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!

 

Teaching English in Madrid and Extremadura

by Tyler Black

tyler black travelerTeaching English in Spain can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It certainly was for me. However, there are a lot of factors to consider to ensure you don’t leave Spain with a bad taste in your mouth (school type, age level, English level, etc). One important thing to keep in mind, though, is the location. I’m not talking about north versus south, east versus west, or island versus mainland. I’m referring to big city versus small town or pueblo. 

During my first year in Spain, I taught at two schools in a town called Badajoz in the autonomous community of Extremadura. After a very eye-opening year, I decided I needed a bit of change. I spent the following year teaching English at a school in Madrid. I knew there would be some differences between a town and a big city, but what I experienced superseded all expectations. Thankfully, I didn’t mind the changes too much because I consider myself a very open-minded person. Nonetheless, it’s important to know the differences in order to find something that best suits your preferences. I can’t speak for every region’s towns and villages, but I imagine they’re all relatively similar.

Number of Schools

In Badajoz, there were a good amount of schools in the town and surrounding villages, but only a handful of teachers assigned to the area. Because of this, it was very common for teachers to have multiple schools. One of my schools was a private institution in the heart of the town’s historic quarter, only a few blocks from where I lived. The other was a public primary school in a village just outside Badajoz called Gévora.

I enjoyed teaching at different schools a lot because each day I got a refreshing change of environment. On one day, I would walk through town and enjoy the old architecture with an occasional stop for coffee. On another, I would wait for one of my Spanish coworkers to pick me up and drive me to the village outside of town. It was very common for a fellow teacher to take me to those farther-out schools so I didn’t have to rely on public transportation. 

Badajoz-Extremadura-spain

Public Transportation While Teaching English in Madrid

In Madrid, things are a bit different. Although there are a lot of schools, there are also a ton of teachers assigned to the city. Chances are that your school will be very far away from where you choose to reside. But that’s okay! Madrid’s (and most of Spain’s larger cities’) public transportation is one of the best in the world. My school was located in Alcalá de Henares, about forty minutes outside the city. At first, I dreaded the thought of making that commute everyday. Fortunately, I very quickly began to enjoy waking up with the city as I took the city bus into Alcalá. Instead of rolling out of bed and groggily walking three blocks to my school in Badajoz, I could now let the commute give me a chance to physically and mentally prepare myself by the time classes started.

Curriculum and Responsibilities for Cambridge English Exams

Cambridge English examsBeing the capital of Spain, Madrid’s schools focus very heavily on preparing their students for the Cambridge English exams at the request of the government. I imagine the other major cities in the country do the same. For those who don’t know what the Cambridge Exams are, Cambridge University administers an annual test at schools so that students can earn a certificate proving a certain English level. There are six levels ranging from the lowest skill level to the most advanced: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.

When teaching English in Madrid, you’ll be responsible for preparing your students for the exam that correlates with the age group or grade. Although the exam at the end of the year was very stressful for me as I prayed I had instructed my students well enough to pass, it was very comforting to know throughout the year what each day would look like: just get the students ready for their certifications.

My first year in Badajoz was vastly different. Although there were one or two higher end schools in town that participated in the Cambridge Exam, the large majority did not have the funds to do so. Therefore my role in day-to-day class was very variable. In the private school in Badajoz’s historic district, I was in charge of creating an activity pertaining to that week’s lesson. One example was when the class was learning about cities like London and New York City. I stood in front of the class and called on students to read a paragraph in their textbook. Afterwards, I asked them questions about what they had read in order to garner discussion. Lastly, to make things more fun, I let the students choose five vocabulary words and draw them in their notebooks. 

students in madrid

No Teaching Background, No Problem

I won’t lie, it was very stressful at first, especially since I didn’t have any teaching background or any idea how to lead a group of children. To say it was daunting is an understatement. But after a couple of months, I discovered many online resources that greatly aided me. I figured out what worked and what didn’t. Don’t let challenges like this dissuade you. You’ll learn very valuable skills along the way.

In my primary school in the village of Gévora, things were a tad bit simpler. The professor led the class the majority of the time, and I was only there to correct grammar and pronunciation mistakes. As you can see, each school can bring a different experience in smaller towns since they don’t have the government breathing down their necks. They have more freedom with directing your role as an auxiliar in the classroom. Depending on your past experiences or preferences, the challenge of a small town might intrigue you rather than teaching English in Madrid where things are more structured and concrete.

teaching in Madrid

Expectations and Relationships of Teaching English in Madrid

Your relationship with the staff and their expectations of you will be a complete 180 between larger cities like Madrid and smaller towns. In Badajoz and Gévora, I found the staff to be very laid-back. Obviously I was expected to arrive on time and perform the tasks that I was assigned. However, if I was ever feeling under the weather, I could shoot a text to one of the teachers letting them know I wouldn’t be in, and that was that. Filming your students on your phone and taking selfies with them was not uncommon, either. It made things more personable. 

In Madrid, if I called off, I was expected to bring a valid doctor’s excuse the following day or risk not being paid. Luckily, I’m not one to get sick very often, but it would have been nice to take a mental health day now and then. At this particular school, cell phone use was a big no-no. No videos or pictures of the students were allowed unless under special circumstances.

