[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!


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.

Q&A: Jesse teaching in the Bahamas

Dedicated to our returning students, this installment of our Q&A Series focuses on a recent EIU graduate now teaching abroad in the Bahamas. Hear his thoughts from the best to worst and everything in between.DSC01572

Jesse Garibaldi

A recent 2013 EIU graduate, Jesse has gone from his hometown of Glenview, Illinois to studying, and now working on the beautiful island of the Bahamas!

1. Now that you’ve settled into your new job, what’s the best part?

Settling into a new job can always be scary, especially when it is your first job as a teacher. Thankfully, I work with a wonderful staff that is always looking out for each other and always willing to help however they can. I would have to say my fellow coworkers are one of the best parts of my job at Tambearly.

2. What’s the hardest part? What presented itself as a difficulty while you were adjusting?

One of the hardest parts of teaching here is the grading; it is something I have gotten better at but it still takes up so much time. I have been going in earlier and getting some work done
during my breaks to keep up with everything so I don’t have to worry about taking so much home.

3. Did your student teaching in the US prepare you well for this position?

I am really lucky because even though I am teaching abroad, the private school I am working at uses United States state standards. My lesson plans and the material I teach look similar to lessons I created during student teaching. I did my student teaching in kindergarten which is a little different than teaching in fourth grade like I am now. But I am teaching three, four, and five year old soccer so the practice I have had with the younger students has really come in handy there.

4. How does the environment affect your teaching or your daily life?

Tambearly is a open air school meaning that there are walls and a roof, but there is no air conditioning. The school is made so that the windows on the ground pull in air while the windows on the wall blow air out. It keeps the school pretty cool considering it has been around 90 degrees. Because the door and windows are always open to the environment, there are frequent “visitors” that come into the room especially if it is raining. One of my first few days, a frog managed to hop into my room and disrupt the whole class until I was able to get it out. Having frogs, lizards, and a variety of other animals is a pretty regular event, but I have become better at keeping my class calm and getting the animals out of the room without hurting them.

5. Where are you living? What’s that like?

I am living in a nice neighborhood and my house is only a three minute walk to the beach. The water is so blue here and the sun is so many different colors. Depending on the time of day it really is wonderful. My walk to work is about half an hour but most of the walk is along the water, which makes the walk much nicer. I am living on my own for the first time without roommates, which is a little different. I have made some really nice friends so I rarely get bored, but there are some times when my days can be slow.

6. What do you miss from home? (places, people, things, food)

It’s on those slow days when I find myself missing my friends and family the most. I have always been close to my family so even when I was living at home it was nice because there was always someone to talk to. Thankfully now with Skype and Facebook, I have been able to keep in touch with mostly everyone, which makes everything so much easier.

7. You’re coaching as well – how does that add to your experience?
As it is my first time coaching, I do not know the most about soccer. However, I am working with three, four, and five year olds so practice is not about specific fine motor skills but more to get the students out, having fun, and boosting their confidence. I have a good relationship with the young students and many of them are really enthusiastic about playing, which is always exciting to see.

Thanks, Jesse! Continue to teach others all over the world.

Teaching Abroad

What if you could travel the world, work, and get paid all at the same time? Would you take the chance to go somewhere new or familiar? Teaching English abroad is an up and coming trend in the field of international education that offers recent grads, or the occasional retiree, the opportunity to travel to various locations, meet the locals, become immersed in a unique culture, and build up the ever daunting resume. It’s a great way to spend a summer, a year, or make a career out of it. For those recent grads that are not quite ready to buckle down into a full-time job, I highly recommend teaching abroad. At what other point in your life could you afford to take a year off from work?

Those of you unfamiliar with what teaching abroad entails let me break it down for you:

Things you may receive depending upon your program of choice:

  1. Health insurance
  2. A monthly stipend
  3. In-country orientation
  4. Free flights at the start and the end of your program
  5. Free vacation flights (for those of you staying a year or longer)
  6. In-country support

Intangible things you will receive:

  1. Memories to last a lifetime
  2. Life-long friends from all walks of life
  3. A humbling, selfless, life-changing experience
  4. Knowing that you are helping to change lives

*Note: Not all programs require a deposit before in-country arrival; some may ask for money, others will simply pay for everything.

