Posts Tagged ‘Asia’
I remember the feelings of terror just moments before departure and wondering if I was really as strong as I thought I was. I had said goodbye to me dearest family and friends the night before in what had been a week long party of last laughs, good luck wishes, and unbridled encouragement. At that point I had travelled abroad to Europe on vacation and Cuba to volunteer for 2 weeks but this time it was different. I was going to a land I had studied closely in college and had fascinated me since my teenage rebellion had led me to the stories of Che Guevara, Emiliano Zapata, and Salvador Allende. Latin America was a place that seemed as foreign as the moon and I was heading to Cordoba, Argentina for 6 months as an unpaid volunteer EFL teacher.
I was going out of frustration from lack of opportunity after college as the bad economy and “dime a dozen” Liberal Arts degree hadn’t given me the open-doors I was naive enough to believe in before graduation. My experience in Argentina was a volunteering opportunity I paid for out of my own pocket because I needed to feel as though I could make a difference no matter how minute or insignificant that difference was and at the very least find my niche. Best case scenario I wanted to change the world but at the very least feel as though I was part of the helplessly hopeful that get up everyday to try. I had my TEFL certification and teaching abroad seemed like a sensible step. My short lived career as a collections agent and medical records processer had frequently led me back to craigslist in search of something better. I started to realize fulfillment for me wasn’t just a job but having a sense of purpose as a contributing member of society. The need to be an important part of a tribe is essential to human wellness and while some find this playing poker, gathering at the local watering hole, or sharing a meal it is more difficult for others. I spent 6 months in Argentina teaching students from 5-14 years old.(Also partying too hard) I had found a suitable occupation for the time being and did some travelling to Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Chile, and Brazil. I was beginning to build a valuable skill set while confronting my immaturity and fear of adulthood. I wouldn’t be sure about my occupation choice entirely until after the next experience but I knew being abroad was just the experience I needed.
When I arrived home I knew I’d be off again but this time I had to get paid. Working for the sake of just teaching was great and all but I had college loans to pay and who knows maybe I’ll eventually need some cash for grad. school and an actual teaching certificate. This time I decided to part with my love of Latin America and looked toward Asia. Asia is the land of tomorrow deeply rooted in antiquity or some other extreme form of an oxymoron that I found to be true. I knew it’d be important toward my personal and educational experience to spend some time there. I was at first conflicted as to which country to teach in but I had narrowed it down to China and South Korea. While China is massive and emerging at the forefront of the world economy I decided to save it for a vacation in favor of South Korea. My choice really came down to the fact I knew a rather stunning beauty living in Seoul that I had met in Argentina. (I screwed that one up before it began but somehow managed to find a Peruvian girlfriend so managed to maintain some Spanish, more on that next time)
Fast forward after months of finding an agency ,job, placement, etc. and I’m in a small town near Suwon (satellite city of Seoul). After a lot of adjustment and misunderstanding during the first week I reckoned teaching 35 Korean students per class in public school was going to be entirely different than teaching 6 Argentine kids at their local community center. After many failures and exhausting efforts I was able to finally set a rhythm after our winter break. (Went to China,Vietnam, Thailand on vacation, gorgeous!!!) I was even beginning to enjoy my job and started eating kimchi on a daily basis. Argentina had been more about the cultural experience but for me Korea really gave me a lot of incite into my vocation. I became interested in improving my teaching ability and that is something that differs greatly between the volunteer and the working experience. My skillset expanded from simply writing and executing lesson plans to developing my own activities, explaining idioms, discipline, testing,etc.
I remember the first time I fell in love with my career choice as an ESL or *EFL teacher. I had assigned some creative writing to gather possible material for our school English newspaper. The assignment was intended to induce critical thinking in response to the question “What 3 Things Would You Want if You Were Stranded on a Desert Island?”. Many of my students gave the typical responses such as cellphones, candy, computers, videogames, etc. which were all with the intention they would eventually be rescued. One of my more quiet students had responded he would like to have seeds (to grow his own veggies), a water filter (so he could have drinking water and water for his veggies) , and a fishing pole (to of course get some protein). It hadn’t even ocurred to him that he needed to be rescued as he summed up the response with something like, ‘then I could live happily ever after.” I was in absolute awe of his creativity and I must remind you this was an 11 year old boy. When I asked him how he came up with his response he said he did a google search on survival and then told me his favorite activity to do with his Dad was fishing. There is something truly visceral the first time you see a child learn from you and it is an experience that lives with you forever. It becomes a good addiction and if you are someone who wants to feel good about something then I highly recommend considering teaching abroad as a possibility.
Look for another blog entry next month and a new youtube video to go with it.
*EFL=English as a Foreign Language
Many of us have referred to teaching English as ESL however this is starting to change as outdated techniques are being replaced with newer ones and changing from ESL to EFL is a way of escaping the stigmas of those philosophies.
-By: Nico Kulp