Towns and Villages Throughout Spain

In towns and villages throughout Spain, there’s a good chance that you’ll be the only English assistant at your school. I found the teachers to be very accommodating and willing to integrate me with the rest of the staff. I was invited to school events, holiday dinners, and even the occasional night out for drinks. One teacher even took me into Portugal for the day with her husband. It was great for me because I really wanted to improve my Spanish and be integrated into the Spanish lifestyle. I still keep in touch with a couple of my fellow teachers from Badajoz to this day.

teachers abroad

On the other hand, when teaching English in Madrid, you’ll most likely work with a few other English assistants. At my school, we had five assistants. Because of this, we tended to congregate near each other in the breakroom instead of interacting with the other teachers. Furthermore, because we were in a big city, many of the other teachers all lived in different areas of the community. Depending on the school, there may not be any holiday dinners, nights out, or friendly excursions with the Spanish teachers. Although it was relieving to vent in English to the other assistants about my day, I truly did miss the authentic Spanish relationships I made in Badajoz.

Private Classes

Chairs-Class-Classroom-Seminar-School

Private classes, or “clases particulares,” are a very common way to earn a little extra cash on the side. But like everything else I’ve mentioned, you’ll notice some stark differences between large cities and small towns. In towns like Badajoz, you’ll find that most families will likely pay you €10 for an hour of class. That doesn’t seem like much (and it really isn’t), but the thing to remember is that word travels fast. You may only have one class a week, but eventually that family will tell their friends about you. And that next family will tell their friends. And the cycle will continue. At one point I had about nine private classes a week. Just be careful. Money is great, but don’t burn yourself out. Free time is important. After all, you’re in a foreign country. Take advantage of that.

When you offer private English classes in Madrid, your starting rate will be around €20 an hour. I can already feel your eyes getting wide. As they should! You can make a pretty penny if you plan your classes right. Here’s the downside though: classes are hard to come by in the big cities. I had to rely on websites like tusclasesparticulares.com and milanuncios.com to get in touch with families. Word of mouth did not exist. Furthermore, your travel time between classes will be greater than in a small town. It’s difficult to accept many offers if they don’t fit both parties’ schedules. However, like I said earlier, if you’re able to strategically plan your schedule, you can walk away each week with a nice supplemental income on top of the government stipend you receive.

Teaching English in Madrid is Worth It

Feliz navidadNo matter which type of location you choose, there’s going to be pros and cons. In order to make the best of your experience teaching English in Spain, you must align your preferences with those pros and cons. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just your monthly salary (for those that are curious, teaching English in Madrid pays €1,000/month and everywhere else pays €600). This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. Make sure you do your due diligence. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing experience in a small town and in a large city. However, I do know people who didn’t enjoy their time in Spain because they were unaware of what each location offered. Be smart and resourceful, and you’ll walk away with a life-changing and unforgettable adventure.

These experiences are based on the schools and locations I taught at. There are always going to be different situations anywhere you go. There could be small towns where only English teachers congregate in the breakroom, and there might be schools in Madrid where Spanish teachers integrate you into the Spanish lifestyle. Perhaps there may be a school in a small town with multiple English assistants, and only a couple in Madrid. Just know that whatever situation you find yourself in, it will be well worth it!

 

 

 

Teaching English in Thailand

 

Eric HaegEric Haeg is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. If you have questions about teaching English in Thailand, he would be the person to ask. Besides his current role as Course Director of TEFL Campus Phuket, he is one of the trainers as well.

TEFL Campus offers two-course formats: One is a four-week, on-site TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course that is validated by Fairmont State University, with certificates issued by TEFL International, which means it has worldwide recognition. The other format is a hybrid (online and on-site) course offered in conjunction with TeacherLink. Students study fundamentals online before attending the course for two weeks of observed teaching practice. This format is also recognized by employers worldwide.

Who are you and where are you located?

“I’m the Course Director of TEFL Campus Phuket. Originally from the United States, I’ve been living abroad since 2004. I’m a husband to my wonderful wife of 10 years, and a father to two of the best kids a guy could ask for. All in all, I guess you could say I’m one heck of a lucky guy. I am located in Phuket, Thailand–specifically, Phuket Town.”

Phuket

Why are you there?

“After trying to leave Phuket no fewer than four times since 2004, I suppose you could say Phuket has sunk its claws into me and won’t let go.

Honestly though, I absolutely love Phuket. I’m far enough away from the tourist scene, and Phuket Town has seen so many changes that it never gets old. The local community is a wonderful mix of Eastern and Western culture, which brings diverse food, entertainment and fun events/activities. Plus, I’m an active outdoor enthusiast and Phuket has no shortage of things to do. The food here is enough to keep me here, but then again, there’s the beaches, the weather, Thai culture, etc. Honestly, the only legitimate complaint I have is the chaotic traffic. So long as I’m not driving, I’m happy.”

How did you get to Phuket, Thailand?

“I took a TEFL certification course in Phuket in 2004. Shortly after that, I taught in South Korea for a bit before returning to Thailand. I found a job just outside of Bangkok in a coastal city called Sriracha, where I taught science full-time at a prestigious boarding school, while teaching EFL at a local language center in my spare time. In 2007, I decided to move back to the States to research TEFL job opportunities in Africa. That’s when the director of the TEFL center where I got certified asked if I’d like a job as a TEFL/TESOL course trainer. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I moved back to Phuket in 2007 and haven’t left…though I’ll get over to Africa one of these days. Teaching English in Thailand is amazing.”

TEFL Campus Phuket Thailand logo

Where are you going? 

“For now, I’m staying put. I’ve got two young kids and they’re happy at school. They live a wonderful life, full of natural beauty and opportunities to travel. I love my job, and I’ve got certain things I’d like to accomplish professionally before I move on. “

Why did you decide to teach teachers and not continue teaching English Language Learners?