So my advice to anyone who is looking for some adventures in their life…get out there and travel the world, you’ll be glad you did it.

Did you know that TWO people in our office have taught abroad? Kelly taught English for the Spanish Ministry of Education, and Evan taught in the Republic of Georgia. Questions about their experience? You shouldn’t be surprised that they would LOVE to talk to you about it 🙂 Email us at goabroad@eiu.edu and we’ll put you in touch.

[Guest post]: A Temporary Australian

When asked to name a city in Australia, most people will say either Sydney or Melbourne. I was one of those people until last spring, when I was placed in Perth, Australia. 

Perth Australia

Tim P., Perth, Australia

When I originally applied for the COST program, I listed Australia as my number one choice because I wanted to student teach in one of those cities. When I found out that I would be teaching in Perth, the first thing I did was Google where Perth was located (Western Australia).  At first I was disappointed that I was not in Sydney, but now I am glad I got placed in Perth.

I want to clear up a few common myths about Australia that I heard numerous times before I left on my journey:

First, kangaroos and koalas are not all over the place roaming the streets like EIU squirrels. It actually took me a month before I got to see either, but yes they are both awesome and it was well worth the wait.

Second, toilets do not flush the opposite way. That was a myth that was started by the Simpsons.

Third, it is not always warm and sunny in Australia. I started in the winter so it was rainy and about 40-50 degrees. Thankfully I packed enough warm clothes.

Finally, big spiders and snakes are not everywhere. I have yet to see either a snake or a spider.

Perth is right on the coast, and has many beautiful beaches.  It also has many great parks and forest that I have explored. So far my favorite part of the journey was going to a wildlife park; I got to pet and feed kangaroos, got up close to koalas, which if you do not know are normally shy animals that are sleeping most of the time.  I also had an opportunity to swim with wild dolphins, which was spectacular and something that I will never forget.

Those are just a few of many memorable things I have experienced while studying abroad with the COST program. I think every future teacher should look into the COST program because I have learned so much about others and myself while teaching in Australia. If you are not a future teacher, you should still look into studying abroad. College is a perfect opportunity to explore the rest of the world. Studying aboard offers you a once in a lifetime chance to do amazing things, while still earning college credit, what can be better?

Tim Patula is a Kinesiology and Sports Studies major with K-12 teacher certification. He completed his student teaching in Perth, Australia with the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) in Fall 2012. To learn more about the COST program, click here.

Originally published in the Daily Eastern News: November 29, 2012: http://ow.ly/gW9PP


Creating an International Education Experience

As a future teacher I have always understood the importance of travel, in learning as much about the world and its inhabitants as possible, so that I am better equipped to educate my future students. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to get the chance to study abroad last fall in a small town right outside of London, England. As I prepared for my departure, anticipation mounted.  I couldn’t wait to make new friends, travel to new cities and discover new perspectives.

My semester in England was amazing. I enjoyed a new culture, met fascinating new people,  and learned more than I ever imagined I could have. But what made my trip extraordinary was something else entirely. Interestingly, I didn’t  realize the lasting impacts of my experience abroad until after I returned home. While reflecting upon my trip, I realized that to really learn in life, you must be more than a participant, you must be a creator.

So what truly made my experience one of a kind? What helped me really grow as an individual? It was taking the initiative. Instead of lamenting about my classroom-less semester, I got active, getting together a group of several other future teachers and talking with some of our professors about possibly teaching at a local school.  After countless emails, phone calls we got the approval to teach in a local primary school. We were ecstatic!

We put together creative lesson plans about Thanksgiving and chatted excitedly about what this foreign classroom might be like. It was amazing! Leading that British classroom is an experience that I can’t even put into words. I learned more working with those students than I ever could have from reading a book or sitting behind a desk. At the time, I merely chalked it up as another part of the study abroad experience. But, today, I carry with me more from that British classroom than any other experience I participated in while abroad. We get out of life what we put in to it, and studying abroad afforded me opportunity to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.