School’s Out Forever – What’s Next?

Hey everyone, it’s been a while. The past 6 months have been a whirlwind, leaving me with little time to focus on blogging. But now I’m back and ready to provide some updates.

The last time I posted on A Girl and Her Visa, I was finishing up my first year in Brussels, so excited to go home for the holidays. At the time, I was interning with Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT) in Brussels, a job that required lots of writing. I could feel myself getting a bit burnt out and I decided to take a break from the blog before writing started to feel like a chore, rather than a creative outlet. Now that my life is calming down a bit, I finally feel like I have a chance to do my adventures justice – so here we go.

I spent the second half of December in the U.S. with my family. We started off by visiting my family in New Orleans (rest assured, we stopped at Pat O’s several times) and made it back to Cincinnati by Christmas. Although I had to work on my final papers, it was such a relief to be back with family and friends after a year away.

In February, I returned to Brussels to work on my dissertation. During this time, I also accepted my current job as Program Coordinator of the American Cultural Ambassadors Program (ACA), in which I participated the past two summers. Although the days were long while I worked on these two projects, I made sure not to waste my last few months in Europe. Work hard, play hard – am I right?

In February, I met my friend Sage in Athens for a long weekend. Fun fact – although Sage is American and went to college a few hours from me, we have yet to hang out in the U.S. We met in China last summer and decided to reunite in Greece. Yay for friends who like to travel! Two weeks after Athens, I went to Rome with some friends to see one of their cousins perform in a touring dance company. Rome was as I expected – impressive and full of great food.

March 15th was the long awaited due date for my dissertation. In celebration of both my dissertation’s completion and my roommate’s wedding, a big group of us went to Spain and Portugal for a week. I absolutely fell in love with Sevilla and the Portuguese coast. I’ll be writing a blog post completely dedicated to this trip, as it was one of my favorites.

A couple weeks after Spain, my dad came to visit for eleven full days of travel. Last time he visited, we tackled Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. This time, we decided to go a different direction and made our way through Prague, Budapest, and Krakow. This trip, once again, deserves its own post.

After some difficult goodbyes, I left Brussels and returned to the U.S. to work on ACA and wait for my Chinese work visa to process. It was so nice getting to live in Cincinnati as an adult with some of my favorite people in the world. But obviously I couldn’t stay in one spot for the whole two months. In May, my dad and I went down to Florida for my brother’s track meet (go Robby!) and visited my cousin who works at Disney World. My inner child came out for a few days while we rode roller coasters, met princesses, and visited Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. If you want to get an embarrassing story out of me, ask about the Avatar ride in Disney.

But after two wonderful months at home, it was time to leave again. I flew to China the day I received my visa and immediately started working; as usual, my exit was spontaneous and a little chaotic. But hey, that’s what makes life exciting, right?

Currently, I am traveling around the Zhejiang Province, managing a group of American college students as they teach English at Chinese summer camps. I’ll be spending the summer here, teaching and working on ACA until the end of August. From there, I’ll be starting a new life in Taiwan as a full-time English teacher!

Now do you see why I’ve had no time to write?

More updates to come!

– Christine

 

Is Teaching English in a Foreign Country Ethical?

Over the past few years, as I’ve gotten more involved in the world of teaching English, I’ve wondered if it’s ethical to teach English in foreign countries. Am I imposing my culture on someone else? How is this different than some of the practices of cultural imperialists? These are all things I considered while taking Anthropology courses and considering the Peace Corps during undergrad. In order to find answers, I spoke with former Peace Corps volunteers and decided to go to China for a month to teach for the first time. The answer to this question? Well, there is no exact answer. But I do believe that teaching can be done in a way that truly helps people live and work in this globalized world, without undermining their native language and culture.

English is becoming the new global language. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing. It just is what it is. In almost every tourist city to which I’ve traveled, English is the bridge between locals and people visiting from all over the world. Chances are, most tourists you meet in Czech Republic, for example, probably don’t speak Czech. But they might speak English, allowing them to get around, order food, and read signs while traveling. Additionally, most job advertisements working internationally require applicants to speak at least some English. Without a basic understanding of the language, the job pool shrinks tremendously.

Having seen the necessity of English in traveling, working, and general social settings, I know that by helping others learn the language, I am helping to expand their opportunities in life. This does not mean that the English language is superior and that you should not make an effort to learn local languages. If you are living and teaching in a foreign country, you must respect that culture, do your best to learn their language, and never ever impose your ways on your students. But language is a gift, and if you can give someone a gift that can open countless doors for them, then I believe it is absolutely ethical. So whether your native language is English, Japanese, Portuguese, or Mandarin (all of the languages in my apartment), take the opportunity to teach! Not only is it rewarding for you as a teacher, but all of your students will have access to a brand new culture and a world of opportunities.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinion.

A Practical Guide to Finding Jobs Teaching English

Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to learn about new cultures while still making money? Do you want to have an impact on the next generation? If so, teaching English may be for you.

Personally, I never thought that I wanted to be a teacher. After all, I was interested in politics and travel, and until last year, I never knew that teaching could be the key to pursuing these interests. As a native English speaker (or even a non-native speaker with fluency), the possibilities for teaching English are endless. With the number of people seeking to learn the language for social and economic reasons, the market is growing at an enormous speed. There are jobs available on every continent and unlike other fields (including mine), businesses and schools are actually competing for teachers rather than the other way around. Whether you have a teaching certification or not, there is a place for you to start. Let’s talk about some of your options.

Getting started: obtaining a certification

Types of certifications: ESL, EFL, TEFL, TEFOL, CELTA

A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of websites offering online courses for obtaining your certification. However, some of these can be pretty pricey. One way to get a discounted (or even free) certification is to find a program that provides your certification in exchange for volunteer teaching. The company through which I received my TEFL certification is called Angloville, which offers a TEFL Scholarship to anyone who completes an online course and three programs with them. The online course was quick and easy and the programs allow you to go to Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, or Hungary for a few weeks with free room and board. If you don’t have classroom experience, don’t worry. Angloville programs simply involve speaking with non-native speakers to improve their English. It’s fun and you make lots of interesting friends.

While this is an exciting option, it’s not possible for everyone to take three weeks and travel to Europe. In this case, there are many options online or within the U.S. You might even have a center in your area. Although a certification isn’t necessary for all English jobs, it certainly increases your chances of finding a job you love.

Government Programs

Governments understand the importance of knowing English in the 21st century. As a result, many have created their own programs that place teachers in schools around their country. Some of the most well known are:

The only downside to these programs is that they tend to pay less than other options.

Placement Companies

There are now countless organizations that accept applications for placement in private learning centers or in schools. Many of these programs offer large benefit packages like free visas, vacation time, language classes, and housing assistance. Some even offer free flights. Here are a few that I’ve looked into:

Independent Search 

There are many websites that exist to help you find the perfect teaching job. A few favorites include Dave’s ESL Cafe, EL Gazette, and TEFL.com.  Although you can find great opportunities on these websites, you also need to watch out for scams. I have heard stories of people arriving in a new country to teach and not receiving the housing they were promised or not getting paid for months. If this worries you, you may be better off with a more structured program like those sponsored by governments or company placement.

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With all of these programs, it is important to do lots of research before committing. Read reviews, talk to current teachers, and compare benefits. Moving across the world to teach isn’t for everyone so really consider all options before signing a year-long contract. Whether you teach for a few years or for a lifetime, it can be an incredible way to see the world, learn about new cultures, and ultimately, change the lives of others.

Check out some pictures from my experiences teaching children in China and adults in Poland. And stay tuned for a post all about teaching English online!