“I decided to train teachers because I saw what a positive impact my TEFL course had on my life and I wanted to be part of that. I remember finishing my course and feeling as if the world was my oyster. It felt as if the Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) cert was my ticket to live and work around the globe. Working with others who’d already been teaching in multiple countries only confirmed that for me. I still get to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes as part of my job, so it’s a wonderful compromise between teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) and training new English Language Teaching (ELT) professionals.”

Phuket beach

What’s an important story from your work (something that has helped you)?

“There isn’t one story that stands out. What’s helped me the most is the collection of experiences I’ve gained by virtue of having trained such a diverse group of people.

Our trainees come from dozens of countries. Some are young, some are old; some are natural teachers and some have to work hard to understand what it means to effectively teach EFL; maybe some are academically gifted, while others struggle. Each person brings their own perspective, and the further away theirs is from mine, the more I have to adapt. Those adaptations challenge my own assumptions in meaningful ways and help me see things I wouldn’t have seen without them. Basically, my horizons have been broadened with the help of the people I’ve trained, and I hope that’s helped to make me a more effective educator.”

Passionate About Teaching English in Thailand

Eric will be writing for us. He will focus on topics such as Thai culture, classroom management, lesson plans, life as a teacher in Thailand, and Thai students. For those who are interested in learning more about Asia, or Phuket, Thailand, specifically, please read more about Eric and TEFL campus Phuket Thailand.

Thailand map Teaching English in Thailand

by Dreams Abroad

 

Pre-Departure Teaching English in Seoul, South Korea

by Zoe Ezechiels

Paige MillerPaige Miller recently 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 Hallyu Wave Club (the Korean pop culture club) and the Korean American Student Association. She participated in learning and performing k-pop dances, some of which include “Bboom Bboom” by Momoland and “Mic Drop (remix)” by BTS and Steve Aoki.

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. Keep reading to find out her initial process and how to apply to the same EPIK program Paige did.

How long have you known that you wanted to teach in Korea?

“I have been interested in Korean culture since I was in high school. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of college when I found out about the job opportunity from a family friend who had previously studied abroad. After further research and a burst of courage, I started to pursue teaching in Korea in my senior year of college.”

What is EPIK? (Are they a recruiter for foreign English teachers in Korea?)

Teaching in Korea“Firstly, EPIK is an acronym that stands for the English Program in Korea. Essentially, they are a government program that seeks to improve the English-speaking abilities of students while also facilitating cultural exchange between the students and English teachers. So while EPIK is not exactly a recruiter, I did use a recruiter called Korean Horizons to help facilitate my application to the program.”

Where were you placed and what type of school will you be teaching in?

“As of now, I only know that I have been placed in Seoul. EPIK will not alert me of my exact school location until the last day of our new student orientation on February 27.”

How was the passport process when you were updating or applying for one?

“I received my passport in January of 2018. I had to apply in-person and receive a new one. This was because I hadn’t updated it since I was a toddler. The overall process was pretty easy. I showed up with an old passport, a money order, and a passport-sized photo in hand. I completed a passport form at the approved location. From there, they sent it off to the U.S Department of State and I received my new passport less than a month later.”

How was the visa process to begin teaching English in Korea? Did EPIK help you apply for a visa?

EPIK teaching English in Korea

“For the visa process, as throughout the entire overall process in applying and receiving the teaching job, my recruiter with Korean Horizons helped facilitate it. Once the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education approved my position under EPIK, they sent my contract and my notice of agreement certificate to my recruiter. He then mailed these to me, alongside a visa application form. Upon arrival, I signed my contract, filled out the application with an attached a passport picture, my passport, a return envelope, and a $45 money order before mailing it to the Korean Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. I received my passport back with the visa less than a week later.”

Did you need to get an apostille for your diploma? If so, how was that process?

flying to korea“I was required to get an apostille for my diploma. I filled out another application form as well as a criminal background check before sending my diploma to the Secretary of State to have it both notarized and receive an apostille.”

How far in advance did you book your plane ticket?

“After I received my visa, I booked my ticket two weeks before I left. It didn’t fully hit me that I was leaving for Korea until a few days before I left. That’s when I started to pack and get everything ready to begin the adventure of teaching English in Korea.”

What are you most looking forward to when you arrive and begin teaching?

“I am most looking forward to finally knowing what school I will be teaching in. I can’t wait to begin building a good relationship with my students. I’m excited to go to concerts of artists I’ve been following since I was back in America. Plus, I can’t wait to go on trips around Korea and other parts of Asia!”

food on flight to korea

 

 

TESOL in the United States Versus TEFL Abroad

by Caroline Hazelton

TESOL in the United States

I’m an English as a Second Language teacher (not to be confused with an English as a Foreign Language teacher) and I have chosen to remain stateside in America. When I first announced the intentions of my career, I was completing an internship in Guatemala. My teammate replied “Why stay in the States? You’ll lose the adventure.” For those of you considering a career in ESL, here’s why I choose to teach English as a Second Language in the States versus teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad.

What’s the Difference?

First, let’s take a look at the difference between English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). It’s all about (as a real estate agent might say), “Location, location, location!” The difference lies in what the majority of a country speaks. If I’m in an English-speaking country teaching English, I’m teaching ESL. However, if I’m in a non-English speaking country as an English instructor, I’m teaching EFL. Both have distinctly different purposes. For example, one learns English to live and survive while the other learns it for vacations abroad/communicating with foreigners. Both are used interchangeably at times but are vastly different in purpose.

