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Greenheart Travel

About

Greenheart Travel is a 501(c)3 non-profit, mission driven organization based in Chicago, USA. We are passionate about providing immersive cultural immersion experiences for teenagers and adults in countries all over the world.

We believe in the power of travel; a power that broadens your perspective and turns strangers into family. It’s this belief that motivates us at Greenheart Travel to provide life-changing adventures for anyone with a case of wanderlust. We’re your personal cheerleaders as you navigate the unpredictable joys, surprises, and challenges of life abroad. With unrivaled support and guidance, Greenheart Travel gives you the tools to make sure you’re more than a tourist, you’re a world citizen. You don’t just travel for the sights, you travel for a change.

Website
www.greenhearttravel.org
Founded
1985
Headquarters

200 W. Superior St.
Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60654
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Kyleen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I decided to come to Myanmar on a whim. As a fresh university graduate, I was grappling with the question most grads struggle with: what now? I found myself scrolling through Greenheart Travel’s teaching programs, and the thumbnail for Myanmar caught my eye. Within 15 minutes, I submitted my preliminary application for the program. 3 months later, I was placed at a private school in Mandalay. 4 months later, I landed in Yangon for my week long orientation. The entire process was incredibly easy. Between placing me at my school, helping me find a place to live, and answering all of my questions, both organizations, Greenheart Travel and their partner, NelcXplore, were extremely helpful. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of my time in Mandalay.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The thing that caught me off guard the most upon arriving in Myanmar was the sheer number of stray dogs wandering the streets
Default avatar
Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My partner and I were placed to teach in the same town, even the same school during our time in Thailand. Before we went overseas, we had plenty of questions and Greenheart was easy to reach, patient, and so kind! We felt prepared and knew expectations/next steps for every part of our journey. Once we went overseas, the partner organization was incredibly helpful throughout our experience including navigating visas, Thai culture, and teaching! As for Thailand, an absolutely magical place. We were paid well enough to live comfortably and save some for travelling around Southeast Asia.
Tips for Thailand: embrace the bum gun, bring coffee from home if you like coffee, prepare for sugar to be added into everything!
10/10 I would recommend again!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Stay as long as you can! Additionally, take time to visit as many regions of Thailand as you can! The country has so much to offer! If you find yourself driving a scoot scoot, be sure to wear your helmet. Every. Single. Time!
Default avatar
Kerstyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Greenheart travel was great! There was a lot of support leading up to me leaving for Thailand. I would have been completely lost without their help and honestly I don’t think I would have ever moved to Thailand without their guidance. Once we arrived they set us up with another company but continued to check in a few more times. I am very happy with my experience with Greenheart.
I ended up spending one semester in Northern Thailand in a small town called Mae Chan located in Chiang Rai. I couldn’t have asked for a better placement. The town was absolutely beautiful. We had everything that I needed including a gym and a big Tesco. My students were incredible however they did challenge me on a daily basis. I will forever be happy that I went.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Jump right in. You really don’t know what to expect until you arrive in another country. Be open minded and appreciate the hard moments as an opportunity to grow and the good moments as a times that you will not ever forget.
Default avatar
William
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Greenheart Travel was incredibly helpful in connecting us with Xplore Asia and helping us to get our feet on the ground in Thailand. The coordinators helped to calm our nerves about our trip and we felt we were treated with kindness and compassion throughout our time working with Greenheart Travel. If you are looking for an incredible experience and immersion in a beautiful culture I would highly suggest this program. Working with the kids has been my favorite work experience so far. I feel that I grew significantly in this program. One of the best parts was that my wife and I were placed in the same school, so if you looking for a program that accommodates couples, look no further! If you're a foodie this is definitely the right program for you. 10 out of 10 would recommend this experience to anyone.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate a silk worm while I was traveling on a weekend in Cambodia
Default avatar
Chatman
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Kara was super helpful answering any pre-departure questions. I really enjoyed my time in Incheon, I felt that I learned a lot of important information and also met some great friends while I was there. The workload was pretty intense, but it was reasonably manageable. The teacher was really thorough and prepped us for the worst-case scenario, which was good but it also didn't really apply to many of our situations. It kind of put us on edge, but all of the students who have been placed in a job are in pretty nice locations, with nice facilities at our schools. The town we were studying in was great because it was really close to the airport which was convenient for our visa runs. It was a very nice town and had everything we needed, food, grocery stores, and convenience stores too.

