The World is the Greatest Classroom

Maria Zammit, a 31-year-old from Siġġiewi is a well-seasoned traveller, having visited numerous countries both in Europe and beyond. Recently repatriated from Granada following 9 months of teaching we caught up with her to better understand what attracts her so much to travelling.

Back in the early 2000s, travelling was somewhat of a luxury for a family of five with one bread winner. Hence, it was quite unexpected when in the summer between her first and second year of sixth form, Maria, then aged 16, got to travel for the first time after winning a scholarship. The scholarship financed students to discover the Spanish language and culture whilst travelling to Latin America and Spain, along with another 300 participants.

Indeed, growth and ‘learning by doing’ is what seems to keep attracting Maria to travelling. After this first experience, she got to travel to around 30 countries worldwide, with circa half of them being European states. Maria, being a kinaesthetic learner, finds that travelling helps her comprehend and learn much more in life by experiencing first-hand the cultures, cities and languages.

In line with this appetite to learn more, Maria has mostly travelled for volunteering, exchange programmes and work purposes, focusing more on the ‘doing’ rather than simply sightseeing. These three reasons for travelling seem to give greater opportunity of learning, doing and understanding the authentic day-to-day lives of the locals.

Being an active member of Żgħażagħ Azzjoni Kattolika (ŻAK) for the past 12 years, Maria had the opportunity to participate in numerous exchange programmes both as a participant as well as a leader. She finds that such programmes are not only fun and great at making new friends and getting to know new people. They are great opportunities to widen and sharpen one’s skill sets, such as being independent, working under pressure and learning to be committed towards a particular project or cause.

She firmly believes that, ‘the experiences one gains from such opportunities can’t be obtained from any theory you read in a book’.

Having built confidence through her previous travelling experiences as well as being curious whether she had what it takes to live abroad on her own, Maria decided to travel as a teaching assistant in Valencia (Spain) in 2015, and more recently for a similar post in Granada (Spain) in 2019.

Obviously, working and living abroad for an extensive period of time (9 months in both cases), was different from the fun and excitement that a 10-day exchange programme brings.

Maria admits that once the hype of settling in passes, the routine kicks in and it is up to the person to reinvent him/herself and find new ways of developing.

Moreover, living for an extended period of time in a new place will expose the person to new challenges, such as understanding the norms, bureaucracies of the country, regulations and systems which might be alien to someone from a small island state like Malta.

Nevertheless, all these experiences built you up in a more resilient, open and adaptable being.

Despite all these challenges Maria points out that one of the most attractive things when doing such an experience is that or starting afresh, and becoming the persona you really want to be, free from any commitments, labels or circumstances which usually tie you down back at home.

Maria states that: 

Travelling places you in challenging circumstances, out of your comfort zone forcing you do be more independent and inventive.

It also changes you internally, mutating your world view and your mentality.

She therefore encourages any youths considering such experiences to “go and grow. Explore and experiment. Be a little wild for a while and always live each moment to the full and be grateful for it”.


Do you really need more convincing?

By Maria Giulia Pace interviewing Maria Zammit
Young Reporter Eurodesk MT

Leave a comment