Setting Sail in the Name of Peace and Education: TIEP Instructor Abbey Maedgen Speaks About Her Summer Spent on the “Peace Boat”

 
 TIEC Instructor Abbey Maedgen in Cuba with fellow Peace Boat teachers.

TIEC Instructor Abbey Maedgen in Cuba with fellow Peace Boat teachers.

While most Austin residents spent their summers down by the lake or seeking air conditioning wherever possible, Abbey Maedgen, an English instructor at TIEC’s Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP) traveled around the world—quite literally—to teach children in need.

Maedgen, who has taught English at TIEP since 2013, signed up for a program known as the Peace Boat. The program is run by a Japanese-based NGO that sails an ocean liner filled with teachers from Japan and circumnavigates the globe, all over the course of a few short months. Maedgen participated in the program’s 98th voyage from May 8 until August 22.

“I taught in the Global English Training (GET) program,” she said. “Working in a team of international English and Spanish teachers, we used task-based learning to empower our students to use global languages to make connections with other cultures, thus using language as a tool for peace. It was pretty incredible.”

The exceptional journey included docks in Yokohama, Japan; Kobe, Japan; Keelung, Taiwan; Singapore; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Santorini Island, Greece; Piraeus, Greece; Cagliari, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Le Havre; France; Saint Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockhom, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; Bergen, Norway; Reykjavik, Iceland; Halifax, Canada; New York, United States; Havana, Cuba; Georgetown, Cayman Islands; Cartagena, Colombia; Cristobal, Panama; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Seattle, United States; and Kushiro, Japan;.

The Peace Boat also sailed through the Suez Panama Canals, through the fjords of Norway and in the Arctic Circle.

“It was a pleasure to teach my enthusiastic and curious students this summer and to watch them grow in confidence as they took their new language skills and used them immediately both in ports and on the boat to make friendships and accomplish tasks,” Maedgen said.

According to Maedgen, the Peace Boat has a Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which hosted part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

In addition, one of the Peace Boat programs included the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme, in which young leaders from ocean states on the front lines of climate change and marine degradation travel with the boat to educate people around the world about climate change. These young people also presented at the UN Summit in New York as well as sharing their stories with the passengers of Peace Boat.

“It was an honor to sail on a ship with such worthy programs, and I enjoyed hearing lectures and meeting experts in sustainability, social justice, and activism from around the globe,” Maedgen said.

Though her summer abroad is an experience she won’t soon forget, Maedgen says she is happy to be back home in Austin, and is already applying everything she’s learned to her work here at TIEP.

Peace Boat hosts a number of programs, including ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Working with the Hibakusha Program (Japanese Nuclear Holocaust Survivors), Peace Boat and ICAN take their message around the world to help end nuclear weapons. Find out more at http://peaceboat.org/english/.

Liz Holliday