes coming through in some of the first-person testimonials from camp counselors/tutors, and even in the job description. Specifically, people don’t view the experience as "work" so much as a travel and cultural immersion experience. That’s probably why it actually costs money to do the program, about $1,500 for the summer (4-8 weeks). This includes room & board (two meals per day…and apparently the housing on the beach and just a "bike ride away" from camp), airport pickup in Rome (but NOT airfare), GeoVisions support on site, and health insurance. They actually have really great health insurance (dental!), which isn’t always common for these types of programs. In some cases, they’ll even give you the bike!
What they need from you is 4-5 hours of your time speaking English. The program requires that prospective tutors be native English-speakers, and obviously have some comfort interacting with children. Tutors play games with the kids, and teach them the basics: colors, number, basic nouns. You don’t need to have any teaching experience; GeoVisions gives you a "bag of tricks" with everything you need to get started. And while knowledge of Italian is not required, I’m sure it’s very helpful.
If this feels like the right fit for you, and you are prepared to pack up your giant back-pack and go, you’d better act fast. They are accepting counselors for a July 9th start date (that’s less than two weeks away!) for a 4-week stay.