Monthly Archives: June 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

I was so excited to get a comment from Letizia at Reading Interrupted that she nominated Global From Home for a Versatile Blogger Award!  Yay! Now it is my turn to pass on the honor.  But first the rules:

  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Here goes!

Letizia, THANK YOU! I also think Reading Interrupted is pretty grand and hope many more people will enjoy all you have to share.

I’ve been reading a TON of blogs lately so I have a lot of favorites but here are 15.

Seven things about me:

1. I’m often mistaken for being 16-years-old when I’m actually 30. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a baby face or because I’m the size of a 5th grader.

2. I have read Pride and Prejudice 6 times.

3. I was a professional sorority girl for two years.  Yep, I worked for my sorority and traveled the U.S. doing leadership training.

4. My favorite color is navy blue.

5. I am obsessed with sending and receiving postcards.

6. I start wrapping Christmas presents in October. It is one of my top 10 favorite past-times.

7. Even though I live in San Diego, I still go to a church in Atlanta. It’s so good Hubby and I get up every Sunday and watch NPCC online with coffee in hand.

Empowering Youth Through Travel

Right now in Uvita, Costa Rica there is a group of inner-city, Chicago teens exploring, learning, and serving abroad for the very first time. Do you remember your first time abroad? The excitement, the culture shock, the challenges of language, the sensory overload. These students are experiencing all of that through the incredible efforts of a non-profit called Empowering Youth Through Travel. Started in 2010 by Jessica Mann, EYTT just left yesterday for their very first overseas program after 6 months of training in Chicago.

In her blog post on June 11th, Jessica highlighted some of the students who were about to venture to Costa Rica:

For one of our student’s, Dushun, this will be the first time he steps on a plane let alone outside of the country. Can you imagine what this experience will be like for him? Dushun lives in Chicago’s Austin community and will go from our concrete city streets to Uvita’s lush land, surrounded by the rainforest.

What will this experience be like for Yael, a soft spoken young lady from Cicero, IL, who is passionate about nature, yet has never left the country or strayed far from her close knit family? She will be venturing off to an unknown part of the world, stay with a family she’s never met, and see things she has only read about in books.

And for Chris, a quiet, young man of choice words who’s world currently revolves around soccer. He will soon have to step outside of his comfort zone by introducing and immersing himself into a lively, foreign community.

For all of us who have had the privilege of traveling abroad, we are more than aware of all the benefits and challenges in store for these students. But I’m pretty confident to say that the experience will be life changing for them. If you are interested in supporting EYTT and what they are doing to help inner-city youth explore the world, be sure to check out their website.

If you know similar programs in other states or countries, please share!

If You Could Study Abroad Again – Part 2

My earlier post got me thinking about my study abroad experience and if I were to study abroad again, not just where would I go, but what would I do differently.  My time in Italy changed me for the better, but I definitely made some of the more common mistakes. If you’ve already been abroad, I’m sure you can relate to some of these. If not, than hats off to you…I’m impressed. For anyone preparing to leave, take my advice and avoid some of the most classic regrets.

In addition to avoiding Stuff Study Abroad Students Say, if I could do it all over I would:

  1. Study abroad for a full year. I was very involved at my college and just couldn’t convince myself to go abroad for more than the two month program.  Granted I did it three times, but I still wish I would have gone for a year when I had the ability.
  2. Give up English. While my Italian definitely improved while I was abroad, I wish I had just stopped speaking English all together. I think my vocab would be a lot better today if I had.
  3. Go by myself. The second time I studied abroad, I went with a friend who I had met on my first program. We started out great friends…we ended not speaking to each other. In fact we haven’t spoken since. While it’s fun to travel with friends, I always advise to study alone.
  4. Consistently journal. I really wish blogging had existed when I studied abroad. Maybe I would have actually wrote more of my experience down. Now I just have faded memories of washing clothes in the bidet and my original impressions of seeing a Bernini for the first time.
  5. Pack less. I am 4’11”.  It is great quality on planes; not so much when carrying luggage. Plus, no one needs 8 pairs of shoes for 8 weeks in Italy.

Eight pairs of size 3 shoes still take up a lot of space.

If You Could Study Abroad Again

In my job I’m frequently asked if I could study abroad again, where would I go. Of course, I would never give up my experience in Italy; as an Italian major, it was really the only place for me to go. However, if I could go some place completely different, these would be my top 5:

1. Bangalore, India with USAC

India is definitely on my short list these days. In addition to it being the most affordable tuition price I know of ($3,780 a semester!!), USAC’s program at Christ University in Bangalore has really interesting courses like Bollywood Dance, Women’s Issues in Indian Society, and Buddhism and Hinduism in Contemporary Society.

2. Lima, Peru with ISA

With its lively Latin culture and affordable living, Lima is one of my favorite study abroad spots. ISA’s program at University of San Ignacio de Loyala has a huge variety of classes in English (since my Spanish is pathetic) and offers home-stay options and a variety of excursions, including one to Machu Picchu.

