Roundup of Our Best Articles of 2019

It’s that time of year, where we post our winter round-up best articles of 2019. If you remember from our summer round-up series, you, our readers, decided our top five pieces.  Some of our writers have made it back for our final review, the best blog posts of 2019.

This year we have seen a variety of ideas from our writers. Some members from our Travel Abroad team wrote about places like Iceland, Mexico City, as well as Kuwait City, just to name a few. Our Teach Abroad members have provided resources on teaching in the USA, abroad, and online. In addition, they have given guidance on how to get abroad through pre-departure tips (do’s and don’ts). We are especially proud of our Study Abroad team’s inaugural year. We certainly have a great group who started this year and they shared guidance on many different ideas pertaining to studying abroad, the steps to take, tips on scholarships, and finding the best study program that fits your goals.

Finally, our community, you, have read a year’s worth of content. Based on what and how many times you read it, here is what you decided as Dreams Abroad’s Best Articles of 2019.

Teaching ESOL, Spanish, and Online Classes in the United States

spanish esl teacher teaching in the us

Leesa Truesdell’s interview with Caroline Hazelton made the “best of” list in June. It kept its spot as one of the top five articles of 2019. In this interview, Caroline spoke in detail about the differences in teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL) online, teaching English as a Second Language (ESOL), and teaching Spanish to non-speakers with mostly American backgrounds in the USA. She gave an especially great piece of advice to all learners from different cultures: “Be patient and get out of your comfort zone!” 

This piece covers content ranging from cultural identity to Noam Chomsky’s theory of “universal grammar” that states humans have an innate ability to learn languages. Additionally, she talks about the struggles international students face while in the USA and touches on her own personal development as a teacher. She provides tips and guidance on what she has done differently over the years. This interview is a must read for teachers in any profession. Caroline has been teaching languages for many years and is a fourth-generation teacher. We can see why this interview is in our top five viewed.  

How Did I Get to Thailand to Teach?

Emma Higgins discusses the reasons she chose to move to Thailand after graduation with an English Literature degree from the University of South Carolina. She doesn’t recall what exactly made her think Thailand, but remembers seeing a friend who taught in Bangkok, Thailand and remembered thinking that she could do it. 

buddha statue

In this piece, Emma provides guidance on how she researched teaching in Thailand. She explains that the more she researched, the more it undeniably confirmed her desire to travel abroad and live a life in Thailand. Emma suggests doing the proper research before traveling abroad because of the different visa types offered in Thailand. 

In addition, this article provides guidance on how to book a ticket to get to Thailand and suggests how to prepare before you arrive. Emma explains that the most difficult part about the “how do I get to Thailand to teach” is deciding to come.  

Iceland Travels: A Land of Nonchalant Spectacularity 

Iceland Travels A Land of Nonchalant Spectacularity 

Amanda Whitten talks about her recent Iceland travels with her friend throughout the northwest part of Iceland. Amanda discusses the unquestionably impressive landscape and epic paths she travels with her friend in their rental jeep, providing pointers for your next trip to Iceland. During her Iceland travels, she takes you on a play-by-play of her trip through the fjords, past the volcanic lava fields and into the next leg of her six-day adventure. Amanda emphasizes things she would do again and things she would not do again. This is a very helpful piece for anyone looking to travel to Iceland and roadtrip in the summer by Jeep. 

Pre-Departure Teaching English in Seoul, South Korea

 

epik teach English Program in Korea

Zoe Ezechiels interviewed Paige Miller in a two-part interview. Paige graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida State University in August of 2018. While at the university, Paige was an active part of the Korean American Student Association. Her cultural interests both in Korean culture and teaching inspired her to apply to Epik, a Korean (TEFL) recruiter.  

Because of her interests in both Korean culture and teaching, Paige decided on teaching English in Korea after graduation. In February 2019, she began to teach in Seoul, South Korea at Seoul Dongho Elementary School. Zoe’s interview explains her pre-departure process of teaching English in South Korea. She provides insight and pointers from Paige, who is still living in South Korea. 

Top Kuwait Tourist Attractions

Dalal Boland is a Ph.D. student from Kuwait City, Kuwait. Dalal lives in Tampa, Florida. She will return to her home country to teach at a university once she completes her Ph.D. Dalal is extremely proud of her home country and birthplace. In this piece, she explains the top Kuwait tourist attractions. Dalal notes that Kuwait is a small country but lists some of its most dazzling tourist attractions. Check out her recommendations.

Kuwait Towers Best Blog Posts of 2019

Thank You for Reading Our Best Articles of 2019

We thank you for reading, commenting, and being part of our best articles of 2019! We have seen an influx of comments coming in on our content. It’s been particularly great to see the engagement — we enjoy collaborating with our community. Thank you for reading and influencing our best articles of 2019. Please continue to give us feedback throughout 2020 so that we can understand the content and ideas you enjoy reading most. Thanks again and may you continue to live your dreams abroad!

