Orlando Lewis Explains the Benefits of Studying Abroad

Orlando Lewis showing a benefit of studying abroad in NYC Orlando Lewis was raised in St. Catherine, Jamaica. He is an undergraduate student studying computer software engineering at Florida State University. Orlando shared his passion to follow his dream and especially inspire others along the way. All Orlando wants to do is to motivate people to take hold of their dreams, especially through the benefits of studying abroad. If you have not read his first interview, take a look. 

For the last year, Orlando has been working at Florida State University’s College of Fine Arts. He is the only web developer in charge of their website. Orlando developed a WordPress plugin while working at the college. The plugin makes editing and mapping courses to degrees more conducive for the Art Department. After experiencing the benefits of studying abroad, Orlando is ready to take on his next challenge.

During your studies in the United States, to what extent do you feel Caribbean? Do you feel more or less close to Jamaica? Why?”

From when I started attending school in the US all the way up to now, my culture and accent have always been strong. I initially lived in Colorado. Not having a lot of Jamaican influence or culture around made me feel a little distant from home. Nonetheless, my roommates kept me together through those early days.   

Have there been specific moments when you have felt homesick? How have you dealt with this?” 

I have felt homesick frequently in the past — at this very moment, I still miss home. Despite missing Jamaica, I understand that this period in my life will pass. It is not forever and I will find my way back home once I finish my schooling.

A photo of Jamaican mountains

How has FSU impacted you as a student, as a man, and as a future employee?”

As a student I have learned A LOT at FSU, both socially and academically. FSU offers a variety of clubs and events, which are completely different from the community college I went to in Colorado. As a man, there isn’t anything specific I can speak of at FSU that has helped me to develop. However, generally speaking, my move to Tallahassee has led to me gaining more responsibilities. Basically, moving away from family and surviving with my fiancé has definitely prepared me to be an adult more.

As a future employee, I have developed hard and soft skills that place me in an even better position for jobs at major companies. Right now, as I am seeking a job, the companies that I am able to impress are big tech companies. Hopefully I land one! Another thing is that FSU’s or other well-known colleges’ career fairs help to put students like myself in front of these major companies, which I truly appreciate.

You have always championed the importance of networking. What specific examples can you provide where it has helped you or you have helped others?”

Yes, networking has always played a major part in my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. I have always used LinkedIn to communicate with people like recruiters or just anyone that might be able to share some knowledge and insight.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”

In the next five years I see myself being right with God, taking care of myself and family, and establishing my own company. My dream job is to be a founder, creator, or leader in the software development world. I would feel truly honored if I were able to create my own company within the next five years.

What impact has the pandemic had on your career opportunities?”

There hasn’t been a major impact because of the field I am in, which is software engineering. Fortunately, the job I have now and any I have looked at all can be done remotely, so I have been fine.

What are the greatest benefits of studying abroad?”

The benefits of studying abroad, especially coming from a developing country, are the extra opportunities available to me thanks to my relocation. However, what I have learned is that depending on your field, there might be more of a challenge in landing internships to gain experience within your field. Other than that, you gain so much knowledge and insight about different cultures while studying abroad. In return, you think more diversely, which will develop your skills.

A pathway in one of the parks in Tallahassee, Florida, a benefit of studying abroad.

What has been the biggest challenge of studying in the United States?”

The biggest challenge for me has been money. Being able to finance my way through college has been tough. If you aren’t strong minded, the stress and worry will ruin you.

You are a Jamaican student in the United States. What makes Orlando Lewis different from others with a similar background? What is your most authentic trait?”

I am a very driven individual and someone that will have plans for plans. Six years ago, I set out on this journey, and not once have I decided to end it. I tackled any issue that came at me. Another thing that stands out is that I honestly care about every line of code I write. I don’t want to get into software engineering for the money. I love what I do and fortunately it will benefit me and my family.

A laptop with html code, which Orlando learned as a benefit of studying abroad.

Orlando graduates in Summer 2021, after experiencing the benefits of studying abroad. We look forward to him passing this milestone as he has worked so hard. Below is one of the very first videos that he shared with us all the way back in 2018. We hope you find his tips as helpful now as we did then. Be on the lookout for further updates from Orlando in the future.

by Leesa Truesdell

A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

By Leesa Truesdell

Dalal Boland has been studying at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida for three semesters. She is working on Curriculum and Instruction in English Education coursework and has two semesters until she begins her dissertation. Dalal enjoys her program very much. She is thriving at USF and really enjoys the sense of diversity on campus. Compared to Florida State University where she got her master’s, Dalal feels that USF has a thriving international community. “There is just the right balance for me. Cultural immersion is not as difficult at USF because I have Americans in my classes. I hang out with the decently sized Arab population after class and on weekends.”

