[Guest Post] From EIU to Taiwan

Hello, everyone! I’m an EIU alumna and current employee at HESS International Educational Group in Taiwan.

Overall, my experience teaching and living abroad has been filled with incredible moments and opportunities. I taught children’s English classes for a couple of years before moving into the human resources department at our company’s corporate office. I’ve lived in Taiwan for almost five years, and while I could go on and on about my experiences here, I will try to keep it to just a brief snapshot.

EIU alumna Amy Simpson accepts a 2013 Employee of the Year award from the CEO of HESS International Educational Group at the company’s year-end banquet in Taipei, Taiwan.

EIU alumna Amy Simpson accepts a 2013 Employee of the Year award from the CEO of HESS International Educational Group at the company’s year-end banquet in Taipei, Taiwan.

The first thing that stands out is something frequently mentioned about Taiwan: the people. The locals are unbelievably welcoming and helpful, and the foreigners come from all over with their own little piece of the world to share.

It’s not unusual for Taiwanese people to go out of their way to personally escort you to a gas station across town or chase you down the street to return the wallet you’ve left in a restaurant. Likewise, it’s commonplace for foreigners to strike up a conversation about which neighboring country is best to visit or invite you to join them at a dinner table. The people I’ve met have helped me to embrace Taiwan and enjoy all the things it has to offer.

When you live in a different place, you also start to re-evaluate the way you look at everything around you–and the way you look at yourself. You start to realize both how big and how small the world is.

Last Thanksgiving, HESS asked teachers what they were thankful for. We made videos depicting what we loved about Taiwan, teaching, children, friends, family, etc. It was an open-ended invitation to capture the truly enjoyable parts of life. We compiled those videos and called it “The Thank You Project.” (You can view the whole project here)

In my HESS Thank You Project video, I talked about a former teacher who used to say, “The more you know, the more you know the less you know.” This is definitely true of my time in Taiwan. There’s always something new to learn, always a challenge to be faced, always an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. For better or worse, as soon as you feel like you have something all figured out, you’re reminded you that you don’t. This can be a frustrating thing, but it can also keep you fresh and open-minded. If you can embrace those opportunities to grow, there’s always something new and exciting to experience.

It’s interesting to hear about perspectives, and there are plenty to be found all around us. If you haven’t already, definitely consider living, teaching, or traveling abroad to experience things that you might not get to at home. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad, I would recommend Taiwan as a great starting point.

New teachers strike a pose during their July 2014 initial training at the Main Office of HESS International Educational Group in Taipei, Taiwan. HESS provides all the support and guidance newcomers need to settle in and start their journey abroad successfully.

New teachers strike a pose during their July 2014 initial training at the Main Office of HESS International Educational Group in Taipei, Taiwan. HESS provides all the support and guidance newcomers need to settle in and start their journey abroad successfully.

Lastly, to everyone, I would encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to embrace the good as well as the difficult. Given the change, it will broaden the way you look at just about everything.

I’m happy to discuss any of these topics further, so feel free to email me at amy.simpson@hess.com.tw. Thanks for reading!

Q&A: Teaching in South Korea

Former study abroad student Missy Muser has returned to South Korea to teach English after recently graduating from EIU in 2013. Read on to find out more about what it is like to live and work in another country! Missy Abroad

1. You loved South Korea so much that you just had to return! What is the best part about teaching in South Korea?
One of my favorite things about Korea is how friendly people are.  Every time I’ve been lost (which will happen at some point any time you travel) someone was always willing to help.  Half the time, I didn’t even have to ask.  They just saw my look of complete panic or distress and would try to help.  Another fun thing about Korea is that it is different from the States.  You really do get to experience a culture that is different from your own.

2. Teaching abroad can be quite different than studying abroad. What was the most difficult part in adjusting to your new job?
Teaching and studying abroad are very different.  I studied abroad in Korea just for the summer so it felt almost like a holiday.  It was easy to meet people through the program or on campus.  I still find it fairly easy to meet people because other foreigners are often in the same situation as you are, and many Koreans are intrigued by foreigners.  I don’t know how many random conversations I’ve had walking down the street or waiting for a bus or train.  Obviously, they aren’t always lasting friendships, but not everyone you meet back home would be either.  The major difference is the amount of free time; full time jobs are serious work.  Just writing this makes me miss the flexibility of university life.  I’m a little outside of Seoul and work until 9 pm so during the week I can’t do as much.  The weekends are where travelling and meeting new people really comes into play.  Or meeting up with those awesome people I’ve connected with that sadly don’t live right in my area.  Public transport is easy and affordable here thankfully.

