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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
Founded
1985
Headquarters

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

Reviews

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

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Santiago, I could immediately tell that I was going to like Chile, and once I met my host family in person, I knew I was going to love Chile. I could not have been matched with a better host family. This was my first time traveling alone, so I did experience a little bit of homesickness for the first few days, but my host family loved me like I have been apart of their family my whole life.

My teaching experience was unique in that we did not really have formal lessons. Instead, my host family preferred to learn solely through conversation and everyday routines and activities. I primarily lived with and taught a 71 year old lady, Sonia, who is absolutely precious. On weekends, we stayed with her daughter and grandchildren. While I was teaching Sonia English, she taught me how to knit and make sopaipillas.

My host family loved showing me around their country, and I was able to do a little bit of exploring on my own. The Chilean landscape is absolutely incredible. We visited the mountains and the beach, and it took about two hours to get to each location. I wish that I had spent more time in the country to be able to visit the north and south of Chile. I guess I will just have to go back!

The month I spent there flew by! When it was time for me to leave my new Chilean family, we all cried, but thankfully, technology allows us to stay in touch.

I couldn't recommend Greenheart Travel or this specific program enough. Everyone I spoke with along the way was incredibly helpful and encouraging. This has been an absolutely amazing experience!

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

I did plenty of research about teaching abroad before choosing Greenheart Travel. TEFL certification and placement programs come a dime a dozen now. The difference with Greenheart, though is I felt support from initial contact even up to now almost a year later. The school yera has concluded and the memories I've made as a EFL teacher in Thailand I owe much of the smooth transition to Greenheart.

I appreciated that my questions were answered promptly and the staff were helpful and professional. Their partner in Asia that actually handles the teacher placement portion on the ground work well with the Greenheart setup.

Although I have a masters degree and prior TEFL certification, I chose to add on the optional TEFL course. I highly recommend you so so too! If you've taught in a classroom before, great. But teaching in Thailand, to Thai kids, in a Thai school setting will be very different. The TEFL course not only included a jam-packed orientation week, but the conclusion of the course required a 2-day teaching camp and that was life-changing! Those kids changed my ideas about wanting to be a teacher. Their energy, smiles and warmth oozed through my soul. It's because of the TEFL program that I decided I wanted to continue teaching.
Had I just taken my placement after the orientation week and skipped the TEFL course I would've sorely missed bonding experiences with other program mates (some I mad great friends with!), learning valuable techniques to teaching in a Thai classroom, and made transitioning to Thailand life much smoother.

What would you improve about this program?
I chose Hua Hin between there or Chiang Mai to do the program because I'm an animal lover and the service project included an animal rescue and sanctuary component.
I was under the impression I'd be doing more service with the program, but it was really just an introduction for the day. I'd say that was a major disappointment. There really was no time during the jam-pakced orientation week to do much else, and definitely not once the TEFL program started. We were busy with homework Every day.
So I wouldn't sell the experience as one that makes a huge distinction between what service project you'll be doing. After realizing it mid-program I'd wish I'd chosen Chiang Mai. I was not a fan of Hua Hin.
Default avatar
Michael
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marie Kondo was on to something in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book centered around the question “Does it spark joy?”...for me this simple question changed my life. As a overworked American passionate person about education, I found myself experiencing a burnout that was draining my life. I knew I needed change and my wanderlust soul was beginning to consume my thoughts. That's when I found Greenheart Travel...and I would have to say that's when Thailand found me.

After months of research on living and teaching in Thailand, I found no other organization that offered the structured support and guidance to live this dream like Greenheart Travel. From visa, resume, and cultural preparation, Greenheart made the adventure possible, easy, and informative. Kara answered every question that I had and continues to be in contact since I've been here. If you are reading this, it means you are thinking about embarking on this wild adventure...and as many Thais would say "why not?" Haha Go for it! It will change your life!

The TESOL course with XploreAsia prepares you in every way they can to not only be a great teacher but also how to culturally adjust to living in Thailand. Some participants from other partnered organizations with XploreAsia had horror stories of their preparation agencies...none of which I could relate to because Greenheart provided so much detailed information on what to expect and how to prepare.