Dalal is on a sponsored scholarship that lasts up to five years to complete her Ph.D. She plans to finish her degree in about four and a half years. She anticipates getting back to work in Kuwait after she graduates. Right now, she enjoys working at a university teaching English.

Here is what Dalal had to say about her career pathway to obtaining a Ph.D.

kuwait city study abroadWhat was it like growing up in Kuwait City, Kuwait? For example, what was the education system like? Did you go to a primary school and a secondary school?

“I did all of my schoolings in Kuwait at a public school up until I reached university, which was a private school. All public schools in Kuwait are segregated and subject areas are taught in Arabic. In high school, I focused on science in my educational track.  However, I decided to become a liberal-arts major at the university level.”

Did you take a gap year? Or, did you go straight to Gulf University for your undergraduate studies?

“After obtaining my high school degree, I immediately enrolled at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), Kuwait. I majored in English education and felt thrilled to start my new journey.”

Where did you study for your undergraduate and graduate degrees? How long did it take to get a diploma for these degrees? Did you work in the field before you went back for a Ph.D.?

“I received my undergraduate degree from GUST back in 2012. I then took about a year off working as a teller at the National Bank of Kuwait with the purpose of saving up some money in order to continue my studies. However, I was lucky enough to obtain a scholarship in order to pursue my graduate degree.

Since FSU offered an excellent graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction, it sparked my interest when browsing for universities. I decided to apply and was lucky enough to receive admission. I spent a total of four years on my undergraduate degree and a total of a year and a half doing my master’s at FSU. After obtaining my master’s degree, I went back to Kuwait to teach English as a second language to native Arabic speakers at the college level. I spent a total of three years teaching English until I recently received another scholarship to continue my education in order to obtain a Ph.D.”

Why did you decide to go to the University of South Florida (USF) for your Ph.D.?

“I chose USF to do my Ph.D. because the college of education at USF is known to be one of the best colleges nationwide. They offer excellent degree-seeking programs and have accreditation by my sponsor. Moreover, USF is a research-driven university. I believe this would best help me in executing my research ideas in order to acquire more expertise in the field of English education.”

USF-University-of-South-Florida-Bulls-PHD

What is the University of South Florida known for with regard to education?

“The College of Education at the University of South Florida has multiple nationwide-recognized awards for its role in research and education. Also, USF’s College of Education received accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Education approved the Educator Preparation Programs.”

In your opinion, is USF a good university?

“Without a doubt! USF offers a variety of opportunities. They encourage working with professors who are understanding and passionate about what they do. There is also a variety of students that come from different backgrounds that add a unique flavor to the academic settings.”

career pathway

You attended both Florida State University and the University of South Florida. Is USF a better university? What are some of the similarities and differences?

“Once a Seminole, always a Seminole and there’s no doubt in that! FSU has paved the way in making me the educator who I am today. USF is helping me build on the training that FSU provided. I would never make a comparison between the two universities as both are extremely qualified universities that should attract students to their programs.”

What sparked your dream study abroad?

“I have always wanted to study abroad ever since I was a teenager. However, I only got the opportunity to do so after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I believe that studying abroad makes a person grow on multiple levels. Those that study abroad are immersed in a rich culture. This experience offers different opportunities to explore not only the culture but oneself, too.”

ucf college of education

What were your expectations before you left? How did they change once you arrived to the location and what changed since being in the program?

“My expectation before I left Kuwait was that the program was going to be challenging yet very informative. My expectation was certainly met. I was blessed enough to be part of a university with a department that works with capable teachers who have valuable information in the field of English education.”

What have you done since you began your doctoral program? Are there any tips you want to share with any candidates about to start their own doctoral program?

“From the very beginning (and several times early on in my first semester as a doctoral student), I sat down with my advisor. We came up with a projected course of study in order to have a plan that would create the best path for my adventure as a doctoral student. I advise whoever else who has started this journey to have this plan done from the very start. It is so helpful to refer to it when it comes to classes that you need to take that also align with your research interest.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad in the USA for an advanced degree?

“For those who are studying abroad, my ultimate advice to them is that they must constantly remind themselves of why they chose to leave their family and country behind and embark on this new journey. There are times where a person will feel homesick and overwhelmed with the coursework, especially as a doctoral student. However, one should keep in mind that struggle is temporary and a doctoral degree is forever! It doesn’t matter how bumpy the ride is. What matters most is that one reaches his/her designated destination.”

