People

Traveling, Teaching, & Learning in Asia

Margaret

When I was twenty years old, I dropped out of college to do the AmeriCorps program. I took the year off to come to North Carolina to work in an HIV hospice and teach prison inmates. It was a wonderful experience. Of course, as it is with so many of us now in the BLS program, I had never thought that I would take off more than a year. However, life happened, and eight years went by. I found myself trapped in a series of mediocre, dead-end jobs because I had not finished college. What is worse, I always felt insecure because I had not accomplished what to me is such an important life goal.

A couple of years ago I heard of a certification program that would let me teach English as a Foreign Language abroad. I took the course, and almost immediately found a position teaching at a primary school in Shanghai, China. I left my home, family and dog and moved overseas, excited to start a new chapter. But, still, education is more than a means to an end. It is part of our defining character and sense of worth. For all that was going well in my life, I knew I had to complete my degree to be content.

I had heard of UNCG’s BLS program through a coworker and decided to apply and see how it went. It turned out that I loved it! I have, with only occasional glitches, been able to complete my coursework at my convenience. The courses are interesting and diverse, and I feel that I am truly getting an exceptional education.

Since I began the program, I have lived in China, traveled in Thailand and Mongolia, and now I live in Dharamsala, India. Throughout all of these locations I have been a full-time student at UNCG. Now, I am a volunteer teacher with the Refugee Tibetan Community and am studying yoga, Buddhism and meditation. Because of the versatile format of the BLS program, I can incorporate my studies into my daily life. It is not only a matter of convenience. Being so far away and living my life the way that I want makes the coursework take on more scope. For example, right now I am taking an Asian Literature course in which I have lived in two of the countries that we read about. Last spring I took a course on creation myths that taught me about the original beliefs of the people that created temples I have had the privilege of seeing in person. The BLS Program is truly providing me with a liberal arts education that is opening up how I see the world. It is amazing that thanks to UNCG I can be part of such a great program that I enjoy, while I can accomplish my other life goals.

I would strongly encourage any other interested students to take a course and try the BLS program. I can say without any hesitation that I have loved my experience at UNCG. While I have never actually been to Greensboro, I feel as though I am part of a dynamic learning community which I can access from anywhere in the world at any time that I want. It’s a fantastic experience, which I am now considering repeating in UNCG’s MALS Program next year.

 — Dharamsala, India, September 2008