Now, you might be asking "Is it all sunshine and rainbows?" Well, if you come in April or May, you have the sunshine part right as it is quite hot and the sun can be quite intense haha But as someone who hates cold weather, I lather on the sunscreen with a smile and carry an umbrella with me everywhere I go (comes in handy to shield the sun AND when it just randomly rains out of nowhere). Eventually you'll get used to the sweat...so don't sweat it ;-)

As far as adjusting to life in your placement city, you may experience a shock from going from being around people 24/7 during the TESOL course and having everything planned, organized, and easy to moving to your placement city alone, lost, and possibly not being able to communicate well. Buying the right size sheets at Tesco or Big C may be more of a complicated task than one realizes when you can't read the packaging and the sales assistant doesn't speak English haha After awhile you'll begin to adjust to venturing out on your own and depending on your placement, you may meet other foreign teachers who will help along the way. I live in the heart of Bangkok and I honestly think it has made my transition a bit more convenient and easier to adjust to. I quickly set out to make local Thai friends which has been a benefit in multiple ways! Thais knows all the good places to eat, the secrets of getting around, and best places to visit on holiday ;-)

There are many things I have come to love about Thailand. The food, the weather, the beautiful landscapes, and the low cost of living are just a few to mention about living in the "land of smiles." However, to me, the most important and refreshing has been the laid back "mai bpen rai" lifestyle. If you don't know what that means, look it up...you'll enjoy the research. It's been a game changer for me. Bringing me back to my point about Marie Kondo's "spark joy" mentality, I have come to love, embrace, and appreciate simplicity.

There is just something to be said about simplicity; it’s simply liberating and Thailand is a perfect environment to experience and embrace it. I am loving it more and more each day and if you were like me...stressed to the max all the time because of the rat race of your culture...I encourage you to simply ask yourself "why?" Then take a look at Greenheart's Teach in Thailand opportunity and ask yourself "why not?" haha You won't regret it.

I wish you the best on your quest for adventure.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Traffic and road rules are quite...let me just say entertaining haha Heavy traffic, merging lanes without signals, driving in the middle of two lanes, pulling out in front of other cars, mopeds swerving in and out of traffic, mopeds going down the wrong way to avoid crossing the street, mopeds driving down the sidewalk, pedestrians trying to cross the street...the list goes on haha BUT, the most amusing part to me is that NO ONE CARES! No one honks, gets road rage, drives aggressively...they just slow down or move out of the way and keep going. Everyone is just so laid back and it honestly breaches into almost every aspect of life here. It's amazing.
Default avatar
Adele
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

As a first time traveler wanting to travel, but a little afraid to do it on my own, this was perfect. I could make it fit my schedule and go in the months I requested. As well, I did have concern that some travel programs might be a scam or unsafe, this was not at all the case with greenheart travel. From the beginning Allison was available to answer any questions, always responded to my emails quickly, and any concerns that I had were dealt with efficiently and comfortably. I did the 3 month stay and I learned so much about Spain, and made a real connection with my amazing host family. Furthermore, a lot of my anxieties about traveling have been alleviated and I feel more comfortable doing it independently. I would recommend this program to people who want to experience a country over a long period of time, but need a “safety net” (host family) available.

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

If you are looking for a culturally immersive program that will be rewarding every single day look no further! As a first time ESL teacher, I found this program to be a great fit. Other teachers in my group had years of experience and also found it to be a great fit. I felt supported by Lauren and Savannah from Greenheart and I felt extremely supported by ALIARSE, the partner organization in Costa Rica. I arrived with 10 other teachers from around the United States and the United Kingdom. We completed an informative, in-depth orientation in San Jose where we had a chance to do mock lessons, find out our placement locations, get to know each other and the organization and our social workers. Then on Saturday, we left San Jose with our social worker(s) for our new location and new host family!

My host family was by far my favorite part of this program. My host family consisted of a host mom and dad and 4 siblings, two lived in the house and 2 visited often. We frequently had grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family members at the house. This really immersed me in the culture and the language. My host family spoke some English but they agreed to only speak Spanish with me so that I could learn more. They invited me everywhere they went and we spent many evenings talking about culture, sports, music, Costa Rica and much more.

The Classroom:
My students were amazing, and I had an equally amazing social worker. I have never met a group of people who wanted to learn more than my students. They were in class every day ready to learn, always asking questions about words, pronunciation, and grammar they have heard. I was the second teacher in my location so the students had 4 months of English class before I started and it has been incredible to see them improve so much in 4 months. I'm able to look back at their first diagnostic test and comments from the first teacher to really see just how far they have come. Many of my students are mothers, some are single mothers. Some just finished high school and some have kids in high school. Almost none of my students knew each other prior to starting the program and in just 8 months they have bonded and formed a tight-knit, supportive community. They spend time together outside of class practicing English and only want the best for each other.

Each location has at least one social worker or more depending on the number of students. The social worker in my location is an incredibly special woman. She truly cares for each and every student, as well as the teacher. She always checks in with the students and provides so much support for them. Because the students come from impoverished backgrounds many of them have obstacles to learning. This is where the social worker comes in. She teaches soft skills, provides emotional support and helps the students mature.