But now, let’s get to the answer of what my teammate asked me while we were in Guatemala: “Why?”

Why stay in America to teach English?

English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL)

Here’s my story. Here’s my “because” to that teammate’s (and possibly your) “Why?” These reasons are not for everyone, but rather that of my own.

I find working with immigrants to be of great purpose that I can fulfill.

Nine years ago I taught my first ESL class to a group of Central American immigrant women at an inner-city mission in Texas. After an entire summer of using my gifts of language and teaching to meet their needs, I found a career that I forever wanted to be part of because there was a purpose that I could fulfill. I meet people with stories of horrors beyond our privileged American first-world-problems-self can dream of, but they have found refuge in our homeland. I watch their English grow, and opportunities open for them. Plus, I get to teach about my home. I get to be the “know-it-all guide” of my beloved homeland – and it’s rewarding. I never stop feeling blessed whenever I’m teaching ESL students because I can give them part of what they need.

The flexible hour possibilities of ESL leave time for a family or a second job.

TESOL in the United States students

In addition to being a language buff, I’m a wife to a successful scientist and mother to two young children. At this moment, I can’t work a full-time job due to my family responsibilities. ESL classes are held in the evenings for students employed during the day, so I can stay home with my children but still do what I love. ESL classes are also held in the mornings or afternoons for housewives or international students. I can always pick up more hours as my children get older. Additionally, the part-time commitment to ESL allowed me to work a “main job” as a Spanish instructor before my second daughter was born. I look at my life teaching ESL part-time while still having ample time at home with my 1- and 3-year-olds plus supporting my husband and his career and I think, “Man, I’ve got it made in ESL!”

You experience the world without the unknown.

English as a Foreign Language (EFL)

I’ve always had a deep love for foreign cultures, so it shocked me when my months overseas during undergrad left me lonely and miserable. In personal experience, I’m more of a short-term tourist than a long-term visitor abroad. Yet I cannot stop learning about cultures beyond my own. That’s why I love ESL – you experience the world while enjoying the familiarity of your own nation. I am able to enjoy other countries simply by teaching a class! Nonetheless, there’s always room to hop on a plane (we are headed out to Polynesia in April for my husband’s conference!) should I want. 

Things to Point Out

I wanted to wrap up this post by a few pointers:

  1. I did not address the growing popularity of English as a Foreign Language online learning platforms as a flexible option. In fact, I teach on one right now.
  2. Remember that EFL and ESL still follow the rules laid out for second language acquisition. The difference is the curriculum (suited for different audiences and needs) and motivation (ESL students have more at stake than EFL students).
  3. Although I wrote about teaching immigrants, there is no “one size fits all” student in ESL. You see immigrants, visiting scholars, international students, visiting tourists, refugees (different political classification than immigrants), etc.

Guys, don’t worry about losing the adventures of teaching English abroad – in ESL the world comes to you. ESL is for us language nerds who need to be doing humanitarian work or for that person who loves other cultures but needs to stay in their home country. And with good reason – the current political climate of our country loves to build walls. Go rogue. Don’t build walls, but tear them down in ESL.

Students in Guatemala

Non-Bilingual School Education For My Third Year

by Amanda Whitten

The Third Year’s the Charm When Teaching at a Non-Bilingual School

If you’ve just stumbled onto Dreams Abroad and have somehow made it to my page – welcome! If you’re like me, you probably won’t be interested in going back and reading all of my past blogs just to be caught up to date with my latest posts. Therefore, what follows is a short, proportionally inaccurate timeline so that you won’t be confused when I mention something from previous articles.

time line amanda whitten time abroad

This visual of my time in Spain doesn’t include all the places I’ve gone or the things that I’ve seen that have kept me, at the very least, sane, and at the most, in love with living in Europe. There have been events that seemed horrible, like getting voted to not return to my first school or being asked to leave my au pair position. However, these events ultimately set me on a path that let me explore some of the ins and outs of Spanish education, both bilingual and non-bilingual schools, and Spanish culture.

fountain sunlight

A Toe in the Water

My first school was a public bilingual school. The level of apathy towards learning not only English but in learning in general, appalled me. I was shocked at the level of disrespect that I witnessed. I saw students telling professors to shut up. Kids slept through entire trimesters and never faced any backlash or received extra help. There were kids whose only plan for the future was to go viral on YouTube and get rich. That was their sincere justification for doing nothing at all.

There was a stark difference between the kids who, for whatever reason, had intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. They were intelligent and had an adequate command of English. Many of them had been a part of the bilingual program for many years and cared about their education. However, they were few and far between. To make matters even bleaker, some of the teachers didn’t even want the auxiliars to be there. We were seen as a waste of time and money.

Non Bilingual Education

Wading In

Then I taught at a private, international, democratic school. I encountered students who took control of their educational experience. Of course, there was the occasional lazy kid, but the vast majority was interested in learning English. That school employed a number of methods, including one where they let kids with high levels of English skip the lunch line. If they wanted the benefits of knowledge, all they had to do was apply themselves and make an effort. I saw a rate of transition from non-fluency to fluency that was so speedy that I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes.

Non Bilingual Education

At the same time, I was moonlighting at a semi-private traditional school. My first teaching experience was somewhat mirrored in this newest school. I began to believe that only non-traditional schools were capable of motivating the greater majority of their students. For one reason or another, I wasn’t able to continue a second year at that non-traditional school and I feared another miserable experience. How could a public, normal, non-bilingual school even compare in a positive way to a bilingual public school? I was worried that I wouldn’t make personal connections with the students or that they wouldn’t have learned enough English to be able to relate to me or me to them.