What would you improve about this program?
This is in no-fault Greenhearts fault, but Handskorea did kind of screw over some of my friends who did the program. They ensured some people that they would have a job by the end of the program, but they did not end the program with a job, which was obviously stressful for them.

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Kyleen Newman

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Kyleen is an avid rock climber, skier, and lover of life. Her current goals are to see the world, broaden her horizons, and impact the lives of the rad people she meets along the way positively!

Kyleen Newman

Why did you choose this program?

I first heard about Greenheart Travel through a coworker of mine. We worked at a Mexican restaurant in Summit County. In between lunch and dinner rushes, we had a lot of time to talk, our conversations ranging from our previous travel experiences to our aspirations for life. She told me about how much her time in Greenheart's Colombia program had impacted her life, so when I found myself feeling trapped in the middle of an existential crisis half a year later, they were the first company I looked up.

I liked the idea of teaching English while traveling because I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community I found myself in. At the end of the day, I can't really say why I chose the Myanmar program in particular. Something about the thumbnail just caught my attention, and I thought "hey, I know next to nothing about Myanmar. No better way to learn about a culture than to LIVE IN IT." Within 15 minutes, I submitted my preliminary application, and just like that, I took my first step towards a wonderfully amazing adventure.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Greenheart Travel and their partner, NelcXplore, were incredibly helpful throughout the entire placement process, answering all of my questions along the way. After all was said and done, the only thing I really had to arrange was my flight to Yangon. They found a school for me to teach at (which in turn assisted me with housing arrangements), organized my visa paper work, picked me up at the airport, and provided me with a local SIM card.

Upon arrival in Yangon, I attended Greenheart's week-long orientation, which was vastly educational and helpful. During this week, we were able to observe classes at local schools, learn some basics about Myanmar culture and language, and do some sightseeing. In addition to this, I bonded quickly with the people in my orientation group, and that sense of community was profoundly soothing during this transition period.

On the whole, I felt much more prepared for the experience I was stepping into post-orientation.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I think the most important advice I could give someone preparing to join this program would be to drop any and all expectations. I think people often have preconceived notions of how life will be when they move abroad, and while it's important to know enough to be prepared for potential situations, it's also important to keep in mind that hardly anything ever plays out the way you had imagined in your mind. You will see and experience more if you are not blinded by the bars of your expectations. Being able to flow with the way things happen will vastly improve your experience. But also, maybe bring some earplugs. The dogs howl at night.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I work at a private school in Mandalay, and my typical week is very laid back: I think I got extremely lucky with my placement. I teach grades 1-4, with a focus on listening and speaking fluency, which means I really just get to play games that will give the kids opportunities to practice speaking.

My classroom hours total up to about 13 hours a week, and I maybe spend and additional 2-3 hours lesson planning (since the grades are split into multiple classes, I see each class twice a week and really only need 6 lesson plans per week). I'm not required to stay at school when I don't have class, so I have a ridiculous amount of free time. I am aware that this lifestyle isn't for everyone, but I find it to be a nice break after the 50-60 hour weeks I was working prior to my departure.

Outside of school, I fill my time with reading and drawing at nearby coffee and tea shops, doing at least an hour of yoga a day, teaching my inn keeper's daughter piano, and eating delicious and affordable meals (breakfast and lunch are provided, so I only really have to worry about dinner). On most weekends I climb at Yaedagon Taung with some local friends that I met through the Mandalay Rock Climbing Community.

All in all, it's a pretty peaceful existence, and life here is good.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear going into my experience abroad was the fact I was going alone. I would say that generally as a human being, I tend to be on the anxious side, so I was worried about how my mental health would respond when I stripped away all of my comfort blankets and support systems, hurtling myself into the unknown.

I'm not sure that I necessarily overcame my fear... I just ended up gritting my teeth, taking a leap of faith, and buying a plane ticket (which felt like the last step that would make my decision to move abroad final).

Looking back now, I feel as though a lot of my fears were rather irrational, as everything turned out to be fine. The relationships that I've forged with people here, be it with the members of my orientation group, the teachers at school, or with my climbing friends, have been an integral part of my adjustment to life in Mandalay. Finding a sense of belonging in this community of people has fended off any feelings of isolation. While I still miss home from time to time, I find myself to be quite happy and content.

In addition to this, I have found that I actually really enjoy the solitude of living on my own in Mandalay with nothing tying me to my previous constructs of self. I find I have a lot more time to think and a lot more time to do things (like reading, yoga, and art) that had slipped from my list of priorities when I was too busy floating around my much larger social circle back in Boulder. Here I find that while I still have plenty of opportunities to be connected and social, I also get the time to recharge my introvert self.

