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Strengths and Challenges of Making a Difference Virtually  

By Henrica Burns

 

Hi there, my name is Henrica and I am a secondary education student from the Queensland University of Technology. I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense Foundation through their Virtual Education Challenge Program. 

This program, despite being 100% virtual, gave me an amazing all-round experience when researching and creating a teaching curriculum suitable for teachers in Battambang, Cambodia. When creating our curriculum, my partner intern and I had worked closely with our community coordinator, Phearom, to identify and address improvements community teachers wanted as well as the local barriers to education.   

From the beginning to towards the end, I had received constant support from my in-country team consisting of Jordy and Phearom. The support received from our in-country team was amazing, to say the least as they encouraged me to take the lead in our sessions in a judgment-free environment. In doing so, I had developed my confidence in asking for clarity, developed my leadership in taking charge in team meetings, and ultimately growing as a person. The mentor meetings that were held by Victoria also supported my mental well-being as it was definitely a productive outlet for my successes as well as many, many frustrations.  

 

 

Through participating in the Virtual Education Program, strengths and challenges of working from home had emerged. I found that through working from the comfort of my home it was easier to jump straight into work and I found myself having more time to dedicate to the project to create more quality resources. I also took advantage of the cozy work set up and it was fortunate that my teammates also did the same, that I was able to increase my collaboration with them despite having very minimal physical meetups.  

However, the challenges that came from working from home did make some days harder and easier to work. As the internship went on, the workload increased, and I found myself struggling to be motivated when cooped up in the same work environment. Therefore, I often had to make more effort in changing my environment when possible to keep my spirits up! The other challenge I found was separating work from leisure time, and towards the end of the internship, leisure time was non-existent (but that's to be expected!).  

 

 

Despite the challenges, I found support in managing them through being conscious of my struggles, communicating them, making them aware to my teammates, and getting advice to help myself through tough situations.  

By the end of the Virtual Education Program, I had not only provided a functional teaching curriculum (thankfully!), but I had also developed much more professionally through my interactions with my teammates, in-country team and my mentor, Victoria. I had developed more confidence in how I carried myself, I finally got used to asking questions with no hesitation and I had developed more initiative when working in our multiple teams. Through this experience, I was fortunate enough to gain new connections not only for my network but also gained valuable friendships through the mutual support shown between all teammates through our journey.   

Before this internship, I often found myself wanting to work overseas as a full-time teacher and often wondered how I would actually teach in environments where lecture learning/ROTE learning is used and where students aren’t used to more creative ways of learning. Participating in the Virtual Education Program has helped me as an education student in really breaking down the steps for how I can help students to positively experience a change in learning style without making them feel overwhelmed and helping them feel safe in their learning journey.  

If you are passionate about making a difference in the world and want an experience to help you in your journey as a future educator, I highly encourage getting involved with this education program! 

 

If you’re passionate about making a difference in this world, don’t let this pandemic stop you! We don’t want anyone missing out on an international experience, so we’ve brought it to you. Check out our virtual internship program on our website for more information