A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

If you are thinking about getting a Ph.D., Dalal talks about five steps to take before leaving for the USA. She went back to Kuwait last summer and plans to return again this summer. I asked her what she misses most about Kuwait while living in the US. She explained that she misses the professional part of her life — the part of being a teacher. She wants to apply the techniques she has learned in attaining her Ph.D. on her students. More specifically, she wants her students back home to learn how to make their voices heard when applying the English language. We will be keeping up with Dalal to see how her final classes go and also discover what her dissertation will be!

 

Life After Graduating from Florida State University

Tally Cat Cafe after graduatingZoe Ezechiels was born in Norway and grew up in Sarasota, Florida. She thrives in an environment that is filled with diversity and challenge. She studied abroad in an exchange program in South Korea for a year. Recently, she graduated from Florida State University with a BA in both Media Communications and in Theatre. 

Zoe is a writer and video editor at Dreams Abroad and currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida. She is also working as a freelance copywriter, part-time barista, and a preschool photographer. Zoe plans to move to Oregon in the new year to continue working as an onsite photographer. Read on as Zoe shares what she has been doing after graduating from Florida State University!

How did you hear about Dreams Abroad?

“I heard about Dreams Abroad in the most random, roundabout way. During my senior fall semester, I took a class about media and the environment. In that class of about 120 people, I only knew two classmates. One happened to be a good friend who I have worked within student theater (among other projects, like a Jonas Brothers Sing-a-long musical). If you haven’t read Grace Perrotta’s article about her Ireland travels, take a minute of your time to check it out. 

It was Grace that told me about Dreams Abroad. We were sharing exchange student tales (she about Ireland, me about South Korea) and We Study naturally fell into the conversation. Before I was overseeing the We Study section, the beautiful Marina was at its helm. She had contacted Grace to do an article originally. And because I had also studied abroad, Grace acted as the liaison between Dreams Abroad and me.”

FSU graduation fountain

Now, I’ve been working with Dreams Abroad in various roles for about a year. First, I began as a writer and video editor then I moved on to working with the We Study program. Currently, I work as a writer and editor again in order to focus more on my journey and travel after graduating from Florida State. We’ll see where the future takes me with Dreams Abroad.” 

Where were you when you first joined?

“I was finishing my final year of university when I first joined Dreams Abroad. I was experiencing major senioritis at FSU as a dual degree student. Specifically, I was in my Media and the Environment classroom, not paying attention to the video that the professor was playing, when I first sent the email to Dreams Abroad.”

How has your life changed since then?

Zoe Ezechiels and her friend

“I graduated from Florida State University with two bachelor’s for one thing. Immediately after joining Dreams Abroad, I got really high grades in that Media and the Environment class. I did really well in my final two semesters of school (by nuking my social life, if I’m being honest). I made a lot of amazing friends and had people leave my life. Fortunately, I got to spend an amazing spring break in Portland, Oregon (where I fell in love — with the city). I grew a lot and have reached new levels of self-love. 

Directly from Dreams Abroad, I learned that my writing has value and I have a strong voice. I have become more confident in my skills (though I still have a long way to go). Overall, the glow up has been real.”

What did you learn from your experience of traveling abroad?

“Oh, where do I even start with this. I think I’d need an entire article for every time that I’ve been abroad. But, if I could cut to the essentials, I would have to boil it down to two main things. 

The first and most important thing is that I know that I’ve always got my own back. This means that I will never give up on myself. No matter how suicidal or depressed I get (medicated and blessed), I will still fight for my own life. Being cold and alone in the dead of the Korean winter taught me that I am my own ride or die. 

The second thing I learned is that wandering is your best bet. This is literal and metaphysical. Getting “lost” isn’t as bad as you think it is. As long as you’re careful and really aware of the time or place where you’re wandering, you have nothing to worry about. Metaphysically speaking, wandering in your mind is wonderful. Questioning everything, getting lost, and going deeper all sound terrifying but it’s super refreshing.” 

Tally Cat Cafe

What have you been doing this year? 

“I’ve been on that hustle. Since the beginning of this year, I have taken various work positions. I’ve been doing Dreams Abroad and copywriting since the beginning. Around March, I began to work at Tally Cat Cafe as a barista. I can make a mean cat-tuccino now. Over the summer, I took the last two of my classes to graduate in August. While I was doing that, I worked with FSU Special Programs as a Peer Mentor. I got to work with wonderful students from Macau, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, and Japan. 