I’m pleased to say that my worries were unfounded. Maybe it’s because my first school was in the isolated mountains. Perhaps it’s precisely due to my theory that being cost-free and bilingual caused parents to send their troubled kids there as a last ditch effort to teach them English. Maybe it’s all a coincidence.

park Non Bilingual Education

Dreams in a Non-Bilingual School

All I know is that here, in Leganes, as an auxiliar in Madrid, I am having the kind of experience I dreamed about when I first arrived in Spain. The kids want to talk to me, especially the younger ones. They think I’m funny and entertaining. They listen to my presentations and we have lots of debates, especially with the older ones. Since it’s a non-bilingual school, I’m able to focus almost exclusively on English instead of having to create art theory presentations that will somehow get these complex ideas across without being above everyone’s English levels. I’m encouraged to tell my point of view on things whether it’s the origins of Christmas, the United States’ political system, or the current immigration situation in the States.

churros chocolate teacher students

I get along with and have almost no issues with any of the staff. I really feel appreciated, more so even than last year. Instead of forcing the puzzle pieces to fit together, they are beginning to fall freely into place. There is an air of positivity here. Maybe it’s because the parents are very involved (before Christmas break, they organized churros and chocolate for ALL of the staff and students). Perhaps it’s my attitude and how I went in determined to be more organized than ever. Maybe it’s just this town.

There are more colegios here than I have ever seen in one place (coincidentally, I’m once again moonlighting at a second colegio through an academy here in Leganes, and it, too, is going exceedingly well). Most importantly, they want me to renew. They want to keep me! I don’t want to jinx it, but it really does seem like the 3rd time’s the charm.

Well, that’s all for now.

Thanks for reading!

Squirrel

 

Ellen Hietsch Talks Teaching English Abroad

I caught up with Ellen Hietsch to ask her about her year teaching English as a foreign language  in a non-bilingual school. Since the Spanish Ministry of Education does not require prior teaching experience or any special qualifications/degrees to teach English, teaching at a non-bilingual school can be quite the whirlwind. Read on to discover Ellen’s story.

What was a typical day at your school like when teaching English as a foreign language?”

“It was different every day, as I never worked with the same class twice. Mondays were a nice way to ease into the week as I would work entirely with 4th ESO and both levels of bachillerato (the older high school students). I had the same teacher for three out of four of these classes. She mostly wanted me to do conversational practice in groups of three or four students. It was a great way to get to know the students as individuals.

For the rest of the week, I would have a combination of all levels during the day. Sometimes I would receive a request from a teacher, on which I would base my activities, but often not. Each teacher I worked with had me work with the class in different ways.

With one, I had control of the class for the full period. The teacher would aid me with translation and discipline. Another had me working with one group for the entire period teaching English. Yet another would send various small groups of a number that he decided in the moment (the first group could be three well-behaved students while the next could be 12 of the most chaotic). I would then work with each group for up to 10 minutes. One thing that was certain each day was that I would only be working with English classes. My school did not have a bilingual program. Students did not receive English instruction in any classes outside of their mandated English classes.”

How many people did you work with (fellow language assistants included) and how many classes did you teach?

I worked with four English teachers, one of whom was the head of the department and my official supervisor. I also worked with one other language assistant, who had been at the school the year before. I taught 16 different classes with about 20-30 students each.

Did you form working relationships with your co-workers teaching English?”

“Yes, and this was a process that paralleled my growth at the school. While I am confident enough to speak conversational Spanish (even when I know I am nowhere near perfect), the teachers’ lounge was overwhelming for me. This was especially so after having several screaming classes. During my year at my school, all but one teacher outside the English department only spoke Spanish with me. Being surrounded by a language I was not fluent in was certainly more difficult than speaking one-on-one with a stranger at a coffee shop. I often didn’t know where to begin in terms of creating friendships. In the early weeks, my new, extroverted self seemed to disappear into a girl who silently played ukulele in a corner.

That isn’t to say that I was completely unsociable, however! If a teacher reached out to me, I was always excited to talk to them! I am incredibly grateful for them. Gradually, I grew accustomed to both my job and the teachers’ lounge culture. I began to reach out on my own and even join conversations that sounded interesting. I still have a few teachers who I stay in touch with over email and WhatsApp.”

Teaching English Abroad Finding new things to read in Madrid
Finding new things to read in Madrid

“How did you form bonds with your students?”

“In some classes yes, in others not so much. This depended on a variety of factors, including age group, teacher, and English level.

It was easy to form bonds with all my primero classes (ages 12-13). Even though the majority of them had an extremely low English level, they were all still energetic and enthusiastic just to have someone new in the classroom. These were the students most likely to say hi to me in the hall. My segundo bachillerato classes (ages 17-18) wouldn’t be as openly enthusiastic to speak with me outside the classroom, but their higher English level made it easy to get to know them during conversational lessons. From there, it was exciting to get to know them a bit more each week. I could sense their enthusiasm when they’d ask me questions in return.

However, the combination of being at a non-bilingual school and working with secondary students made forming bonds with other groups a little more difficult. Some classes in particular would get frustrated when I wouldn’t explain an activity in Spanish (as a language assistant, I could only speak English with students). Combined with the usual teenage restlessness, this was a recipe for disaster in        some classes. The language barrier often felt like my students and I had a glass wall between us, with no means of breaking it.”                                                             

How did the school foster the creation and maintenance of relationships with students inside and outside of the classroom?”