3. How prepared were you when beginning this new job, and what do you think could have helped prepare you even more?
I did not go to school even remotely for teaching English so I took an online TEFL course to help feel a little more prepared for the actual job aspect.  For the day-to-day living, I studied abroad first so I could get an idea of Korean living.  On a personal level, I felt very prepared to live abroad and to take the leap away from family and friends.  Technology makes it easy to keep in contact and a year goes by quickly.  If anything, I loved the challenge of being forced to be completely independent.  I knew I could handle living abroad on my own, so I was more worried about actually teaching.  I was nervous the first few days, as everyone is at a new job, but it becomes routine quickly and you learn all the ins and outs fast.

Missy Abroad2

4. What is it like teaching in a South Korean school?
Korean schools can vary.  There are public schools which offer more vacation and can be a little more secure, and then there are Hogwans (private schools) that are easier to get a job in but you do want to pay close attention to your contract and to try to make sure your school is a good school.  If there is already a foreign teacher at that school, try to get as much information from them as you can. Also, manners are quite different in Korea compared to the US.  Try to be as respectful as you can and your boss or co-teachers might give you some hints towards how to act.  Just be polite and they usually understand you have different ideas of what manners are.

5. What is it like where you are living?
Now I’ll be honest… I don’t absolutely love the town I live in.  It’s pretty grey and there isn’t a lot of nature incorporated through the city.  But it is easy for me to travel into Seoul which I do like.  I also wanted to be near the town I studied abroad at so I could visit friends and walk down nostalgia lane. All cities surrounding Seoul seem to have plenty of coffee shops, food joints, bars, buses, and are usually close to some form of outdoor trail or hiking area.

6. What do you do in your free time when you are not teaching?
I enjoy hiking and reading a lot.   I can easily spend a good majority of my time doing either of those.  Korea does have a lot of baby mountains and they are fairly big into hiking.  Sometimes it can be more stairs than trail, but it’s still beautiful and a great way to spend the time. There are also a lot of groups that do hiking trips, kayaking, ultimate frisbee, language exchanges, etc through social media networks.  Awesome way to meet people who have similar interests as you. Also, you get to meet people from all over the world.  I love being in a group and being able to listen to all the different accents or languages. And, of course, there’s always food.  Now some food you will miss with a fierce sort of ache.  Normal tacos or a killer homemade sandwich would be glorious at the moment, but there’s so much food to be had here.  They have restaurants everywhere and a wide range of types of food.  My first time trying Vietnamese, South African, or Nepalese food were all here.  And they were all delicious.  They have cheap street food you can get for a dollar or Korean barbecue for maybe 7. Again, the public transport is simple and cheap so it makes it possible to travel around and see new areas.

Missy Hiking

7. ​What advice do you have for other EIU students that are considering teaching abroad?
Do it!  Seriously, just go for it.  You learn so much about yourself and about others.  It’s a great chance to earn money, travel around, make friends with people you may never meet otherwise, and, if you are an actual teacher, you get the added bonus of experience.  Even those, like myself, who have no future plans of being a teacher, the experience here has still taught me a lot of skills that will be beneficial to any future jobs.  The Internet makes it so easy to keep in touch with those that matter back home.  Also, if they matter, they will still be there a year or more from now.  It’s a great way to get into the travelling mindset.  I’m already making plans for a year in New Zealand, a month in Europe, a summer in Alaska, moving west coast in the States, looking into programs in South America… and so forth.

We’re Off to San Diego!

From Sunday, May 25th through Friday, May 30th, EIU Study Abroad staff will be in attendance at the 2014 NAFSA Annual Conference and Expo!

NAFSA San Diego

Check us out at the Technology Fair on Friday, May 30th from 9 to 10:30 am where Marissa and Molly will be talking about how to create and manage engaging content that encourages international exploration while providing valuable information and educational resources. New to social media? No problem! We will set you on the path to “#connectingtheworld… One Hashtag at a Time” no matter what your technological experience!

Follow us on @EIUStudyAbroad to keep up with us at NAFSA and all things study abroad! If you are also attending and would like to meet up, give us a shout out and we can plan to chat!

Holi is Over… Now What?

Holi

Are you still craving more color? Here are 5 ways to feed your Holi withdrawals:

1. Find a Holi celebration at another University
Keep an eye out for events at other Universities near you. They may be having their own Holi celebration as well!

2. Check out festivals around the US
“Festival of Colors” is celebrated around the US. Check out their upcoming schedule here!

3. Do a color run
Color runs are usually 5K fun runs that take place all over the country. There are many different companies that organize color runs, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area! The Color Run, Run or DyeThe Color Vibe, and Color Me Rad, are a few you could look into.

4. Brush up on your Holi history
Learn more about the legends behind Holi: The Festival of Colors so you are more knowledgeable about what you are celebrating during next year’s festival!

5. Watch the highlights from Holi 2014

Take a look at the photos from Holi 2014 here.