Since graduating, the Special Programs job ended and I started working with LifeTouch as a preschool photographer. The job allows me to get my kid-fix without being 24/7 responsible for my own. It also has awesome travel perks (I’m writing this from a cafe in Gainesville — LifeTouch provided me the resources to be able to photoshoot over 200 preschoolers during a period of three days in a place two hours away from home).”

What are your future plans?

canoeing Graduating from Florida State University

“That’s still up in the air at the moment. I plan to move to Oregon with the coming new year, which is the only for-sure thing I know. Hopefully, LifeTouch will be gracious enough to allow me to switch districts (since I’d like to continue working for them). I also hope to work with editorials, magazines, and publications in order to continue cultivating my writing. 

Eventually, I want to go to graduate school but first I’m focusing on gaining experience and saving money for now.” 

Life After Graduating from Florida State University

Zoe has been a stellar member of the Dreams Abroad family and we look forward to working with her as long as she is able. We cannot wait to see what her future holds after graduating from Florida State. She also will be working on our upcoming annual holiday video this year. It’s an exciting project for our members and a time for our team to be featured together. Please be sure to check it out — you won’t want to miss out on her video making skills!”

by Leesa Truesdell

Essential Tips for Studying Abroad: VLOG

by Zoe Ezechiels

Tips for Studying AbroadMio Matsumoto was born in Tokyo, Japan. She is one of three children, with a younger sister and an older brother. Her mother works at an office in Tokyo while her father works at a shipping company. Her dad’s job led her to living in New Jersey and Thailand when she was younger, allowing her to explore the world at a young age. She enjoys walking her two rambunctious poodles, going on adventures with her friends, and playing basketball.

Mio studies hospitality at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese people do not commonly pick hospitality as a major. Mio wanted to forge her own path to her dreams. She plans to head into the tourism industry and work for a famous hotel or an international airline.

Year-Long Exchange Studying Abroad

Part of the curriculum before graduating from Waseda University with a degree in hospitality is going on a year-long exchange and studying abroad. The two countries she had in mind were Spain or the United States. She wanted to improve her Spanish first and foremost. However, since her dad now lives in Mexico, she figured she’d be able to go on vacation there and practice Spanish while experiencing what the United States had to offer. So, the United States became the clear choice for her. The fact that FSU is the 26th university in the nation stood out to her and she found herself part of the international student community in Tallahassee.

If you haven’t read her interview already, check out her amazing interview about university life living abroad. In this video, Mio shares tips essential for living and studying abroad. While these tips can apply for studying abroad in a variety of places, Florida can be a bit unique, especially when it comes to the weather! Always make sure to check the weather before leaving. Check it out!

Tips Essential for Studying Abroad

 

University Life Studying Abroad

by Zoe Ezechiels

Mio Matsumoto is a college junior from a school in Tokyo known as Waseda University. She is studying hospitality for a year as an exchange student at Florida State University.

Mio has experienced a very different university life abroad and has grown up in a lot of ways, ranging from learning to juggle school work and a social life, to being completely immersed in a different culture. She has felt the difficulty of getting accustomed to life all by herself but because of the support of her many friends, she was able to have the time of her life and pursue her dream of studying hospitality. The Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State is one of the best in the nation, and Mio is extremely grateful to be studying there.

University Life Studying Abroad FSU

During her time in the United States, Mio has traveled to New York, California, Alabama, Georgia, and cities within Florida with friends. Because the US is such a large country, there were many opportunities for her to travel and spend time exploring with friends. Even when she felt stressed or worried, Mio is grateful to have a close support group to support her while she is away from her family. Here are her responses to our five questions:

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“I didn’t have that many expectations; I just wanted to have fun, become independent, and meet new people. Many people have influenced me so far. Even if I have to go back to Japan, the connections I have made in the US will continue, which I think is a great part of having friends in different countries.”

What did you not expect?

“When I lived in New Jersey, there were many Asian people around me. I unintentionally expected the same comfortable environment in Tallahassee.  At FSU, this was not the case. The student body is more diverse than the neighborhood I lived in. Oftentimes, I felt lonely and left out because there weren’t that many other Asian people.

Studying Abroad FSU

However, I met so many amazing people from different cultures and got along with them great, which enabled me to get over my initial hump. Local people taught me cool places to go, eat, and have fun. I decided to study abroad because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. In the end, it’s turned out great!

Also, the weather: I thought it was never going to get cold or rain, but both happen…! Have your umbrellas ready! In addition, I didn’t expect the campus to be so huge that I have to use the bus to get to my classes. Lastly, even though Tallahassee is a college town, many things were expensive (food, school supplies, etc.), so I had to plan out a budget and stick to it.”