“Whether or not I formed bonds with a class depended upon the teacher with whom I was working. One in particular, Sara,* was especially understanding of circumstance: she and I worked together with one of the most notoriously difficult classes in the school. As a result of her patience with both the students’ low level of English and this being my first time teaching, they became a relatively easy group to teach. I was so excited when Sara told me that the class had been enjoying my lessons!

However, I didn’t have the same collaborative relationship with other teachers: as I mentioned before, many took a hands-off role with me. Most would show me the lessons they’d want me to use shortly before the class, and then send a group of students to work with me alone. The language barrier between the students and me made this style especially stressful. I worried that the students weren’t getting the most out of lessons when working with me this way, so I decided to approach the English department for support. I just “needed to learn how to deal with it.” He didn’t punish the students and the situation grew worse.

However, this backfired: one teacher in particular, Alejandro,* accused me of wanting to be “lazy.” His classes were the most difficult to work with in terms of student behavior. Eventually, I asked Alejandro for disciplinary advice, to which he responded that I just “need[ed] to learn how to deal with it.” He didn’t punish the students and the situation grew worse, to the point that I had to get the English department head involved. After that, Alejandro quit sending the problematic students for a period of time.

This situation acted as an example of why I value forgiveness. A few weeks after the department head disciplined these students, they approached me with genuine apologies. I told them we could start with a clean slate, and after this, they were friendly in our lessons together and did the work I assigned them. Through every chaotic situation I found myself in, I challenged myself to remain empathetic. Being relatively close in age to these students, I remember how painful being a teenager could be. While it was no excuse for their rude behavior, I didn’t want to l

Exploring the south of Spain
Exploring the south of Spain

What was your favorite part of the day? Why?”

 “I had one class per day with Sara, and it was always something I looked forward to it. She is someone who I admire both as a teacher and a person. I can tell simply by the way that we worked together that she prioritizes the wellbeing of her students above anything. I definitely had to put the most work into her classes; she expected me to create lessons that filled up the entire 50-minute class time. However, she was always clear about what she wanted from me and what worked best with specific groups of students.

If something I was doing wasn’t working, she wasn’t afraid to tell me, and she was also excited to incorporate my ideas into her classroom. While I took on the most active teaching role when I was in the room with her, she provided support with translation and classroom management. I didn’t feel as if I was sinking. As a result, I formed the closest bonds with her classes. I credit her for my growth as a teacher and strengthening my self-confidence and ability to work independently.”

How was material taught to students? Was there a specific method used?”

“As I touched upon before, the way I worked with students all depended upon the teacher. However, there are some similarities across the board too. All the teachers I worked with based their lessons heavily upon the book. They sometimes even spend the entire class doing activities straight from it. I was expected to follow this book-centric method as well. Some expected me to act in a similar way as they might run their class. One teacher would give me a series of pages, allowing me to decide how I would teach them. Another would have me hold conversations using a set of questions that came with the lesson the students were working on. The other two teachers based their requests for my lessons from the book, but allowed me to develop my own means of teaching it. This involved A LOT of English PowerPoints!”

How did you prepare your lessons for each class? If you didn’t plan lessons, how did you prepare for class?”

“Again, lots of PowerPoints. I made them nearly every night of the week. Sara would always give me details about what she’d like in my lessons and feedback about how everything was working. Lesson planning for her became formulaic. I would find a way to incorporate the vocabulary and grammar topics she gave me, while having speaking questions or interactive segments (such as videos) every few slides. This kept the students engaged. Then, I would develop a project involving written, practical English, such as making a schedule or a menu. If something really missed the mark, we would turn it into a game: these kids LOVED anything competitive!

Other teachers weren’t as communicative about what their classes were working on. I had a copy of each grade level book that I shared with the other language assistant, and these became my saving grace. I would keep myself updated on what lesson each class was on, read through materials in the book, and develop quick activities and games based around them. This had its challenges: one teacher in particular would spend months longer than the others on lessons and wanted me to only be working on grammar with his students. I could only make the present perfect tense interesting in so many ways! I would start each new lesson in his class with a PowerPoint explaining the concept. Then, the next few weeks would focus on exercises. Once they got the hang of this, I would give them small writing and speaking assignments that incorporated the grammar topic.”

Eclectic street art in Madrid
Eclectic street art in Madrid

What did working at a non-bilingual school mean to you? What did that mean according to the Community of Madrid?”

 “This means that the only English instruction students receive is through their mandatory English classes. This is opposed to a bilingual school, in which other subjects will be taught in English as well.

Along with being non-bilingual, my school was in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Community of Madrid. Typically, this would have been an environment where I would have loved to work. One of my goals when coming to Madrid was to get involved in the community in a way that would leave a positive impact. I really hope that I was this for my students. Through conversational lessons, I learned about some of their backgrounds: many were the first generation of their family to attend school in Spain. They were excited to speak to me about their home countries and hear about the US from me as well. Cultural exchange was a wonderful way for us all to get to know one another.

However, I also believe that my school being non-bilingual contributed to some of the lapses in communication I have described. I admire the English department head at my school as a teacher. She is engaging and all of the students respect her. However, she was also spread thin across many roles, including as the head of the language assistant program. Since she often had something else she needed to be doing, we rarely had time to speak.”

What standards did your classroom teachers use to measure the performance of their students?”

