Teach while you travel

Migan Margarian is a One Young World Ambassador and the creator of Teachsurfing.org.

Imagine you are traveling somewhere for the first time. Have you ever wanted to connect with local people by sharing your expertise and skills - for instance, by teaching school children how to work with computers or how to play basketball. I certainly have and I am sure I'm not alone!

I am of Armenian descent but was born and raised in Iran. Back in Tehran, I studied Software Engineering and IT management before taking a Masters in Sweden. I joined SAP two years ago as a developer at the SAP Innovation Center in Potsdam.  A few years ago, my family and many of my friends moved from Iran to Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.

I feel lucky for having had the chance to live, study and work abroad, and I have always wanted to make use of the skills I acquired over the years and share them with young people. First and foremost, I want to motivate young women to focus on their education so they have more choices in life, like starting their own business or having a career abroad, as opposed to being housewives and taking care of their families (nothing wrong with that, don’t get me wrong..) I was able to do this by getting in touch with two NGOs, APY and UNDP, which support startups and social businesses in Armenia. Last time I visited Yerevan, I gave a presentation on how to use creative methods and workshops to come up with sustainable business models.

[[[image-1 large]]]

This was a very rewarding experience and one that I want to continue. But, looking back, I can’t help thinking that it was too difficult to make contact with these organisations and get the chance to share my experience. I wanted to share my skills and I knew there were people who wanted to learn but there was no easy way for us to get connected. Since then I have wanted to find an easier way to connect willing volunteer teachers with people and organisations in need of their skills.

In October 2012, I was fortunate enough to attend the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh. During a break, my colleague Gretta and I talked with delegates from Kenya about the educational limitations and lack of support for young people at home. During the conversation we found that we had all experienced similar challenges when trying to give back to our home countries. There was no single platform for finding volunteering opportunities and we had to rely on personal networks at best or luck at worst when trying to do so.

It was then that Gretta and I came up with the idea of TeachSurfing.org, a global network which connects travelers willing to share their skills with organisations or people in their travel destinations. After months of trials, iteration and hard work TeachSurfing.org is now officially live and I want to invite all my fellow One Young World Ambassadors to join.

   
​Above: Migan presents Teachsurfing.org at the One Young World Summit 2013

TeachSurfing serves two kinds of users

Anyone traveling abroad can sign-up and create a profile. In your profile you list your skills - from languages, computers, marketing, and management to sports, cooking, singing and art - anything that can be of value to others. You also provide information on upcoming travel dates and destinations. Once completed, you can browse voluntary teaching opportunities at your travel destination or explore opportunities on the integrated map and plan your route around teaching possibilities.

On the other hand, representatives of schools, NGOs etc. can create an organisation profile page and post their learning needs. They can then invite registered travelers with the desired skills to run workshops or courses.  ​

TeachSurfing creates value for all users. By connecting with travelers, locals can expand their network and develop skills that will help them find jobs, or inspire them to continue their studies. In return, travelers will gain a unique and deeper social and cultural experience through direct contact with local people.​

It is easy to blame education systems and governments for a country’s educational problems. But we can all take action today! If you are a traveler visiting new destinations or your home country, or if you are a local aware of your community's educational needs, become a Teachsurfer at www.teachsurfing.org and join us in creating a free, worldwide knowledge and culture sharing platform!​