Becoming an ESL Teacher Abroad: Final Weekend

The in class portion of the ESL certification has flown by quickly. Before I knew it, the final weekend came and passed. It seemed like only yesterday we were awkwardly sitting seats surrounded by strangers.

Day 5

Saturday, we spent time going over extra material that will be covered in the online portion and how to incorporate reading exercises into the classroom. There are so many ways to incorporate this aspect. An easy way which incorporates several learning styles is through fill in the blanks tied to a song.

An easy way to do this is take a popular, clean song, write out the lyrics, and leave some words out. Play the song and have them fill in the blanks. This gets them to listen to the lyrics, hear how words are pronounced, they see words, and they’re writing the words down.

Songs are great when teaching another language. You can use them to make kids remember tricks or important aspects easily. The song ingrains a tune into the kids heads and makes the topic easy to remember. Some good songs you might use with younger kids would be YMCA and Head Shoulders Knees and Toes.

After completing our book work, we focused on student practicums. About half the class presented that day which made Sunday go by quickly. All of the practicums were great! Each person had a different teaching style yet all were interesting.

When someone is in the front of the classroom, you see more of who they are and how they approach topics. Some are very game oriented. Some are presentation oriented. Some are movement oriented.

There are different ways to approach your class and that is what this course has focused on. It depends on who your students are and how they learn. You need to be able to recognize different learning styles so you can provide your students with the most prosperous environment to learn in.

Day 6

Class went by quickly since so several people were absent and we were only presenting our practicums. In the morning, we brought in foods for a potluck and chowed down all day running straight through lunch. There was so much food and it all tasted great.

We did have a new student. She had taken most of her classes at a different location, but missed the last day. In order to make this up, she came to our class to complete her final day and the in-class portion of the course. We all wish she was there from the beginning because it was so much fun.

When it comes to missing classes, Oxford Seminars is strict. If you miss one day or are late by four hours, you have to retake the rest of that course from the day you missed to the last day at another time. This ensures that students complete all of the course material and don’t skimp on their hours.

The practicums were all neat and there were several fun activities. When you watch other people teach you learn so much about them. Take for example the Indian lady in our classroom. She is very philosophical and seems to talk down a bit to other people. It’s not that she’s trying to be mean or anything, but it’s because she’s used to working with little kids and making sure they understand everything she says. This was apparent when she presented her practicum. It was targeted to young kids, about five years old, and she hit that age group spot on. She does great for that age group, but the adults might be a bit harder if she ever tackled them.

Things like these makes you realize the difference in teachers and how they teach various age groups. Some of them are great with little kids and others are fantastic with adults. It depends on the teacher and what they’re comfortable with. Most likely, I’ll lean towards the middle to elder group.

After presenting all of our practicums, we were given our final book for the online grammar portion and our certificate for the completion of 60 hours. It’s exciting! On top of that, the online portion was finally opened up to us by the end of the day.

 

End of 3rd Weekend

The in-class portion for the TEFL/TESOL/TESL certification is by far the best. It’s a great way to learn a mass amount of information in a lot of time. What’s even better, is that you present a practicum in person. This is good, because you get feed back on your presentation and you get some practice in front of a classroom.

Most online courses don’t have you present a practicum or go as in-dept

 

h into information as Oxford Seminars. Having all of this material at hand plus getting to meet some great people has been an eye opener.

If you’re ever wondering what certification to go for while working a full time job, this is the one to check out if you’re ready to travel!

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Homemade Pizza Bites

When my Dad didn’t know what to cook he would grab whatever we had in the kitchen and start cooking. Often times, we had the ingredients to make little pizzas. He would take some French bread, a can of Rotel tomatoes, and some other goodies and whip it up. It was quick and easy.

In college, I tended to default to this recipe. It was cheap and great for my budget. There were times I didn’t have French bread so I had to come up with an alternative. I used biscuits instead of the bread and it was great. Whenever my work or class had a potluck I made these bites and everyone loved them!

You can make these with or without meat so they’re great for vegetarians. The pictures in this recipe are for a group of about 20 people. If you want it for fewer you can cut everything in half.

