Oliwia Geisler is a young Polish woman currently teaching abroad in Catalonia. As a kid, she always dreamed of becoming a writer. Now that she’s older—and has a few world countries under her belt—she dreams of being a writer… and a humanitarian. Let’s learn more about her windy path towards teaching abroad and how she hopes it will impact her future!
You were lucky to experience an international upbringing. Can you tell us more about your family life/culture and how it inspired you to travel?
I was born in a small town in Western Poland and moved to England at the age of five. I guess you could say that I have experienced the best of both worlds—I spent the school months in London, a city full of life and bustling with opportunity, and the summer months in the eastern European countryside, riding horses, playing volleyball, and toasting marshmallows at bonfires.
I like to think that experiencing these two very different ways of life has inspired me to explore horizons even more, whether that be the rural Indian Rajasthani mountains where I volunteered last summer or the breath-taking Catalan town where I am currently residing.
You just graduated high school! Why did you decide to teach English on your gap year? What made teaching English abroad an attractive path for you?
Teaching English abroad was, for me, the most affordable and authentic way to get a taste of a foreign culture. There is no way that I could afford to travel full time without selling off limbs or breaking the bank. Furthermore, I believe that to really connect with people and their culture, one must spend a substantial amount of time in that environment—one or two weeks can give you a welcome taste, but is in no way the “real deal.” Hence, teaching English was sort of a no-brainer. You literally get paid travel and speak to people, something that, if you’re anything like me, you’d probably like to do anyway.
You’ve had experience teaching English abroad in Spain, and have your sights set on Romania. How do you reckon these different experiences will stack up against one another?
I reckon they’ll be pretty hard to compare. I like to think that every place is unique and, hopefully, unlike any other.
Is traveling and working abroad something you plan to do full time, or is it a short-term gig before you head back to college and “settle down?”
“Settling down” is not something that has ever been attractive to me. While some people dream of getting married, having children, and buying a suburban house with a white picket fence, I cannot visualize myself in what is to me, essentially, a lack of excitement. I wish to travel and explore and—most importantly—write for the rest of my life.
I do, however, plan to go to university next year to study three modern languages, but very much intend to still be traveling. The great thing about TEFL is that not all of the jobs you do are long term—you can work at a summer school for two weeks or intern for a month during the summer break. Thankfully, I’ve learnt to be quite savvy when it comes to searching for flights and places to stay if they’re required.
How did you quiet the fears of travel, especially as a solo female traveler? What advice can you share with future ladies hitting the road?
I have always said that if something scares and excites you at the same time, you should one hundred percent commit to doing it. A few hacks I’ve learned in my short eighteen years on this Earth:
- Don’t be ashamed or afraid to be alone, take yourself out, treat yourself. Go to a bar on your own, sign up for a language class, grab a coffee, go to the gym, etc. and you’ll meet people in no time. (But if you do, be careful with how much you drink as there is no one trusted to look after you!).
- Do not accept a drink from a stranger, no matter how cute they are or how broke you are, unless you watch them buy it from the bar.
- Wear a bum bag/fanny pack! No, it’s not sexy but yes, it is more likely to keep your belongings safe.
- Take with you only as much money as you think you’ll need. If you feel that it is unsafe, keep your cash in different places, some in one pocket of your bag, some in another, etc. (Take this from someone whose whole wallet just got stolen in Barcelona) Also: never underestimate the power of a bra when it comes to hiding money!
- Read up about places before you go, especially on private blogs that aren’t sponsored.
- Ask locals for recommendations of where to go—they know best where is safe, where is cheapest, etc.
- And lastly: be open to everything and anything. You never know what opportunities will come your way if you only allow them to.
Wow! We are LOVING your advice. Thanks Oliwia for all of your inspiration. Best of luck teaching abroad and crafting your best life in the future.