 

We hope to see you all again next year, and don’t worry- we will have lots more color!

It’s Back: EIU Holi 2014!

Huh? What is Holi?

  • Traditional spring festival celebrated by Hindus, commonly known as the “Festival of Colors.”
  • Celebrated all over India and Nepal since ancient times, Holi welcomes the coming of spring.
  • In most of India, Holi is celebrated the day after the full moon in March each year.
  • Large bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits on the eve of Holi.
  • The day of, people flock to the streets, armed with Gulal (colored powder). People of all ages and professions can be found splashing water and Gulal on friends, family, and passers-by.

Wanna go to Holi?

  • Holi will be celebrated on Friday, April 25th, from 12 – 2 pm on the Library Quad.
  • Free Gulal and plenty of water will be made available.
  • Music and a photo booth will be on site.
  • There will be free giveaways of sunglasses and sport towels, and we will be hosting a raffle.
  • Those participating are encouraged to wear a white t-shirt or other light-colored old clothing.
  • This event is FREE and everyone is encouraged to join in!

Can’t Get Enough?
Check out some of the highlights from last year’s Holi event at EIU.

Be on the lookout for more info to come! Follow along at #eiuholi

Demystifying Hostels: 4 Reasons to Ignore the Horror Stories

Forget the stories you’ve heard about horrifying hostel experiences. Hostels are not at all terrifying places that should be avoided. Many can actually be rather enjoyable, and can even save you loads of cash.

Save money
Those are great words to hear, especially when it comes to travel. You have already been paying airfare, fees, and countless other expenses to see the world, so saving a little money here and there can be a big help. Some hostels can be as little as $5 per night. Hostels are a great alternative to staying in a pricey hotel or apartment, and they can have a whole lot of other benefits as well!

Meet lifelong friends from around the world
One of the best parts of staying in a hostel is the people you will meet. Living in close quarters with a bunch of people that you do not know can make you feel uncomfortable, but you will quickly become close friends with many of them and will have the opportunity to hear many unique and interesting stories about other people’s travels. You may even meet people that have great travel tips for you that can be a big help during your trip. Stepping out of your comfort zone to meet other people from around the world will result in an experience that you will not regret.

The Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Hostel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Weekend trips on a budget
Hostels are a perfect choice for weekend excursions while studying abroad. Taking weekend trips to neighboring countries or cities is common while abroad, and a great opportunity for seeing the world on a budget. You can find affordable hostels to stay in for the weekend that can save you heaps of money on your weekend adventure.

Livingstone Backpackers in Livingstone, Zambia

Livingstone Backpackers in Livingstone, Zambia

Spur of the Moment Experience
Staying in a hostel you are likely to meet other people and find that they are doing something more exciting than what you had planned or something new you had not heard about before. This gives you the option to be spontaneous and tag along with your new friends on an adventure and get the most out of your travels.

Have a hostel experience to share? Tell us in the comments!

Responsible Travel: Volunteer Around The World

Think its too late for you to travel the world? Think again! Although your time as a student may be coming to and end and it may be too late to study abroad and gain course credit, volunteering abroad will always be an option! Or maybe you’ve studied abroad already and are looking for another opportunity to travel the world. Volunteering is a great choice! Instead of saving up for that family vacation or a spring break on the beach with your friends, why not give back and participate on a volunteer trip instead?

There are all kinds of volunteer programs that you can find to fit your interests and needs. Some of the most common types of programs are teaching abroad, wildlife conservation, marine conservation, or internships abroad. I recently returned from my own volunteer experience in Livingstone, Zambia on a teaching program and had an amazing time.

Livingstone Zambia

Volunteering opens up the opportunity for you to travel while also giving back to a community in need. Connecting with the locals, being immersed in their culture, and living a different lifestyle in a different part of the world is an experience beyond what words can describe.

Volunteer Abroad

Outside of the local culture, you can be exposed to a variety of other cultures and people from around the world. On my volunteer trip I stayed in a house with other volunteers that came from all different countries, and we all became good friends that still keep in touch even though we are hundreds of miles away from each other.

Finally, with my program we had the weekends off from volunteering so we had time to take part in various activities and weekend trips. There are so many opportunities that volunteering abroad has to offer, and it is a great way to travel responsibly no matter what age you are.

It’s Your Chance to Have the Summer of a Lifetime!

Our deadline for summer faculty-led programs is January 31st! Don’t miss the opportunity to have a summer you will never forget. There are so many options to choose from, and we can help you find the program that fits best for you!

Always dreamed of traveling to Italy? We have two programs there this summer! Want to improve your Spanish? Head to Argentina! Maybe a tropical destination is more your style- apply to go to the Bahamas! There are also a variety of other subjects such as business, biology, music, english, and more! Click on the photos below for additional program information.