Ingredients:

2 Cans of biscuits
2 Cans of Rotel Tomatoes (choose your level of spice)
1 pkg of lunch meat (turkey, chicken, or ham)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Black Pepper
Basil
Oregano
Parsley
Greek seasoning
Italian seasoning
1 pkg of Mozzarella cheese

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven according to biscuit directions and follow that for cooking the biscuits. IMG_4841
  2. Once the biscuits are cooked, turn the oven down to 350 F. Cut the biscuits in half and lay them flat on the trays. (If you burned the bottom like I’ve done quite a few times try scrapping the burnt part off with a knife or grater.) Pizza Bites 2
  3. Open the cans of Rotel and drain the juice. Evenly divide the contents of cans over the biscuits.
  4. Apply according to your taste the seasonings mentioned above. Pizza Bites 3
  5. Spread the meat out on top of the biscuits. You can put as little or as much as you want. If you’re vegetarian, you can leave this step out. Pizza Bites 4
  6. Place the Mozzarella cheese on top. 1 package is good, but if you’re a cheese lover you might want to get a second. IMG_3828
  7. Top it all off with some more basil and oregano.
  8. Stick it in the oven for 4 minutes (until the cheese is soft).
  9. Broil the biscuits for about 3 min 30 sec (give or take depending on your oven). Make sure to take them out before they burn. IMG_3835
  10. Serve on a plate and enjoy!

 

 

Flare Up the Jambalaya!

Jambalaya is a great dish to serve a party. It’s easy to make enough for everyone, it’s spicy, and guests will love the flavor! Normally, I just pick up a box of jambalaya mix and add some sausage. But after trying a recipe on Yummly, I can’t do that anymore.

The recipe on here is a twist on the Yummly recipe. I’m attaching a link so that you can go to it if you’d like (1-2-3 Jambalaya). Last time I cooked up this dish, I seemed to be running out of a lot of things, so I made do with what I had. Here is what I used and it turned out great!

Ingredients:

1 package of Andouille Sausage
1 tomato
1 box of family size Jambalaya (I used Zataran’s)
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Cajun Seasoning

Preparing:

  1. Cut up the andouille sausage and cook it in a pan.IMG_4470 (1)
  2. While the sausage is cooking, dice up the tomato. IMG_4471 (1)
  3. Take a large skillet and start cooking the jambalaya according to the box. IMG_4473
  4. When the water starts to boil, add in the seasonings to your taste, andouille sausage, and tomato. IMG_4475
  5. Continue cooking according to the directions on the box. IMG_4474 (1)
  6. Once it’s all done, put it into a bowl and enjoy!

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Make the Leap: My First Solo Trip to Europe

I was stuck in a dead end job where I wasn’t going to get switched from temp to permanent employee. The company I was working for continually worked under the table, were lazy with FDA regulations, and many of the people were terrible. How can you honestly make us wear skimpy dresses with high heels to wash medical sets?

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When it seemed there was no end in sight, I decided to start looking for other jobs. I found a website where I could go intern in Scotland and create a travel guide with a group of people. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get into travel writing.

I sent over my information and applied. I got in!

The trip would be 3 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland. I would fly over, meet one of the employees, and live with people I didn’t know while working on the project.

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The idea of traveling alone didn’t scare me. The thought of living with people I didn’t know worried me. I was nervous about how we would all work together since I had terrible experiences living with others in college.

When it was time to get ready to head to Scotland, my work suddenly came to the epiphany to hire me on full time. I was fortunate to have a boss that loved me and I loved her. She’s been the most inspiring person I’ve met in ages. She worked out a deal with the owner which allowed me to leave for the 3 weeks in Scotland and come back to a job.

I was so relieved. Before, I was going to make my trip my going out tribute.

September came and I boarded the flight to Scotland. Yes, I over packed. I always do, because I like to be over prepared. I was ready for the cold weather and lots of sweaters!

Now a lot of people would be scared to go alone, but I was ready. It was an adrenaline rush for me. It’s one of the few times I felt truly like myself. I was happy.

Arrival in Edinburgh, Scotland

When I landed it took a bit to find the employee that was supposed to guide me to my apartments. I had no cellphone (I refused to pay the international fees), the payphone wasn’t working, and I couldn’t connect to the internet to send an email.

