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The Short Version: During a teaching stint in Taiwan, a pair of experienced teachers bonded over a shared desire to make it easier for others to volunteer and work abroad. They turned their passion into action by co-founding Go Overseas, a review platform where students, teachers, volunteers, and workers can research opportunities abroad. The site offers a place for travelers to share their stories and connect with like-minded people who desire to travel the globe. Go Overseas also acts as a resource for future travelers to learn about programs, internships, and other opportunities that will allow them to make an impact globally.
Inspired by his experience as a math tutor in high school, Chris Lee sought more ways to impact others through teaching. After some research, he enrolled in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course in Tokyo, Japan.
Chris learned how to teach English to Japanese students of various ages and earned his Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate. His time in Japan also allowed him to explore a different culture, make new friends, and have experiences that he couldn’t have in his hometown.
“[Living in Japan] gave me a more worldly sense of my role in my community and offered a third-person view of how other people perceive my country,” Chris said.
He was able to accomplish his goals with the help of Go Overseas, a comprehensive review site that connects people with educational, work, and volunteer opportunities abroad. Chris shared his experience on the Go Overseas website as a way to show what travelers abroad can expect from their host country and to encourage others to fulfill their dreams of learning and developing personal relationships around the world.
Earning his TESOL certificate gave Chris the opportunity to help others make a positive change in their lives by learning English. “Lingual and cultural barriers between people of different backgrounds can be overcome with proper language education,” he said.
Those language skills can help people come together and form a friendship or relationship, which, in turn, can break down barriers and make the world a better place.
Chris’ story is just one of thousands that Go Overseas has co-authored. The company was founded by Mitch Gordon, Andrew Dunkle, and Tucker Hutchinson, who all taught abroad and shared the belief that more people should have access to transformative travels abroad.
Mitch and Andrew first met when they were teaching English in Taiwan, and they reconnected at UC Berkeley a year later. When Tucker returned from teaching in South Korea, he got in touch with Mitch, and soon after, the trio launched Go Overseas.
“The most inspiring part of our founder’s story, to me, is the way all three came together through their unique travel experiences to solve this need for people to receive honest feedback about the travel experience,” said Valerie Stimac, Marketing and Content Manager for Go Overseas.
Mitch, Andrew, and Tucker saw that travelers would spend hours researching hotels and tourist attractions for their next vacation and relied heavily on reviews from other guests to make their decisions. But, as the three co-founders knew all too well, no third-party review sites for international travel programs existed. So they decided to start their own.
“If you think about it, we review restaurants, movies, basically everything — but it’s uncommon to review a travel experience like studying abroad or volunteering abroad,” Valerie said. “It was even less common eight years ago when Go Overseas was founded. Additionally, it solved their own needs as former English teachers abroad because they wanted this kind of information for themselves.”
While many sites showcased programs for traveling, working, studying, and volunteering abroad, they were promoting their own brands, not necessarily what was best for the traveler. The founders of Go Overseas built something completely different — a one-stop shop for users to find suitable programs, opportunities, and honest reviews.
The site shares information about any and all available programs as well as genuine reviews from participants. In the eight years since it was founded, Go Overseas has built a community of over 100,000 members and amassed more than 30,000 reviews and photos from international programs.
“We pride ourselves on leaving all reviews on our site as long as we can verify their accuracy,” Valerie said. “This means that no negative review gets taken down because someone requests it be taken down — unless they are the original reviewer.”
Go Overseas focuses on programs that provide medium- to long-term immersive cultural experiences, and the site features more than 2,500 articles on all things travel related — from practical tips and tricks for specific countries to the benefits you can gain from your trip abroad.
“We produce a lot of resources, including articles and guides, to help readers make informed decisions and choose companies or providers who do good work in whatever area they operate,” Valerie said. “For example, we have resources focused on selecting a responsible volunteer travel program, and how to increase sustainability while traveling.”
Of the benefits that come with studying abroad, learning a new language is often the most tangible. Other beneficial aspects of your adventure include gaining independence, discovering a deeper understanding and respect for another culture, and boosting your résumé. Whether it’s attending high school abroad, taking a gap year to learn a language, or looking for opportunities to study at the collegiate level, Go Overseas helps prospective students find the right school for their needs.
The site also makes it easier for those who want to volunteer abroad. Whether your passion lies in empowering women in developing countries, building schools for orphans, or rescuing animals, the site connects people to causes and locations that need their talents and abilities. These trips are aimed at helping others, while also offering travelers the chance to experience a new culture, its people, and bond with like-minded philanthropists.
The site also makes it clear that teaching abroad isn’t just for those who are already trained and certified educators. Like Chris, you can earn your credentials abroad and continue your travels by taking a job teaching overseas.
Interning in a foreign country also looks great on a résumé and can lead to professional opportunities that you might not otherwise encounter. Working on projects abroad provides time to network with those in your field and can help you make progress toward your professional goals.
Once you define the purpose of your trip, Go Overseas makes it easy to find a program that’s a good fit. The site’s search tools sort programs by country or specific details like media internships or teaching English to adults. Click on any of the results to visit a page containing an overview of the program, reviews from past participants, and a link to its website.
Besides making overseas travel easier for those, like Chris, who want to learn and help, Go Overseas is also on a mission to reduce the cost of those international experiences.
The site currently runs two annual scholarship campaigns, though it hopes to work with partners to provide more funding opportunities and increase the aid it can offer.
Significant initiatives are also coming down the pipeline in late 2018 and 2019. “Innovations will provide the ability to connect people who are on the same excursion before, during, and after their trip,” Valerie said.
Each experience can garner plenty of helpful reviews. It’s common to see 50 more traveler stories for one program. And Go Overseas wants to help connect those people through their common bonds.
“Our honest and transparent review policy has helped us generate trust between future travelers and past travelers. Now, we want to connect them, plus help all the current travelers connect, too,” Valerie said.