What’s your next step?

mio and friends

“I have a dream of working abroad at an internationally-known hotel or with an international airline. I am able to speak Japanese and English, and at the moment I am also studying Spanish. Although I am a hospitality major, I still need more experience. To achieve my goals, I think getting an internship will serve as a bridge between Japan and somewhere else. This way I can ultimately achieve my dream of working at an international company.”

What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?

“The culture, how you study, the language, etc. is different from place to place; you can’t expect a study abroad experience to be easy. Being able to speak English is just one of the many, many tips for fitting into university life studying abroad. However, studying abroad is a totally eye-opening experience because you can experience it all — from the good to the bad.

Try new things, travel to new places, and be with the friends you feel comfortable with. Even if you’re alone, take part in activities so you can make friends there! Be courageous during class and raise your hand to state your opinions. Everyone is accepting and they look forward to your ideas from a different, international perspective.”

Talking with Mio was an immense pleasure! Stay tuned for her VLOG on 5 tips on university life studying abroad.

studying abroad Mio Matsumoto

 

Spreading Inspiration at FSU While Studying Abroad

Orlando Lewis is originally from St. Catherine, Jamaica. He left his hometown to pursue a degree in Computer Science in the United States at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Programming is his passion and he intends to be one of the best developers/programmers in America. Orlando is a dedicated, goal-oriented individual who loves the idea of spreading inspiration in his academic and personal life. He wants to make the most of his studies by embracing knowledge and experiences with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds in a thriving, public university setting. That is why he is studying abroad.

Orlando has a tremendous amount of optimism for the future. His goal in life is to motivate and uplift others by example. He is sharing his study abroad story with Dreams Abroad as the first step to accomplishing that goal. Orlando recognizes the value of having a dream and wants to inspire others by sharing his. 

study abroad student fsu college passion education beach jamaica

What sparked your dream to travel and study abroad?

study abroad student fsu college orlando lewis“To understand what sparked my dream to travel and study abroad, I must discuss where my dream stemmed from. When I was a kid, my interest was always to figure out how things worked and how I could build or improve them. So, I would pull anything that I could get my hands on apart just to see the different components working together. I was mostly interested in light bulbs and small motors. It was around this time that I gained an understanding of magnets.”

“Although I was able to see how the physical components or hardware worked, there was something still missing. I simply didn’t have access to it. I wasn’t able to access the software that controls everything. Years passed and when I was in high school, I was introduced to programming via Pascal, a computer programming language. Then I started to connect the dots.”

“I knew right then and there that for me to gain the experience and knowledge I would need to become better at programming, I would have to leave my home and explore the USA. The United States is one of the major hubs of technological innovation. Since I was so close, it suited me well.”

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“When I left, I expected to get my degree in four years. My plans have changed a bit. Due to some walls I faced on the journey, it is looking like I’ll get my degree in five years.”

What did you not expect while spreading inspiration at FSU?

“I didn’t expect that there would be so many people who were first strangers that helped me to grow into the person I am now. It’s been heartening to have met many wonderful people on my journey.”

go up student fsu college passion education beach jamaica

What’s your next step?

“My next step is to finish up my degree in Computer Science and work on ideas that might influence the future! I’m excited to graduate and begin working for a company in my field.”

What advice would you give to a new student coming to the USA?

“I would explain the importance of creating good relationships with people. Spreading inspiration is important. Just be the best person you can be to anyone you encounter. Also, never get distracted and lose sight of your dream! There are a lot of influencing factors that can disrupt your path, but if you stay true to yourself your dreams can become reality. Lastly, I’d like to share a quote from Paulo Coeho’s The Alchemist: ‘It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.'”

study abroad student fsu college passion education

Make sure to give Orlando’s first video a watch. Orlando shares his number one tip in detail for studying abroad. Furthermore, he speaks about empowerment through innovation and encourages individuals to make meaningful connections by networking abroad. Check it out!

by Dreams Abroad

Wasan Tawfeeq Talks Teaching Arabic at FSU

Last time I saw Wasan was while she was teaching her students Arabic at around 11:00 am on a Thursday morning. The class was attentive, engaged, and speaking Arabic! Since then, Spring semester has ended, the Summer semester is almost over, and Wasan successfully defended her dissertation. Wasan’s dissertation study was, “The Role of Directed Motivational Currents in Second Language Learning by Arab Heritage Learners and Arab ESL Learners.” She will graduate with her Ph.D. this summer and continue to work as Dr. Wasan Tawfeeq at Florida State University in the Department of Modern Languages, teaching Arabic.

