Meet the Member Who Fulfilled Her Dream of Teaching Abroad

Name: Hannah Carloni
Age: 28
Current Title: 2nd Grade Teacher at West Education Campus
Location: Washington, DC
Education: BS in Geography, MA in Elementary Education

Did you go straight from college to teaching abroad or did you have jobs in between?

After graduating with my master’s degree in Elementary Education in May of 2013, I moved home for the summer to nanny for a few months before moving to Accra, Ghana in early September.

How did you decide that’s what you wanted to do?

I remember sitting in geography class as a 13-year-old as my teacher, Mr. Stolzman, talked to us about his experience in the Peace Corps. I decided then that no matter what I would volunteer abroad after college. It became such an unrelenting dream that the thought of not doing it was far more frightening than making that leap.

How did you find the position?

 I knew I wanted to teach kids with special needs, and I’d narrowed down my search to Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. In short, I found New Horizon through a Google search. They had a website with the principal’s email listed. I asked if she’d let me come and volunteer...and she said yes! It’s funny to think about those formal emails from so long ago, as New Horizon’s principal is now one of the most important people in my life.

How long did you plan to stay?How long did you end up staying?

I planned on staying 10 months--the length of one school year. I ended up staying almost three years! I must add that my parents paid for the majority of my college tuition, so I was incredibly lucky to not have to worry about loans post-grad. I know this is an incredible privilege that I will work relentlessly to provide for my future children!  

How did you go about planning your experience?

After finding New Horizon Special School, I looked into finding housing. I ended up finding two roommates through an expat website. I lived with them for 2 months, then found a place on my own! I also made sure to get a visa, all my shots, and anti-malaria medicine. But what was more important than the boring logistics was the incredible amount of reading and research I did on Ghana before I moved there. I was so scared I would do something culturally inappropriate that I wanted to learn all the dos and don’ts before I got there. For example, it is rude to give or receive anything with your left hand. I’m a lefty, so I practiced for months before I left!

What advice and/or resources would you recommend to students wanting to do something similar?

Read. Read EVERYTHING you can about the country you’re thinking about going. Read about their customs and cultural norms. Read about their history and their government and school systems. Read about what you can and can’t wear. And remember, whether you are aware of it or not, when you are abroad, you are the “face” of the United States. You want to leave with them thinking Americans are open-minded and kind!

Why did you choose to do it on your own rather than through an organization like the Peace Corps?

That’s a great question! I looked into the Peace Corps, but I really wanted to work with kiddos and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Peace Corps didn’t offer this opportunity, so I made the decision to go it alone.

What was the greatest thing to come out of your experience teaching in Ghana?

I learned so much from the incredible teachers and staff at New Horizon. And I learned even more from the students! They taught me how to love unconditionally, and how to find the good in everyone, everyday. The school day was from 7:30-4:30, so it was only through teachers lifting each other up that we got through our toughest days. They taught me there is always, always, always a reason to laugh.

Hannah and fellow teachers from New Horizons Special School.

How did you make the decision to leave?

It was an incredibly hard one! I made my decision by listening to both my brain and my heart. My brain told me that I was about to turn 26 and get kicked off my mom’s health insurance. Being without insurance during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa wasn’t a good idea. I ended up flying home just a few days before my birthday! My heart, on the other hand, told me that Ghana had become a comfortable, wonderful home. Things that were once hard and confusing and stressful became easy. Comfort, in my mind, stifles growth and should be avoided at all costs. I knew I needed to thank Ghana for all it taught me, and begin a new adventure. That adventure is now teaching 2nd grade in DC! It’s still uncomfortable and incredibly hard...but when it becomes easy, on to something new!

Is there anything you would have done differently if you had the chance to do it over again?

Honestly, no! I try to not to have regrets....I instead call them learning experiences, and I appreciate them for what they taught me, however difficult!

Since you happen to be related to ESA's Executive Director, what’s the best thing about being sisters with Charlotte?

Charlotte is truly one of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. And for her to be my SISTER?! I’m so lucky!! Char laughs at my jokes, gives me hand-me-downs, and is always, always, always there for me when I need her. Charlotte is kind to absolutely everyone (even her terribly mean cat, Olive), and that is something the world desperately needs. When I grow up, I want to be like my sister.

Hannah and Charlotte Carloni
Posted: 6/12/2018 10:49:07 AM by Kristin Hall | with 0 comments

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