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Eventually, he found me and we boarded the bus and headed into Edinburgh. I still remember signs along the streets saying how wonderful Hillary Clinton was. It’s funny what kind of information they got, because she was anything but wonderful.

The apartment wasn’t ready, so I had to go over to a coffee shop and wait a few hours. I felt like a red dot in the middle of the city. I stood out with my large suitcase, backpack, and roaming around the streets.

I stopped in at a place called Cafe Noir. I got some mocha coffee and a blueberry scone! Oh my gosh, the scone was amazing! I got to working on some travel writing (which I still haven’t published from that time). People stared at me like I was weird. I tried not to pay attention, but it got a bit under my skin.

When I was finally able to get in to the apartment I remember being hit with the smell of Ramen noodles. There must have been some young people living in the place before us. The cleaning crew was supposed to have gone through the apartment, but the beds were still unmade, the floor hadn’t been swept, and it was in slight disarray.

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I set my bags up in the kitchen since I didn’t know the room assignments and got ready to head out. As I was leaving, one of my roommates showed up. She was a young woman from Mexico.

We decided to go out and hit up the town. There was no way we were staying in. I knew if I did I would fall asleep and not wake up. It would be harder to to overcome the jet lag.

 

Exploring New Places

Exploring Edinburgh was amazing. We went up to the castle, tasted whisky, and roamed the streets of the Old Town. It was a sight for sore eyes. I felt calm and adventurous.

Over the next three weeks, there was a lot of work, research, writing, and exploring. A lot of time was spent with the group, but we were also able to go out on our own for our individual projects.

Other people wanted to stay in groups the entire time, but I wanted to go out on my own. Fortunately, a lot of my other roommates were the same. I was thankful, because they understood! It wasn’t them I was staying away from; I just wanted to do my own thing.

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I got to go explore the closes, dark streets, and interesting parts of the city. There was so much to see! Not everyone goes off the beaten path, and they miss the beauty of the city for what it truly is. I wasn’t restricted to what other people wanted to do. I could take my time and do what I wanted. There was no waiting around and wasting time figuring out what to do next. I just went!

There were times I got stuck in the rain and times I sat on a bench in a quiet courtyard writing. It felt like the whole world was at my feet. I remember walking across the North Bridge on my way back from the Old Town. It started to mist and then the rain came pouring. The umbrella was useless. Rain came in sideways, and I was tired of having to lift my umbrella up so as not to hit everyone.

Finally, I just put up the umbrella and went without. I slowly got soaked, but I was happy. I looked out over Princes Street Gardens and Calton Hill and felt as if I could take my sweet time. Except my stomach was growling. I had to get some food.

New Foods

Crepe Stand 1I stopped at a crepe stand in Princes Street Gardens and completely devoured a chocolate banana crepe. I had missed them so much since my visit to Paris years before. It was freshly cooked and warm in my stomach. A cold was eminent in the weather, but I didn’t care. I felt cozy and comfortable.

The crepes weren’t the only thing I became addicted to. I devoured all sorts of good treats and new foods. There were cupcakes, macaroons, haggis, and baguettes.

 

Haggis isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. It’s like a bland version of boudin (great Louisiana dish). If you tie it with some mashed potatoes you’re golden. If you want to eat at home for the night and still try it just pick some up at the grocery store. I did that a couple of times.IMG_1855 (2)

Two things I always picked up from the store were baguettes and custard. In Texas, we have crappy “custard” and it’s nothing like what you get in Scotland. My roommates thought I was crazy for eating them all the time, but they didn’t care. That’s what was so wonderful about traveling on my own. They didn’t care about me trying new things, and I was able to be a fatty! I was walking everywhere so the calories were being burned at least somewhat.

Little Trips

One day, I decided to head out and go to Rolsin to see the famous Rosslyn Chapel. It was featured in the movie The Da Vinci Code. I had no idea it was in Scotland until I was looking for places to go check out.

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It was a bit daunting at first getting there. Coming from Texas, I wasn’t used to taking the bus. We all get around via cars. The bus was cheaper though.

I remember one of my stops being in the middle of the country. There was the lone highway and a little place to sit. People watched me as I waited for the next bus. Not gonna lie, it was awkward yet peacefully quiet. I was still a bit nervous that the bus which was supposed to come wouldn’t show up.