Has living in a different country dramatically altered your world view or made you realize anything new?

Yes. I think that it is one thing to be aware that you were raised in an extremely privileged environment, but actually experiencing this privilege is something entirely different. I've always prided myself on having an open mind, but as always, there are certain things that you learn only through experience.

One of the most monumental realizations I've had so far is how much of a privilege being eco-friendly is. Being from Boulder, Colorado, love for the earth and respect for the environment are woven into the fundamental fabric of my being. Growing up in a place where environmentalism is so common, you almost forget that while individual efforts are important, some people simply aren't equipped with the resources or systems needed to minimize their impact on the earth.

For example, you won't find rubbish bins spaced conveniently every 100 ft, neatly compartmentalized into "landfill", "recycling", and "compost" here. No one is going to pay $12 for an "environmentally sustainable" paleo bowl with quinoa, or a vegan and organic shampoo bar. As I followed the global climate march on social media, Mandalay streets bustled with people going about business as usual.

Being here has given me a whole new sense of appreciation for systems that do allow for environmental sustainability, as well as highlighting the need for top-down reform, starting with large companies and corporations adopting eco-friendly policies and alternatives that will in turn trickle down to the individual level.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Zoe Coulter

Job Title
Work Abroad Program Manager
From the moment that Zoe began writing to her pen pal from Germany at age 12, she began looking for any opportunity to learn about diverse cultures. She has spent time traveling throughout Europe and Central America, spending more extensive periods of time studying in Spain and working in Costa Rica. Today, she manages the work abroad programs at Greenheart Travel.
Zoe Coulter

What is your favorite travel memory?

Back in 2015, I was in Puerto Limon staying at a hostel and I met an artisan from Peru who was passing through on his way to Nicaragua. He took the time to show me how he crafted rings and bracelets. We also spent time chatting about how our own cultures differed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his work, travels, and his home country. I believe that the best way to learn about another culture is to get to know the people.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working for a mission-based non-profit has inspired me to give back to my local community. Our company culture has really bled into my personal life and now I think I use my free time a lot more purposefully. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to mentor and volunteer throughout Chicago. Volunteering my time has become something that I sincerely enjoy.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It is great to see the growth that each of our travelers undergo during their time abroad. One of our Greenheart Travelers was adamant on honing her Spanish-language skills. Following her journey and hearing about her time working in Argentina was really rewarding. She spoke so transparently about the hardships of trying to grasp a second language—things such as learning a work vocabulary and learning the regional slang were challenging even though she had a good grasp of the grammar before the start of her program.

On top of work, she decided to pick up Spanish classes five days a week. Her days were packed, but the outcome was that she was able to speak Spanish confidently and she felt more comfortable in both social and work situations. As a result of her using her time intentionally to learn a second language and cultivate her Spanish conversational skills, she was able to form deep bonds with her coworkers and the friends that she made while working abroad.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

If I had the opportunity, I would participate in the Thailand Marketing Internship. Interns can work with two great organizations, one of which is a non-profit dog rescue in Hua Hin. All Greenheart Travel interns get the opportunity to see how the organizations work from the ground up, and interns are encouraged to lead and innovate projects.

I think the program is a fantastic growing experience in the many respects. The first week is devoted to exploring the history and culture of Thailand, which is very interesting. Thai people are so loving and caring and I hear nothing but great things from our interns about how hospitable everyone has been to them. The program is short term, so it is a great way to get your feet wet if this is your first time traveling or if you have a few months open for travel.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I’m proud of the time and effort we take to help our travelers prepare for traveling abroad. We have created multiple resources to address culture shock and to support individuals before departure, during their time abroad, and after returning to their home country. We aim to make sure that our travelers feel prepared in every sense of the word before traveling abroad.

I think a unique aspect about our company is that the whole application process is very personable. For example, I speak with and interview every person that applies to the Work Abroad programs. There isn’t a person who goes through the application process that I don’t know on an individual level. All program managers make themselves available over the phone, via email, and even over mediums like Skype because we really want to connect with every Greenheart Traveler and ensure that they feel supported.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Believing in what you do is what I believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company. If you don’t believe in the value of what you’re doing, then that becomes evident in your work. Our whole team at Greenheart Travel is passionate about the programs that we facilitate and the impact that travel has on individuals, and I think that passion shows in the way that we interact with everyone that we come in contact with.

More Interviews

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