“Students’ English skills were measured in four categories: speaking, reading, writing, and practical English. With this in mind, I tried to incorporate a little of each into my lessons. For example, even if a teacher wanted me to specifically work on grammar with students, I would have students incorporate what they learned into a writing or speaking exercise. That way, they could use what they were being taught in a practical way, while getting to practice other skill sets too.”

To what extent did your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills help their students succeed?”

“Not that I’m aware of. I never heard of the national standardized English exams that other language assistant friends helped their students prepare for mentioned by teachers or students at my school. The English level at my school was quite low. I always tried to remain patient and positive with my students. I could always tap into being encouraging as a resource when others weren’t available.”

“What have you learned about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out? What has changed since our last interview?”

“I’ve learned just how resilient I am. If someone had told me that I would feel comfortable teaching English with little-to-no guidance (Sara not included) or prior experience, I would have laughed. I spent most of my first month as a language assistant terrified that I would let my students down. When asking for support backfired, I wondered if I was indeed the problem, even as I thrived working collaboratively with Sara. It was a lonely state of mind.

While there is a lot that I wish was different about my relationship with my school, I wouldn’t exchange what I gained from it for anything. At the end of the day, I continued to try my best for the students. After all, I had taken the risk of asking the department head for more support because of my concern for them. Little moments such as a troublemaker being excited about writing about rap music in English, or the past simple tense really making sense to a girl who had been struggling made it all worth it.

Personally, I’ve become more at ease with public speaking and working independently. These are two things that the perfectionist in me would have panicked about a year ago. Meanwhile, I’ve gained confidence. This is something I would never have expected to happen while working at a secondary school. This is only compounded, as I still don’t like to think about my own high school experience.

Each week, I became more comfortable with letting my genuine personality shine, and my students reacted well. When I showed enthusiasm in the classroom despite less than ideal circumstances, they gave it to me in return. As for me, if I could continue to give it my all until the very last day despite such roadblocks, I believe that I am ready to face any future challenges that I will meet.”

to the light art

Despite a lack of support from many staff members, different expectations in all of her classrooms, and a generally low level of English at her non-bilingual secondary school on the outskirts of Madrid, Ellen found a way to persevere and make a meaningful impact teaching English to her students. Even though circumstances weren’t ideal, she did what any good teacher would do – she focused on her students. I’m sure they are better off for having known her. I hope other teachers going abroad to teach English will be better off for knowing her story, too. Stay posted for further updates as Ellen joins us as a blogger starting this fall.

*Names have been changed.

by Emma Schultz

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!

The Art of Slowing Down

It’s no secret for those who know me that I have lived my life at a very fast pace. I’m a typical Type-A American with a 20-year plan. I like my life to be organized, prepped, and planned right down to each minute detail. So if you know these things about me, and you know anything about Spain, you might imagine (correctly) that my adjustment to life here was a little bit challenging. The picture above is from my college graduation, May 22, 2016.

Adjusting with Each Step

Although I’ve lived my life in a few different places and needed to adjust my way of going about things with each move, I’ve almost always managed to maintain my pace. Even if the world around me was moving a little slower, I sped up. I buzzed past everyone around me, always keeping my eye on my end goals. And in the U.S., this worked really well for me. I was always perceived as hard-working, goal-oriented, and productive.

This time last year, I graduated from college, finishing the busiest four years of my life. Each day of my time as an undergraduate presented a new challenge, and my to-do list never ended. As much as I participated in the American cultural tradition of complaining about how much I had to do, I loved it. When my calendar was full, I often thrived.

Teaching English and More

When I moved to Spain to start teaching English, all of that changed for me. The truth is, I had a lot less to do. And that was very difficult for me. I did my best to fill my schedule as I had always done. I got a second job, starting taking Spanish classes, and planned lots of trips. But I still found myself with an almost overwhelming amount of free time compared to my recent college days. And I struggled to feel like I was doing enough with my time.

students in spain

Over the course of the now nine-and-a-half months that I’ve been in Spain, I’ve realized that this is the first place I’ve lived where the world around me won’t adapt to the pace I set. This has been challenging, frustrating, and sometimes anxiety-inducing for me. But the Spanish pace has forced me to slow down and live more in the present – even when I didn’t want to. And doing so has helped me grow and come to know myself better than I ever have before.

Slowing Down and Spending Time Intentionally

I notice the things around me more than I used to, and I’ve started spending my time more intentionally. Now I feel free to spend a few hours at dinner instead of one, and I don’t see a day spent in the park as wasted time. Someday when I leave Spain, my pace will need to change again. But I’ll be grateful that I can take this lesson with me: slowing down isn’t always a bad thing.

 

the art of slowing down

by Emma Schultz

Teaching Private Lessons and Setting Goals

by Leesa Truesdell

“I WOULD RATHER DIE OF PASSION THAN OF BOREDOM.” – VINCENT VAN GOGH

In my second interview with Sam Loduca, I immediately noticed a change in her. Check out her first interview about why she enjoys European culture. The holidays passed and she was more determined than ever. When we initially spoke, she had objectives. However, she had not clearly outlined her cultural immersion goals in Spain. This meeting was different because Sam talked to me about her future.

In our initial meeting, I remembered her saying what she thought teaching would be like: “I am taking the approach of not thinking what teaching will be like. I am not setting expectations for myself.” Keeping this approach in mind, Sam is well into her second semester at her school. She told me that she is returning for another year because she is not ready to leave. She loves what she is doing at her school and she adores the culture and her life in Spain!