What is a typical day at your school like?

students getting taught arabic“I teach two classes from Monday to Thursday. Each class period is about 50 minutes. I teach the first class, which is ARA 1121. It’s a level two Arabic class. The second class is ARA 2220, which is a level three Arabic class, so it’s a bit more advanced.”

How many people do you work with and how many classes do you teach?

“I work with two people mostly. I see the chair of the department and another Arabic professor. We’re all considered faculty. Also, I work with three other employees who help me with administrative stuff like printing and finalizing documents. I teach my two classes alone, however.”

How are you forming relationships with coworkers?

“I enjoy forming social as well as working relationships with my coworkers. We meet during off-campus and on-campus activities. There are a variety of activities that we do during the semester that let us engage with one another and talk about our social lives. Fortunately, we do not just talk about work!”

What about forming bonds with students?

“It is very important for teachers to build positive bonds with their students. The purpose of teaching is not just about how to convey materials, but also the challenge of creating an appropriate atmosphere. My job as a teacher is to help build an environment that helps to strengthen the relationships among the students themselves, as well as between him or herself and the other students.”

How does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships with the students inside and outside of the classroom?

teach abroad teach FSU Florida State Arabic collage classroom FSU logo“As a foreign language teacher, I believe one of the program’s responsibilities is to foster and maintain the relationships between the students and the teachers. Furthermore, it should also foster a relationship among the students themselves. Fortunately, that is what our program does. We schedule a lot of activities. My program fosters activities that are not just related to cultural learning, but also other activities that help students track their Arabic achievement.”

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

“My favorite part of the day as a teacher is when I see my students understanding the subject. Nothing quite beats seeing them comprehending new material. I love to see my students’ smiles on their faces. It just warms my heart. It tells me that I am doing my job right as a teacher.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

Wasan Tawfeeq graduating

“I prepare my lessons on a bi-weekly schedule. Each day I prepare my lesson with a lot of details, since I am teaching a foreign language. I believe it should have games, activities, and videos. I try to make sure that each lesson includes all of the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.”

What does teaching mean to you?

“I love teaching, especially teaching Arabic. It is very important to me that I help people learn other languages. Arabic is one of the most important languages in the United States. It is one of the top five most popular spoken language in the US.”

What standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of your students?

“In our program we use tests, oral projects, presentations, quizzes, and final exams. By using a culmination of different grades, we can see where each student shines or is having a more difficult time.”

Teaching Arabic

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help your students succeed?

“Yes. In my program we have a weekly meeting. During our weekly meeting we discuss what our plans are for our students, so as to help them achieve their goals.”

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad series interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to the USA? Both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“I have gained a lot of experience through teaching and life. There is no limit to gaining knowledge because you can learn something new every day. This is especially so in the classroom. Teaching is about exchanging what you know with your students. However, teaching is not a one-way experience. My students are not the only ones who learn, because I am also learning right beside them. Together, we grow every day.”

Both Dreams Abroad and I would like to take a moment to say congratulations on a job well done to Wasan! Best of luck to you on your journey ahead – we are proud to have you as a We Teach member. Congratulations and thank you for the time you spent sharing your story with us. While teaching in itself is a challenge, teaching a foreign language has its added difficulties. Wasan has brought fun back into the classroom while continuing to encourage her students.

by Leesa Truesdell

José G. Carrasco Talks Teaching in Miami-Dade Schools

José G. Carrasco was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and moved to New York at the age of five. He speaks three languages: Portuguese, English, and Spanish. José is currently teaching Mathematics in the inner-city Miami-Dade public schools system. He received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from the University of Miami. José worked in a lab for a few years, conducting research, and later moved to Tallahassee to be closer to his daughters.

Teach-USA-Jose-Carasco-student-gradWhile in Tallahassee, he completed his master’s in curriculum and instruction and earned an education specialist degree. José moved back to the Miami-Dade area to once again live closer to his daughters, and teach full time as he conducted research to complete his dissertation for his Ph.D.

For those of you who do not know him, the best way to describe José would be that he’s a smart, kind kid at heart. If you aren’t laughing when José is around then you must be in trouble – with him!

“I want to make a difference in that one kid’s life — that one kid who doesn’t see what we all see.” – José G. Carrasco 

 

Why did you choose to come to the USA?

“This is a tough one. My parents separated when I was five years old and my mother brought me to the States without my father’s permission. He was furious and made arrangements to bring me back home. It took him almost a year to get me back. My parents eventually got back together and decided to live in Bristol, Connecticut.”

 

What are your goals while you are teaching in Miami and studying at FSU?