Stop by our office in 1207 Blair Hall with any questions you may have, and get started on your applications today! An amazing summer awaits!

Mediterranean Cuisine: Florence, Italy

Mediterranean Cuisine: Florence, Italy

The Good Life: Italy

The Good Life: Italy

Summer in Salzburg: Austria

Summer in Salzburg: Austria

Summer in Argentina: Cordoba, Argentina

Summer in Argentina: Cordoba, Argentina

Health and Wellness for Life: Novi Sad, Serbia

Health and Wellness for Life: Novi Sad, Serbia

Science and Schooling: Andros Island, Bahamas

Science and Schooling: Andros Island, Bahamas

Summer Archeology: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Summer Archeology: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Incredible India: Creating Global Educators - Hyberabad, India

Incredible India: Creating Global Educators – Hyberabad, India

Intercultural Communication and Co-Cultural Experiences: Ireland

Intercultural Communication and Co-Cultural Experiences: Ireland

Nation Building in the New South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nation Building in the New South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park, South Africa

Sustainability, Energy, and Development: Barcelona, Spain

Sustainability, Energy, and Development: Barcelona, Spain

Business Study Abroad: European Union - Croatia and Spain

Business Study Abroad: European Union – Croatia and Spain

Plant Usage and Culture in China: Beijing, Xi'an, and Sichuan Province, China

Plant Usage and Culture in China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Sichuan Province, China

The Sport Industry in the United Kingdom: Winchester England (with field trips to London)

The Sport Industry in the United Kingdom: Winchester England (with field trips to London)

English Literary Landscapes: Grantham, England

English Literary Landscapes: Grantham, England

Beneficial Language Barriers

Venturing to a new land that uses a foreign language can definitely be frightening. From birth we are brought up in a society that allows us to vocalize our needs, ideas, and feelings and understand others while using a common dialect. Being aware that this convenience may be hindered while traveling can most certainly be intimidating, especially while preparing to study abroad.

Before my study abroad experience in Florence, Italy I was nervous about the use of the Italian language. I had only 4 years of beginner Spanish skills under my belt, and knew the Italian language would be difficult for me to use. Luckily, in Florence, most of the locals spoke at least a small amount of English, which helped me in common situations. What I found most helpful was the Italian language course I was enrolled in at my university abroad. This class instructed me to actively use the Italian language, and made interacting with locals a more enriching experience.

There was only one scenario where an Italian man and I did not share a single common word. He was my waiter in a small restaurant in Siena, and immediately had difficult time explaining that he did not speak or understand English. Although we had a language barrier- through the use of smiling, nonverbal language, and a lot of hand waiving, I was able to partake in one of the most memorable lunches during my time abroad.

Language differences are not a factor that should scare the student from studying in a foreign country. If anything, it should be a reason that makes the country even more intriguing. Whether you’re studying abroad to practice a language, or going only understanding English, immersing yourself in a land of words that are unrecognizable only benefits you as a student, and more importantly a person living in a multicultural world.

Traveling Europe while Abroad

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy was a remarkable travel experience in itself. However, due to ample amount of time overseas and yearning to explore, I decided with conscious pre-planning and budgeting to set sail from my home away from home in Florence and discover new cultures in the European countries of Greece, Spain, and France.

My first adventure began with an overnight cruise to the island of Corfu, Greece. My friends and I booked the trip with the #1 European Travel Company Bus2alps, and had a memorable time on their planned excursion. During my time in Greece I jumped the waves in the Ionian Sea, devoured one too many gyros, and even attempted to learn a traditional Greek celebratory dance, key word- attempted.

Next on my travel list was a sporadic trip to Barcelona, Spain.  Two friends and I decided to book a flight with Ryan Air to what later became my favorite visited country outside of Italy.  My first stop in Barcelona was the warm beach on the Mediterranean Sea, followed by a night of shopping down the city’s most famous streets, “Las Ramblas.” While making my way through the city I viewed the enchanting Sagrada Família Cathedral, and thankfully discovered the Spanish delicacy, Paella, which quickly became my new favorite dish!

Before my time abroad came to an end, friends and I booked one last excursion to the French Riviera. Our primary bus stop was to the popular city of Nice, where I admired oceanic views as well as inspiring French couture. In between our destinations, my friends and I took a train ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco to gamble at the world famous Monte Carlo Casino, which consequently was a loss in euros, but a gain in wonderful memories! My journey ended in the city of Cannes, where movie stars around the world gather for the annual film festival.

These three trips fulfilled my experience abroad, and allowed myself to come home a more adventurous, knowledgeable, and cultured individual. Traveling while studying abroad is a factor I am most grateful to have experienced, and has inspired me to voyage to other new and intriguing destinations in my future.