Sam is implementing her goals according to a weekly timeline. For example, her primary goal is to learn Spanish. Since January she has enrolled in two Spanish classes with an additional speaking activity per week. Additionally, she made plans with a group of Spanish friends to have lunch/dinner or attend an intercambio. An intercambio is a group language exchange where native Spanish and native English speakers go to converse in the language they are trying to learn. For example, Sam attends so she can practice her Spanish and in exchange, she speaks English half of the time with a native Spanish speaker.

Sam Finds Balance

Beyond this, Sam has created the opportunity to teach private lessons to a group of fourth-grade students each week. While teaching, her school requires her to speak Spanish to correct the student that needs assistance with an explanation. Sam’s private lessons are providing her with additional cultural immersion and Spanish practice while teaching English.

Sam’s goals are crystal clear and she is thriving! She mentioned in her first interview that she is most content when she is learning. Sam created a lifestyle where she feels happy and challenged while also seeing friends and socializing. It appears as if she has found balance.

Meet Sam, the culture seeker:

What is a typical day at your school like?

“It’s really interesting and exciting working at my school because we work with all the different grades and a lot of different teachers! This allows us to have great relationships with everyone throughout the school.”

How many people do you work with (auxiliars included) and how many classes do you teach?

“The first semester I worked with two other auxiliars, but our school was looking for another one to join the team. This second semester there are four of us. I work with about nine teachers from all different grade levels. I have worked with almost every class in primaria, however, currently, I work with about 12 different classes and teach a total of 21 classes a week (I am mostly with fourth grade and have grades 1-4 currently).”

street in spain

Communication in the school and outside of school:

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

“Yes! I get along great with the other auxiliars and even teach private lessons for one of the teachers at the school.”

Are you forming bonds with students?

“Yes! This is probably my favorite part of the job! I have formed so many great relationships with students of all different ages and English levels. For example, I primarily work with 4th graders. I’m teaching private lessons with three of my fourth graders and it is amazing to get to know their families and be welcomed into their home.”

Does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships inside and outside of the classroom?

“Yes! We were welcomed to many different staff holiday parties and events. We are also included in various meetings to help ensure that our voices are heard within the school as well!”

How is material being taught to students?

“Material is mostly taught lecture-style, with a lot of interactive activities. The books that are used are great because they include a lot of review and fun activities to do with the students. We spend a lot of time doing these with the students. We also spend a lot of time taking a few students out one at a time and practicing general conversation skills with them.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you do not plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

teaching private lessons in spain“Lesson prep for classes is different depending on the teacher and the grade level. For first grade, I do a lot of prep with flashcards and posters and make things very visual. For older grades, I focus more on grammar prep and creating activities centered around conversation and listening.

Do you work at a bilingual school? What does that mean to you? What does that mean according to the Comunidad of Madrid?

“Yes, I work at a bilingual school. For me and the Comunidad of Madrid, a bilingual school means that the priority to learn English is very high. They are teaching the students all of the subjects in English except for Math and Spanish.”

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

“They use a lot of written exams to measure performance. There is not as much of a focus on homework grades as I remember there being in the United States. It’s much more of a big-picture focus to make sure that they really understand the concepts.”

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

“I think overall, yes. More meetings with the teachers could help us improve that all students and teachers are on the same page. I think they will try to incorporate that into this next semester.”

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

“I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that I really enjoy teaching and creating relationships with the students and teachers. Mostly, I have learned a lot about how to use time wisely. In my old role, I was constantly doing a thousand things at once, and I rarely had a minute of free time. In this position, there is a lot of self-directed down-time. You can choose to take a break, or you can choose to create lesson plans, organize student books, or research more information about the exams.

teaching private lessons books

I have learned that I can have more than one passion. I really enjoyed working in HR. This role could not be more different than that one, yet, I still realized that this is something that I am passionate about. Most importantly, I have learned to love a new culture. Every day — and I mean every day — I catch myself smiling on the way to work or on the way home from the Mercado. Don’t get me wrong, things still frustrate me, but it’s even a pleasant feeling to be frustrated here. The Spanish people have welcomed us into their culture with open arms and are constantly offering helping hands, advice, and language practice. I truly mean it when I say that I have found a home here and that every day I am striving to get more and more immersed in this culture that fascinates me so much!”

What are your new goals and/or modifications to previous goals for 2017?

“I am really hoping to improve my Spanish further. I am able to communicate and generally understand everything these days but know that I am not using the correct grammar. Before I leave, I would really like to improve this.

I would also like to focus on learning more about the exams that the students need to take. By learning more about what these contain, I will be able to better incorporate these objectives into my lesson plans and class-led activities.

Finally, I am hoping to make more connections with locals. I already have a lot of friends, but I feel like I stopped reaching out and trying to meet new people the closer it got to the holidays. This, I would love to change.”

Catching up and learning about teaching private lessons and setting goals

Catching up with Sam made me realize how quickly time passes. She is doing extremely well and certainly is not wasting one minute of her time.

Sam plans to immerse herself even deeper into the culture as she completes this year and plans her next. She is taking her time finding a hobby she would like to try in Spanish. Part of Sam’s journey abroad is to find balance in her life; her imbalanced life in Chicago did not allow for her to even think about a hobby let alone participate in one.

“I would rather Die of Passion than of Boredom,” — Van Gogh

This quote was chosen by Sam to express her desire to go out and do something she loves rather than something that is comfortable. My favorite part of our interview was when Sam opened up and said, “ I would rather go out and do something risky because I love it and am passionate about it than play it safe to be comfortable.”

We cannot wait to see what the future holds for our enthusiastic culture seeker teaching private lessons in Spain. Join us to find out in a couple of months!