“My goals are to conduct more research in teaching and eventually finish my Ph.D. I see myself teaching for another six to seven years in the public school system, and eventually teaching at the college level. The hands-on experience that I am able to attain in the classroom will allow me to have a better grasp of how educational research can be used in the field.”

 

Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field?

“Before I went into teaching, I worked in a lab as a research assistant. After going through a divorce, I decided to make a change and decided to transition my career into teaching. I went for a higher degree (M.Ed. and E.Ds.) at Florida State University in Curriculum and Instruction. Before accepting my current position two weeks before Christmas break, I was working in a charter school. That experience was okay, but the administration was not helpful and the school was very unstructured. The school that I’m working at now is better organized. They want me to be a classroom teacher next year, so I may have a new experience. So, instead of teaching two subjects, they would rather I teach a self-contained fifth-grade class.”

 

Why did you choose to teach and also, why did you choose FSU over other schools?

“I had friends and connections at FSU that work there and encouraged me to apply. I actually almost went back to the University of Miami, but I was offered a better financial aid and a research assistant job at FSU, so it made more sense for me to go there.”

 

What assumptions or expectations did you have before you came to the USA?

“When I moved to New York as a child, I was very surprised by many people’s lack of knowledge about the rest of the world. When I would tell people that I was from Brazil, they would ask questions such as What part of Puerto Rico is that in?and So you speak Spanish?’. I do speak Spanish, but Portuguese is the primary language in Brazil. Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States. I was very surprised by many people’s lack of knowledge.”

“My biggest culture shock was actually moving from New York to the South. The differences between the various parts of the U.S was very surprising to me. My perspective is that the education system is much better in New York than in Florida. This is at least true of the schools that I’ve been to. The differences in the education system within the United States are very surprising.”

 

What has been the most difficult since you began teaching?

“The most difficult thing is dealing with the negativity from other teachers. Some of the older teachers are really passing down a lot of negative attitudes to newer teachers. Another challenge is that a lot of new teachers from programs like Teach for America are really unprepared and quickly realize that teaching is harder than expected. Also, in Miami, the mentorship program is not nearly as strong as it is in Tallahassee. In Tallahassee, all new teachers get a mentor. It’s not like that in Miami. Some teachers seem to just be following a script. Also, the lesson planning and planning for differentiated instruction takes a long time.”

 

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What has been the best experience?

“My favorite part of teaching is seeing students learn. I really enjoy connecting with the students and making my lessons engaging. Before I began teaching, I had experience in an afterschool program and mentorship through my master’s program. That was really helpful to make me feel more prepared. I teach because I love sharing knowledge. To see students and see their progress. I like to be the one that inspires my students to be passionate about acquiring knowledge. ‘Teaching by any means necessary’ is my motto.”

 

How has standardized testing affected your teaching experience?

“Data collection programs such as i-Ready take up a lot of instructional time. It’s sad that sometimes we just have to teach kids how to take tests. Instead of teaching basic math skills, I have to teach [my students] how to answer standardized test questions.”

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As a teacher in the Miami-Dade schools, how has the current political climate affected your immigrant students?

“Whether they came to the U.S. legally or illegally, they are happy to be here and are taking advantage of the opportunities that they have. There is anxiety and hope for the DREAM Act to pass, but I think that my students really do feel like their school is a safe haven. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho originally came from Portugal and overstayed his visa. He was undocumented and stands up for immigrant students.”

Wrap Up

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After speaking with José, it’s clear that he is passionate about seeing his students succeed. He teaches because he truly enjoys his craft. There are teachers who teach to get a paycheck, and then there are teachers who do their job because they love what they do. José is clearly the latter of the two. He spends his free time with students in the Miami-Dade schools who struggle with the material just to ensure that they know there is a solution, and a way to overcome whatever it is that is stopping them from achieving their highest potential.

José and I will continue our interview after he completes his first year as a Mathematics teacher. We will hear about how his first year went and if he plans to stay in the public school system in the Miami-Dade area. Stay tuned for more with José in a couple of months.

by Leesa Truesdell

My Life in Kuwait After Graduate School in the USA

Arrival to Kuwait after FSU

Arrival to Kuwait

I can’t believe that 3 years have passed since I graduated from FSU; yet I still remember the day of my arrival to Kuwait as if it was yesterday. After a flight that lasted more than 11 hours, including a layover in the Heathrow London Airport, I arrived at my home country – my beloved Kuwait. I wanted to surprise my family when they saw me exiting the arrival gate, so I had purchased a graduation gown and cap to wear off the flight. As I was the first grandchild to obtain an MA, everyone was really proud of me. As I entered baggage claim, I saw my whole family, including aunts, cousins, and their children, lined up waiting for me.

