Adulting—a verb used to describe the sometimes fulfilling and sometimes miserable obligation of doing adult like things. Those tasks might include life-sustaining responsibilities like going to work and paying the bills, or they may be the redundant acts of grocery shopping, meal preparation or even folding laundry. No matter what the act might be, it can be agreed upon that learning to be a sensible adult is quite stressful and daunting. Now consider undertaking this life change while in a foreign country.
UWG alumna, Anna Tumlin, packed her life into eight suitcases and traveled overseas to Guatemala to be a full-time missionary and English schoolteacher early this year. The 22-year-old graduate, having never lived outside of her parent’s home, has spent the last month growing accustomed to living on her own and adapting to a new culture.
“I have only been here for five weeks, so culture shock really has not set in yet,” said Anna. “But it is definitely overwhelming. Cooking and cleaning are really not that different from what they would have been if I had moved out in the states but learning how to navigate the grocery store and learning all the different brands in another language is difficult. I have to have my phone for basically everything because I know pretty decent Spanish, but I do not know all of the words.
“I am also working in a school where their primary language is Spanish,” continued Anna. “There are times when I have the help of the English director, who speaks very minimal English, but there are times when she cannot explain things to me. So I am sometimes just sitting in faculty and staff meetings as a first-year teacher trying to muddle through things in ways I know how. By the end of the day, I just want to be alone.”
Having previously served as a missionary in Guatemala for four summers before her move to Guatemala City, Anna was very familiar with the customary practices of the country. However, like most educators, the pandemic dramatically altered her first-year teaching experience.
“Teaching virtually has made it a bit more difficult to connect with students and complicates communication in general,” said Anna. “I was trained for in-person teaching during student teaching at UWG, so it has definitely been a ‘learn as I go’ experience. But with COVID-19 and knowing I would have had to wear a mask had classes begun in-person, I do see part of it as a positive since my students are able to see my entire face and gain a sense of trust in the North American teaching them English.”
Anna teaches roughly 130 elementary and middle school-aged children for less than an hour once a week. Her online lessons are organized and administered similar to those in the United States and include the English basics like parts of speech and sentence structure.
“Since it is all virtual, I either teach through their platform or sometimes Google Meets,” said Anna. “I teach on Monday and Tuesday and spend Wednesday planning the next week’s lessons. On Friday, the teachers go to the school and the parents pick up a schedule for the kids to follow the next week, so they know when to log onto the platform and complete support material and practice activities. They also have to turn in their homework physically each Friday since it cannot be uploaded online.”
Although she knew she was destined to pursue a career in English, Anna had not always envisioned doing so in another country—especially not during a global pandemic. After she was called for overseas mission work, she second-guessed the big move, but ultimately followed through with her calling.
“I cannot tell you how many times I tried to dig myself out of this situation,” said Anna. “I kept telling myself I could go to grad school or wait until I got married to postpone moving but not necessarily not do it all. So of course, there were times when I had those doubts because it was terrifying. There were times when I questioned if I really was supposed to do this or if I really even wanted to.
“But the opportunity I have had to spend time with these adults and children is what God was calling me to do,” continued Anna. “To really just live life with them and form relationships, and then share the Gospel out of those relationships. Even though it is virtual at the moment, the opportunity to do that has been rewarding enough.”