Speaking, writing, reading, and listening to English are much more challenging skills to teach when you’re in a country where your students may not be 100% immersed in it.
I grew up learning English by being immersed in it day in, and day out, but what if the only time your students are exposed to the English language is the 1 or 2 hours that they have with you in the classroom?
I truly believe that English Language teaching is my calling and purpose, and I envision many possibilities with this career path that I have chosen. You can drop me off anywhere in the world and I will try, with all of my heart, to teach or train in a conscious and socially just way where I am needed.
I also learned that if I continued to work immigrants, I would always be in a room full of people who may have gone through trauma and heavy life experiences. I wanted to figure out ways where I could implement peace building and human connection into English Language teaching.
I want to continue to create learning opportunities where people feel safe, validated, and loved.
The more that I’ve been posting about my lifestyle on social media, the more that I am getting the question of:
How do I move abroad and become an English Language teacher?
I would like to tell you a little bit about my path towards the TESOL world, how and why I do it, and what possibilities have come up for me.
What is TESOL?
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. There are also many other acronyms, such as TOEFL, ESL, ESOL, etc. etc. But the one I use the most in this blog post is “TESOL.”
My Life Experience as an Immigrant
My family made the move from the Philippines to the United States in the year of 2002, and I was nine years old. We needed to mold ourselves into the new culture in the United States, from changing how we dressed, moved our bodies, and to the very language that our tongues spoke.
I was the family member who was the most exposed in the “American” education system, and I was always there to help out my dad or sisters who needed more support with the language. From ordering food in the restaurant or having enough confidence to be in front of people, I often tried to learn about how to navigate situations that I needed to be out of my comfort zone from a very young age.
To this day, I still see and hear about the struggles that some of my family members experience. For example, some of them have been discriminated for the fact that they do not have the “American” accent, or that they can’t speak or listen fast enough.
When I hear these types of stories my heart seriously just gets heavier and I always think and wonder how these situations could become better.
Through the years we have all learned to take these situations a little lighter, and make jokes about it… but I still take these situations to heart because it matters.
My Undergraduate Degree
- English Literature with a Focus on Creative Writing
- Obtained from Roosevelt University, January 2012-May 2015
- I worked many odd + professional jobs + student loans throughout my four years to fund my undergraduate degree
I’m an avid reader and writer… and decided to pursue Creative Writing for my Bachelor’s Degree. I received a lot of backlash for this, for pursuing something that didn’t have a clear picture of stability and money coming in. Looking back, I understand now. Money means safety and stability, and the field I was placing myself in didn’t offer that. Studying Creative Writing and pursuing something that I love led me to studying abroad and dreaming about Travel Writing someday.
In order to be a writer with genuine content, you have to place yourself in spaces that no one else has really done before. It was during my undergraduate career that I studied abroad, and the more countries I visited, the more I wondered how I could KEEP DOING JUST THAT. How do I keep meeting people of the world? How can I do that for the rest of my life?
Language teaching is the answer.
When I came back from my travels abroad (13 countries and 33 cities), the emotions I could describe were: fucking depressed. I saw the world, its beauty, and I was able to see people’s hearts and really live life. Then I went back to school, where everyone was just attached to their phones and computer screens, and I felt like I was squeezing myself back into the box I had been in before. I went back to working 3 jobs and …
WAIT FOR IT…
I found an internship to work with refugees and immigrants at a local nonprofit in Chicago. I was given the honor to work with preschoolers from Iraq, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, the Congo, and many other countries.
The moment I entered the classroom and the time I had left, my heart was ALWAYS fulfilled with happiness. There were many moments that I said “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
To be able to connect with students who were refugees and immigrants was an honor I will always hold in my heart. I grew up with so much trauma and pain in my life, and being able to offer these beautiful people my time and some of my knowledge was a piece of offering I was glad to share with them.
Teaching English is a part of my healing process.
My Masters Degree
- Masters in TESOL with a Certificate in Conflict Transformation Hybrid
- Obtained from SIT Graduate Institute, June 2016- December 2017.
- I was an Resident Assistant + had 2 student work positions + student loans to fund this degree
My internship at World Relief Chicago and volunteer hours brought in no money. It was one of the most fulfilling “job” I ever had, but there were still a lot of puzzle pieces missing.
At the age of 23 I decided to make the huge jump to pursue my masters degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language because I was 150% sure it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I was scared shitless because this decision required me to move to Vermont, on a mountain in a rural area, and it meant that I STILL wouldn’t have money. I needed to take out student loans and invest the money I saved while working as a textbook editor at Discovery Channel.
I was scared, but I still went for it anyway. My life has completely transformed because I was challenged in EVERY SINGLE possible way- from relationships, being away from family, living in Thailand for 2 months, being an RA, holding different positions, overcoming my stage fright, etc. etc.
On the other side of these challenges was that I also met the most incredible people in my life, my MAT 48 cohort that I was able to live and learn with for one academic year.
From this masters program I learned theory, practice, and many other things… but the most valuable asset I truly believe I got from this experience was learning about all of the POSSIBILITIES in the TESOL world. My professors had been in the field for more than 40 years and have done amazing work with various organizations. They worked in refugee camps, did English Language consulting projects, presented in conferences yearly, etc. etc.
SIT TESOL Certification
- SIT TESOL Certificate
- Obtained from Centro Espiral Mana and World Learning, September 2017
More certifications! Hehe. After I finished my Masters program in Vermont I thought that I would be done with certifications for a while… but my current supervisor here in Costa Rica wanted me to go through the course before I began my official 6 month volunteer commitment.
The SIT TESOL certificate is recognized and respected around the world. This 130-hour program offers an introduction to learning theories, teaching methodology, and classroom management, with opportunities to work with actual students and receive feedback from our expert trainers. The program is equally rewarding for those with little or no teaching experience and for experienced teachers looking to upgrade their skills.
After going through this INTENSE program…I was like “I’m glad I went through that. Even after an intense one year masters degree program, there was still a whole LOT for me to learn as an individual and a professional.
For more information about the SIT TESOL Certificate program, please click here.
- Currently living in Chicago
- Teaching as an Adult English Educator with predominantly Latino Immigrants
The biggest question I have for myself, and the biggest question other people have for me is: WHAT NOW?
After all of these amazing, incredible, and transformative experiences, what next?
The TESOL world is open, and there are many countries to choose from. For now, I am focused on filling in my knowledge gaps, becoming a better teacher every day, and getting more teaching and training experiences whenever I can.
I want to continue to work hard and become a better individual and professional in any way that I possible can.
I am pausing, taking time to reflect, and making sure I’m healthy mentally and physically for my next assignment. It’s a secret for now but I’ll fill you guys in when it’s 150% official.
I know that all of this seems like a lot.
This was my path to the TESOL world and yours is most likely going to be very different.
Some people jump into the world of TESOL teaching through other means, such as moving to a different country and then finding a job there, or getting a TESOL certification and then deciding to volunteer with their local church or non profit. I meet teachers every day that come from different walks of life, and they all found their way to this profession in a different manner.
I believe that we all have different journeys, but once you’re in the world of TESOL, you meet such interesting professionals and there’s never a dull moment.
Do you have any further questions about diving into the TESOL world?
Comment below, or send me an e-mail through firstname.lastname@example.org!