My Family

They were holding flowers and signs that said, “You did it!” They threw candies up in the air, along with money coins, cheering for me. As soon as I saw them and how proud they were, I instantly bursted into tears of joy. Every single tear that was dropped that day, either of mine or my family’s, was based upon pleasant feelings. The cherry on top of that day was that my mom has arranged a PINK limo (because it’s my favorite color) to drive me home from the airport. I can’t put into words what I had in my heart that day; I was finally back to where I was supposed to be: Kuwait.

Teaching English

Since I was a scholarship student sponsored by one of the educational institutions, I had my job waiting for me immediately after graduation. I was to be working as a teacher to teach English for adult learners. I managed to get my papers done and signed by the dean. When everything was documented and official, it was time to start attending classes. I was assigned to be part of College of Education. The whole experience was new to me, since it was my first teaching position.

Teaching Philosophy

Lecture hallMy teaching philosophy was mainly focused on building a classroom environment that was friendly and fun, allowing students to learn within a nurturing environment that sheltered their abilities and knowledge of the content. What was surprising for me is that the classroom had an enormous number of language learners, which made the teaching process challenging. Students’ needs had to be met and, in order to do so, I had to work triple the amount to make sure that was happening.

College teaching

My Advice: Explore the Colleges in Advance

My advice to those who are planning on one day holding such position is to go and explore the colleges in advance so as to have an idea as to what kinds of students you are going to teach after graduation. Also, I think it’s a good idea to inquire about the resources available in the classrooms, students’ diversity, and the number of students enrolled in order to prepare beforehand with appropriate resources and ideas for teaching.

Back in Kuwait

Life back in Kuwait after graduate school is wonderful, yet a bit challenging when it came to teaching. It felt so good to be home surrounded by people who love me unconditionally. Whatever I acquired in all of my classes back at FSU, I tried to implement in my teaching. I am who I am today because of my journey; for all its ups and downs I am forever grateful.

welcome home

A Remarkable Experience Studying Abroad in Tallahassee, FL

by Dalal Boland

So, the day had finally arrived and I will be Studying Abroad in Tallahassee. After overcoming multiple obstacles, from the F1-visa not being issued on time, to me rebooking another ticket because of that, I finally managed to get on that airplane where a subtle feeling of comfort had struck me as it was time for takeoff. After an overall flight of more than 16 hours spent on multiple airplanes, I landed in the beautiful capital of Florida, Tallahassee. Due to the overwhelming feeling of excitement, I immediately went on a tour around campus. My acquaintances and I drove under the hot sun of August witnessing the students’ joy of starting their new college adventure. After that, I rented an apartment where I dropped off my luggage and went grocery shopping to buy a few things. After running all of those errands like getting into an American line for grocery shopping, and opening up an American bank account, it was time to settle into the new place I called home: Tallahassee.

studying at FSU

Making Friends and Learning Culture

When school started, I encountered some hard times making new friends, especially since I appeared to be a closed-off person due to my formal behavior/encounters with others. Because of that, I had the chance of becoming close to my instructors. They had the kindest hearts that made me feel like I have a family away from my home country. Then, with time, I started to get to know my classmates. The type of class activities that my classes were based on encouraged me to open up to people, especially since most of the activities involved group work and discussions. To me, each class was viewed as a tool to establish and bolster my social grounds with the people around me. Moreover, I had the chance to learn more about different cultures and even pick up a few words in Chinese and Turkish, because my classes included people from different parts of the world.

Studying Abroad in Tallahassee Has Come to an End

TallahaseeThe time had passed and the chapter of living in Tallahassee was about to come to an end. Even as I am writing this piece, my heart still remembers the difficulty that it felt saying goodbye to my friend that I cherished so much, Mr. Michael Magro. Even though we keep in touch from time to time sharing posts and pictures about our lives, I miss the days that we spent laughing about certain inside jokes that no one understood but us, and the intense feeling that we shared of having to work for late hours in the library with the purpose of putting together a class project.

Leaving This Beautiful City

Finally, the day was here and it was time to pack and leave. Although I did not spend more than two years living in Tallahassee, the memories that I made are priceless. Yes, I admit that there were days I spent sobbing and crying my eyes out because I was missing my family, yet the purpose of going home with a diploma to make them proud always made me hang in there. I would describe the time I spent in Tallahassee as a remarkable experience. It is true that I had left Tallahassee, yet the beautiful memories and the friendships that I have made will forever stay with me.

Learn more about Dalal studying abroad in Tallahassee, Florida in upcoming posts!