It took some time, but finally it did and I made my way to the next stop, Roslin.

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Roslin is something out of a picturesque retirement book. The town is situated out in the countryside with soft rolling hills and it’s quiet everywhere you go. There are flowers arranged here and there. The houses are quaint. I loved it.

I walked down the small roadway towards the chapel. I paid the fee, and went inside to see what it was really like. I wasn’t let down; though, I will admit it was significantly smaller than I imagined.

Since I didn’t have to take care of anyone else while seeing it I got to take my time. After looking around, I decided to check out the cemetery.

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Okay, call me weird, but cemeteries are extremely peaceful! This one had unique tombstones and the grass was luscious green. I wanted to touch it and roll all around…. I did. It was completely worth it!

I laid there and looked up at the bright blue sky with a few scattered clouds. I was alone with my thoughts. Everything inside my head slowed down and I was able to take a full breath. I wanted to stay there for the rest of the day.

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There was a trail beside the cemetery which I decided to investigate. It led me down to a small bridge and cottage. It was something out of a fairy tale. The cottage was on private property, so I made sure to stay off of it. But I later found out that people can rent the cottage for a small fee. Sign me up!

If I had other people with me, I wouldn’t be able to do all of that. I would have had to sit and wait for them to figure out what they wanted and didn’t want to do. Wait for them to catch up to me, and so much more that I didn’t want to deal with.

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I got away from technology. I was unreachable! There was no cellphone service, no internet access, and no one calling me.

More people need to get away from technology and take in what’s around them. I was finally able to ground myself again.

I can’t tell you the last time I felt more like myself. I knew who I was, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go.

Taking the break away from the hectic work life, technology, and people enables you to re-gather yourself. Everyone needs to do it once in awhile.

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Meeting New People

When roaming around a new country alone, people are more willing to come up and talk to you. They can spot you’re a foreigner from a mile away. These people can either be good or bad so use your intuition. But the good ones make your trip worthwhile.

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I met several people besides my roommates over in Scotland that I still remember to this day. There was an old man who stopped to talk to me as I was admiring a statue of the Polish bear. He told me the story behind it and why it was important to the people of Scotland.

There was also a lady I met at the bus stop. She was old and her skin was covered in blotches. I let her take my seat, and she started to tell me about her children and her life. She had been all over the world with her family. Now her kids are scattered as well. One is a lawyer and another a doctor. She told me about her time in South Africa and her times in other places. She was absolutely fascinating.

Oddly enough, there was a man I met who had visited Austin a couple times. If there’s one thing about traveling, it’s you never know who you’ll meet. There are other explorers out there, and they have a story to tell along with yours.

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Over the course of the three weeks, I learned more about different cultures, things to do and see in the area, made some great friends, and found myself again.

Traveling alone is not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace!

 

 

 

 

Becoming an ESL Teacher Abroad: 2nd Weekend of Classes

The second weekend of classes went well. We continued to learn about various methods of activities, what makes a good teacher, lesson planning, and classroom management. All of the activities we’ve done so far have been great for the most part.

Now that everyone is becoming comfortable with each other personalities are coming out. We’ve found our class clown (clowns in this case), the quiet students, the over achiever, the “hipster don’t cares,” the jock, and all the normal stereotypes. Yes, I said stereotypes but this isn’t a bad thing! It’s just a way of classifying people and giving the reader a better understanding of the classroom.

Stereotypes

Speaking of stereotypes… One thing I would like to openly discuss on this post is the over use of political correctness (PC). There are times and places for PC, but some people have taken it too far these days. It’s beginning to interfere with learning processes and hinders students when too much time is spent debating the political correctness of a word.

During one of our class discussions we talked about masculine, feminine, and gender neutral words. This is something most people have dealt with when learning another language. One of the girls spoke out and said that it’s sexist to classify terms like that, and we shouldn’t be using that kind of language when we teach. She had no idea how we would modify it to help the students, but claimed we needed to take out those words. Doing that would result in teachers not being able to provide a good reason as to why the same word is altered when used in different situations.