As a first time ESL teacher, I found it very helpful that we were provided lesson plans from ALIARSE. This saved me a lot of time preparing. I still made notes and added some fun games and activities I had learned during my TESOL program, but I did not have to design a curriculum from scratch. There is also flexibility within the curriculum so that you can adapt it to fit the needs of your students. Also, the curriculum is constantly being improved based on feedback from teachers. The curriculum creators were very helpful in explaining the curriculum and providing support for it. Also, ALIARSE provides money for copies and transportation (I chose to walk to class, but if I wanted to take the bus, this would be covered by ALIARSE). This program is still fairly new so it is important that you come with an open mind and are flexible.

If you haven't lived in Costa Rica before it is worth your time. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever had the pleasure of visiting from the landscape to the language to the culture and the people. I have truly enjoyed embracing the "pura vida" lifestyle while here. The food is fresh and delicious. The fruit is cheap and from right down the road and came off the tree/bush/etc only days, sometimes hours prior! (Unlike the US where much of the fruit is months old and has traveled thousands of miles).

If you are looking for an adventure, to live in another country, to embrace another culture, to learn another language, to significantly impact Costa Rican people, to step out of your comfort zone, to meet teachers from around the world, to work for an amazing organization, to build your resume, to eat fresh fruit, to experience what "pura vida" truly means this is the program for you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Have an open mind, and be flexible because change is inevitable. Embrace the culture and language. Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy the fruit!

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 41

Alumni Interviews

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

Allison Scott

I am 23 years old from Delaware in the United States. I graduated from the University of Delaware in 2017 with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. After graduation, I moved to Reston, Virginia, where I taught 4th grade for a year. It's safe to say that teaching is my genuine passion and I love being able to continue it abroad!

Allison Scott

Why did you choose this program?

I chose Greenheart Travel after watching a friend from high school embark on the adventure.

After college, I spent the summer teaching in Shenzhen, China, and LOVED teaching abroad. I knew I wanted to make a life out of teaching in a foreign country, but I had no idea where to start. There were so many programs out there to choose from, but seeing a friend use Greenheart made the decision simple.

Upon first researching Greenheart, and speaking with the program coordinator, I immediately knew I was making the right decision. Greenheart provides you with a more personal experience, unlike some of the other big "teach-abroad" companies. I ultimately chose the program because of there personable entities it brought to me. I felt like my voice was being heard and all my questions were answered.

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

From the beginning, Greenheart travel made it known that they were going to help you through each step of the way. Greenheart explained everything that needed to be done in order to have a successful departure with regards to moving to Thailand. I did not feel as if I needed to do anything "on my own", as Greenheart was there to help and answer any questions necessary. Once you’re in Thailand, a company called Xplore Asia then does everything for it. Everything from booking your hotels, picking you up at the airport, getting you a Thai bank account and Thai phone SIM card is taken care of. They take care of all the little things that you would never think about but are super important!

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

My biggest piece of advice to anyone deciding to teach abroad with Greenheart is to not come with many expectations. Thailand is a BEAUTIFUL country with AMAZING things to offer everywhere. I highly recommend not doing a ton of googling, and leaving things up to fate. Here, in Thailand, the most lived by the slogan is "mai pen rai", which translates to "no worries". Just come as you are and Thailand will fit you in. There are so many wonderful things to explore for every type of person.

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

When doing the TESOL course, your weeks will be pretty consistent. You will have your TESOL class Monday - Friday from about 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. During your day, you'll have an hour break for lunch to wander around the town and grab some local street food. Once you are done class for the day, some days you might have a little homework to do. The rest of the night is yours.

On the weekends, we would do amazing excursions, like visiting a temple cave, seeing wild elephants, or hiking a waterfall. On week nights, we would spend time hanging by the beach, the pool, and exploring the local night markets!

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 initially of coming abroad was the fear of "not fitting in". I was leaving my perfect little college friend bubble, and was extremely nervous about meeting new people and finding a new way to fit in. It was insanely easy to get over this fear.

From the minute you land in Thailand, you are greeted with 1000 warm smiles. The Thai locals want you talk to you, and taking the TESOL course makes it extremely easy to meet 100 new people and form life-long friendships. Before coming to Thailand, I was such a worrier, I was always worried about "will I know people here", "will people like me"... but Thailand has completely changed that side of me. It has made me into a person that lives by "mai pen rai", no worries.

What are the options for living like in Thailand?

It's going to depend where you end up living, as to the extent of housing options available. I live in a medium-sized town in southern Thailand and there are any types of living situations you could want. They have things from up-scale condo's with a pool/ gym to Thai homes that foreigners can rent. You can decide to live with other people, or on your own. There is something for every preference which is amazing!

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Staff Interviews

Staff interviews 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.

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