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!

 

Pre-Departure From Kuwait to the United States

As a soon-to-be student, there were a few things I had to do prior to my departure date. I had to get my papers documented from the Kuwait Culture Office (Kuwait Embassy) and I had to do some research. Before I left, I wanted to learn more about the place where I’d be spending the upcoming few years of my life in: Tampa, FL. I felt it was a good idea to familiarize myself with Tampa Bay’s surroundings.

Beginning Steps

Before I came to the United States, I looked for an apartment online, ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that I found one that fit my needs (before the good ones were filled and booked by my fellow students). Also, I began to look for car dealerships online in order to compare the prices. I knew that I would have to have a car to get around. Since I was going to be in Tampa for a long time, I decided to get a car.

Closer to the Trip

Kuwait moving study abroad looking apartment

I booked the airline ticket that would get me to the United States and, of course, the domestic airline ticket. The first flight would land in New York, and the second, domestic flight would take me to Florida. There were a few days between my flights and move-in day at my new apartment, so I booked a hotel room to spend the first few nights in.

Packing to Leave Kuwait

When it came to packing, I avoided making the mistake of packing a lot of things. I took only the essentials that would be hard to find in the United States (head scarfs, for example). When it comes to bathroom essentials that we Muslims use, there is good news! The handheld version for the toilet is found in Home Depot (in-store or online). There is no need to buy different types of bidet sprayers to bring with you from Kuwait (like I did) in order to see which one fits your apartment’s toilet. In short, relax; the one sold in the United States fits all bidets!

Bring Reminders of Home

One last thought; since I was about to embark on a new journey that would last up to 5 years, I wanted to collect personal souvenirs and mementoes from all of my family members and friends. I bought blank, white cards and different colors of Sharpies so I could collect their thoughts. They wrote words of inspiration and motivational quotes to help get me through the next few years. Then, I put all of the cards in sealed envelopes. I am to read one every time I feel homesick or sad. If you try it, it will surely give you a sense of warmth! You can also personalize a wall in your apartment with beautiful writings from your loved ones!

quotes from friends study abroad kuwait

by Dalal Boland

My Return To Florida For My PhD

by Dalal Boland

For nearly 4 years now, I have been teaching English to native Arabic speakers in a Kuwait college. From covering different content to teaching grammar and vocab, I knew that my job title of “assistant teacher” was only temporary. I always recognized my studies at Florida State University to be the first chapter of pursuing an even higher education: my doctoral degree.

The educational facility that I work in allows their employees to apply for a scholarship grant after 2 years of being a teacher. In the spring of 2017, I was eligible to apply. I was fortunate enough to be one of the candidates to obtain a Ph.D. scholarship. Earning that scholarship was only the beginning of all the hard work that I had to do. I had to look for accredited universities in the USA and apply to them. Before that, however, I had to have an idea of what my future dissertation was going to be about (which at that time, I had none!). What follows is how I decided to return to Florida for my PhD. 

Where to Begin?

The Kuwait Cultural Office of the Kuwait Embassy is an institution located in Washington, D.C. It has the purpose of promoting higher education plans for future Kuwait students who have the intention of attending school in the USA. In other words, if anyone intends to go to an American university, he/she needs to check whether their school meets the regulations offered by the cultural office.

My first step was to access that website in order to look for accredited universities that offer the program that I wanted to apply to. The Kuwait Cultural Office’s information can be accessed through www.kuwaitculture.com. After doing my research, I managed to come up with a list. There were 16 universities that offered my program and complied with the regulations. After writing down that list, I then had to apply. I decided to read some research in order to determine the focus of my future dissertation. After applying to the 16 universities, all in different states, I was finally accepted into several.

Final Decision to Return to Florida for my PhD

USF-Logo-Return-To-Florida-For-My-PHD

I decided to choose the University of South Florida, Tampa, majoring in curriculum and instruction (English Education). I chose USF due to its remarkable print in the field of education. Also, I liked it because Tampa is located in the heart of Florida! When the immigration documents were issued, it was then time to have my F-1 visa issued.

If I were to talk about how I feel about my acceptance to USF and having to move back to the States, I would have to say that I feel a bit overwhelmed! I am so excited to take on this next chapter of my life. It’s my big return to Florida for my PhD. It will be the second chapter of the “million miles dream” that I talked about in my very first post. Despite the anxious feelings, I am ready for my adventure in Tampa to begin! School doesn’t start until August 20th. I am scheduled to arrive in the US on August 3rd. This means I should have plenty of time to prepare. I can’t wait for that day to come!

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!