Let’s use French as an example. The word “content” in french is the same as our language with a little difference. The version used in the prior sentence is the masculine form in French. They use this when saying the man is content or using a masculine noun in general. When describing a woman, they add an “e” at the end. This is a subtle difference but one of the rules in French. There are the select words which are gender neutral: words that are spelled the same whether it’s for a man or a woman. The classification helps the students differentiate between the two versions of the word and when to use them. It’s not meant to be sexist. It’s meant to be helpful and classify things so that they are easier to explain and understand.

Spending time on PC is a waste in the classroom and takes away from the productivity of the students. Teachers should focus on teaching the students as much as possible about the language. They only have a short amount of time as it is and it needs to be well spent.

Lesson Planning

This is something I’ve been nervous about and still am. Lesson planning can be as detailed as you want it to be. Depending on your school you could be required to turn something in every week or present it to your boss during a class observance. Needless to say, these are a great tool for beginning teachers.

Having the lesson plans laid out for the week is a great idea, but there’s got to be room for flexibility. For the most part, the flexibility part seems easy, but then there are times when the teacher can be too flexible.

Part of our practicum during the final weekend is building a lesson plan and presenting the lesson. We get to choose any topic we want as long as it relates to teaching the English language. Creating the lesson seems to be decent, but the presenting part is going to be intimidating. For some people, like me, I get nervous in front of people. I’m better when I know I’m helping them and teaching them something new, but if I’m teaching them something they already know… that’s a different matter. I will update you on the results after this coming weekend.

Classroom Management

This is something quite a few teachers have trouble with. If you don’t establish rules within the first few days, you’re basically screwed unless you get a magically perfect class. Children sense fear. It’s their sixth sense!

For the most part, everyone will generally do well if they set down some ground rules.

We also discussed what qualities make a good teacher and how they relate to classroom management. A lot of key qualities pertained to patience, empathy, optimism, and organization. From my schooling, I’ve learned those qualities are completely true. When I’ve had a disorganized teacher my faith in their competency waivers. There will be those off days where things may be a little disorganized, but as the teacher you can’t let that run wild and inhibit you from teaching.

I think this is going to be one of the more difficult obstacles to overcome the first year. The first year you’re getting yourself grounded and learning what works and doesn’t work. You can have all the training possible, but once you step into that classroom you have to figure out which methods work for your teaching style.

When you add in the fact you’re teaching a class to foreigners culture barriers are going to become evident. Take eye contact as an example. In America we use it as a way to check that people are paying attention, give someone a stern warning, and show respect. In other countries it would be a sign of disrespect and students will not look you in the eye when you’re teaching. This can be disheartening for some teachers because they might feel as if they’re not getting through to their students. This is one of those examples where you will have to modify some of your teaching and the way you manage your class. It’s all about being adaptable.

End of 2nd Weekend

The second weekend was a whirlwind of information. A lot of it focused on lesson planning and classroom management. This was great because we all wanted to know more. Lesson plans are central to what we are going to do.

Other people in the class seemed to become more disruptive once they noticed how relaxed these classes are. There was a lot more talking while the teacher was discussing a lesson, people were interrupting each other, and there was a lack of personal space. Now the personal space is more of a pet peeve of mine than anything. It’s also related to cultural differences since we’ve got several different cultures in the classroom. Part of me wishes the teacher would have been a bit more strict, but she was still able to manage all of us for the most part. This is something I’ll think more about when I have my own students. There will be time to figure out what works and doesn’t.

The idea of creating a series of interconnecting lessons is thrilling. Yes, it’s very nerdy, but it’s okay. The whole reason we’re in this class is to help those other kids learn another language and English is hard. Hell, most native English speakers can’t even use our language correctly. I will admit, some of the foreigners I’ve met have a better command of English than most of us do at times.

When you see how far the students have come from the first day to the last day you will be proud. You will feel that all of your hard work was worth it. You’re getting to teach  them something they can use almost anywhere they go. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Becoming an ESL Teacher Abroad: 1st Weekend of Classes

I’m still new to this whole blog thing. It’s going to take a bit so please bare with me and I think we’ll all get through this together. This is hopefully a way to block the walls I’ve built in my mind inhibiting me from writing these days.

