Interview with Christopher Kelly, English Teacher Abroad and Marketing Specialist.
For former teacher abroad, Christopher Kelly thought that the best technique for learning more about himself was to teach others. Teaching English abroad was a way for him to achieve a sense of self while gaining perspective on an unfamiliar place and previously unknown culture. Since earning his Bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University, Kelly has taught English to students of all ages and has delved into marketing for a demographic of college-aged students who put self-exploration on the same level as paper writing and exam cramming.
Enjoy our full interview with Christopher Kelly as he recounts the most important parts of considering a teaching abroad program.
GradSchools: How did you make the decision to teach abroad?
I decided to teach abroad for a lot of reasons. From a personal standpoint, I think you learn about yourself and how you react in a foreign environment much better than in a comfortable one. I believe I am very self-aware after my experience abroad. I also understand my strengths much better than before. Professionally, I believe that becoming fluent in a second language is essential in today's world. With the Internet, we are now collaborating globally on projects. Possessing top-notch communication skills in at least two languages is simply necessary.
GradSchools: How did you find your teach abroad program?
I first found out through a friend who worked at an ESL program in the US. After speaking with him, I spent time evaluating the program through online searches and calling people who had participated in the program in the past. When you make a big time commitment to a program, it's important to do your research. Unfortunately, there are some programs and schools out there (especially language schools) that aren't doing a great job of serving their students and instead focus on making money. It's best to study up and avoid these programs at all costs.
GradSchools: What did you have to do to get into your teach abroad program?
I had to give proof of my education and skill sets as well complete a criminal background check. I would encourage future applicants to apply to programs early to leave time to take care of the paperwork. My visa and legal check took much longer than expected, which almost cost me my job. Some schools need you to have a language certification. My program did not.
GradSchools: What is your favorite memory of your teach abroad experience?
Celebrating local holidays with students and fellow teachers. You really learn to understand the community during these events and are granted the opportunity to teach them about your customs.
GradSchools: What was the greatest challenge of your teach abroad experience?
Learning to find the right cultural analogies in the classroom. While speaking or teaching in the US, I could always find the perfect cultural example to drive a point home. Abroad, you need to understand your audience’s culture to make that connection. In Spain, you need to know soccer analogies, not baseball analogies. He didn't hit a "home run," but instead he scored a "golazo" (goal). Connecting with your students is key. Overall, it's about spending the time to find the right way to connect with them, no matter where you teach.
GradSchools: What advice would you give to someone interested in participating in a teach abroad program?
Research your program and reach out to others who have completed the program.
If you are trying to master a foreign language during your time abroad, pick a location that will allow you to really dive into the culture. A diverse metropolitan, international city like Barcelona is a bad spot to learn a language.
Speak to your student(s)’ parents, families, and community. Let them know you are there not just to travel and see the world, but contribute to their child's growth. Show them you are dedicated. Show them you are available and willing to jump through hoops to become a valued community member.
GradSchools: Please feel free to share any other stories or details about your teach abroad experience that you think people would be interested in.
I taught in Spain. I played on a traveling basketball team during my first year. I taught at bilingual schools where the goal was to teach children in both Spanish and English.
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