Since I can remember I’ve had a passion for traveling. I never quite knew how to travel and make money. I did the whole college thing and slightly screwed it up by getting a creative writing major. Yes… it’s an Mrs. Degree, but I don’t fall into the same category as the other women.

In order to make the most of my degree and pursue something I’ve contemplated over the years, I decided to jump into teaching abroad. Not wanting to head over there without a certification, I went online and did some research. Oxford Seminars seemed to be the right choice. At the time it enabled me to work and attend classes on the weekends.

Oxford Seminars

Oxford Seminars offers a TEFL/TESL/TESOL certification program which combines in-class and online courses. Students are required to attend three weekends during a month of 9 – 6 pm classes. The classes cover a range of teaching material and help you learn different lesson methods to use overseas. After completion of the in-class portion, students are then required to complete the online portion which starts the day they “graduate.”

With the completion of both sections, students are able to begin applying for jobs over seas. The customer service helps you find available schools with good standing. This is a major plus. There have been horror stories where people go over and don’t get paid for months.

Day 1 

With only three hours of sleep and several cups of coffee, I headed all the way down to St. Edward’s University for class. I was ready to go. It was something to get me out of the house and one step closer to my goal.

All of the people seemed friendly. We broke the ice with a game of inside/outside circle. Each of us had one minute to talk about the three images that represented us and introduce ourselves. It was a bit harder since we’re such a large class but it worked well.

When we got inside our instructor went over the technique and let us discuss what we thought about it. She continued to teach us how to teach by going through the various methods we would be implementing with our students.

When I went to school most of our classes were lectures and we did homework. They were very verbal and sometimes visual. There were times we did group work, but we didn’t place emphasis on that. The teacher provided a positive and open atmosphere. We were able to relax enough to say what we truly thought about the lesson. It’s something I’m not used to. I’m used to the people laughing at others making a mistake or the teacher telling the student, “no, that’s a dumb idea.” There was none of that.

Using groups seemed to be successful. She didn’t get on to us about talking to our peers when we asked them for help or ideas. She supported it. It’s a great way to keep up with the class.

We had some homework at the end of the day, but it wasn’t much. We read and completed a couple work sheets about learning styles. The worksheets helped insight you as to your learning style and modes. For the most part they seemed to be on point. Knowing this helps us know how we learn and how others will learn.

Day 2

The next day, we delved into the learning styles and modes. We learned how to integrate them into a lesson and what activities matched the style. The teacher continued to expand our knowledge of activities. We discussed T-Charts, personal white boards, and webbed graphs.

The methods and activities we’re using to learn have been successful for the most part. Things such as sentence stems are something I could see using. Sentence stems are where you provide the beginning portion of a sentence and have them fill in one word or the rest of it. For example, “Hi, I’m Samantha and I like to____.” This helps people with repetition, flow, a jump off point, and eases the pressure since they don’t have to think of the entire sentence. Had my French teacher used this, I might have learned the language a lot more.

Another key point I learned is not to translate. Think in the other language. Don’t try to think of the word in your language and translate it. This will only inhibit you from learning the language. Then, when it comes to the grammar you’ll really be screwed.

While the second day was good for the most part, it was harder to keep engaged. I haven’t slept well the past few days with only a few hours of sleep each night. With that being said, people got on my nerves quite easily. They weren’t intentional… at least I don’t think. But I will say this… I will not have fidget spinners in my class room. It might help some but it will annoy and distract the others from learning.

End of 1st Weekend

So far, this seems to be a good program choice. The faculty is optimistic and helpful. They’re ready to help teach you and get you to where you want to go. There may be some obstacles, but they will help you the best they can.

For the first time in awhile, I’m finally feeling optimistic about the job opportunities in this field. Yes, it may not always be Europe exactly, but it gets me out there to experience new cultures. It’s a way to help others learn English. I get to delve into different aspects of writing, books, and incite their minds to learn more. There’s so many things available for them.

There will be a culture shock depending on where I go. Believe me, it was a culture shock heading to Mexico. But it will be worth it. Who knows what I might learn or see? Experiencing the culture first hand is not something everyone gets to do these days. Hopefully, I’ll be able to inspire others to travel and learn about other cultures. Too many people get focused on their culture and forget how beautiful others cultures are. If you don’t fit in one, you might find you fit perfectly in another.

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