3. Amman, Jordan with SIT

As seen through my book and movie choices, I really like the Middle East.  The SIT program in Jordan focuses on modernization and social change in the region and includes a short and long-term home-stay experience. While a little pricey, the program requires a great deal of independent research – a huge plus for anyone interested in graduate school.

4. Cuenca, Ecuador with CEDEI

One of my student workers went on this program and LOVED it. Up in the mountains of Ecuador, this city has far less American students than Quito and allows for real immersion.  For $12,900 students get their home-stay with meals, tuition, and excursions to Peru and the Galapagos. The program also works on the American calendar which can be nice.

5. St. Petersburg, Russia with AIFS

After reading Soulshine Traveler, Russia has been looking better and better. Another one of my student workers did the AIFS program in St. Petersburg last fall and she continues to sing their praises. In addition to intensive Russian, the program offers great courses like Contemporary Russian Literature and Russian History: from Kiev Russia to the Revolution. Another nice thing about AIFS is that it is all-inclusive and for $11,995 students get tuition, housing, meals, local transportation, and excursions to London, Finland, Estonia, and Moscow.

If you could study abroad again or for the first time, where would you go?

Abroad Blog of the Week: Travel Thayer

If you have ever considered teaching abroad and want to know what it’s really all about,  check out this week’s Abroad Blog of the Week: Travel Thayer. The blogger, Michael, has now been teaching English abroad at an elementary school in Jochiwon, South Korea for right at a month and in his blog shares the details of teaching, living, and learning in Korea.  For anyone contemplating teaching abroad, the blog has great posts about classroom management, the experience of being a new teacher, and adjusting to living in a country where you don’t speak the language.  What I like best about Travel Thayer’s posts is that they are regular, detailed, and seem to reflect his true experience.

I caught up with Michael via Gmail last week and was able to ask a few questions about being an ESL teacher in Jochiwon. Here’s what he had to say:

What countries did you consider when you were looking for teaching positions abroad?

I had been thinking about teaching English abroad ever since my 2008 summer internship in Hangzhou, China where I taught English at a middle school summer camp.  Once I finished my Bachelors I looked into three countries for teaching: Japan, Korea, and China. I researched these countries simply because they were places that I was interested in spending time learning language, eating food, and experiencing the culture.

After much research I finally decided on Korea for several reasons.  Korea is one of the highest paying countries for English teachers; an entry-level teacher with only a Bachelors can find jobs paying about 2,000,000 Won per month for public schools and about 2,200,000 Won per month for private “Hagwon” schools.  Korea also provides free housing in every job offer I have seen.  I believe that this is also very common in Japan.  You still have to pay for utilities, but free housing is a great bonus!  The third economical reason I chose Korea is because the cost of living is very affordable, especially on an English teacher’s salary!

I believe that Korea and Japan offer similar contracts in terms of free housing and pay, but from my research I have found that Japan’s cost of living can be very high.  China is a wonderful country that I have spent about 6 months studying in, but I simply could not afford to live there on the salary that the English teachers are paid.  Perhaps if I had less student loans. . .

How did you decide to take the placement in Korea?

My first step after deciding which country I wanted to work in was to figure out which school I wanted to work for.  It can be an incredibly daunting task if you are not prepared!  There are probably thousands of different schools in Korea, some of them good, others have very poor reviews.  It is important to thoroughly research a school that is offering you a job and ask if you can speak with current foreign English teachers.
How do you find these schools in the first place? To be honest I did not go out looking for individual schools.  I simply put my resume up on an ESL teacher forum that several schools use to find new teachers.  It was not until later that I found the recruiting agency that I used to land my current job.  Recruiting agencies can be extremely helpful, especially if you have never taught overseas before! They help you with everything from how to get all of your documents completed and certified, to preparing you for your interview with your potential school.  Be sure you find an agency that is looking out for you and not simply trying to fill a quota of teachers.  I had an excellent experience with Footprints Recruiting, but I have friends who used Korean Horizons and had great things to say.

Lastly I want to talk about public schools and private “Hagwon” schools.  Public schools are government-funded and organized, much like public schools are in the United States.  Private schools are “for profit” schools.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems to be more likely to lead to a bad situation. Most of the bad stories that I have read about come from people teaching in hagwons.  This being said, I have friends who teach in great hagwons and are very happy with their placement!  Each person lives their own experience, some people are more culturally adaptive than others though. I think the most important thing is to be open to new things and smile!

Now that you’ve been in a Korea for a month, what do you love so far?

So far I love everything! I love the food, the people, my co-workers, my students, my apartment, and my city!  I have a hard time thinking of things that I do not like about Korea.  Even for the two weeks I was sick with a very stubborn cold I was happy about where I am.

Specifically though, the food is absolutely wonderful!  I am a very adventurous eater, and I love trying new food.  Some of my favorite foods here are duck, hot pot, and gimbap (Korean version of sushi).

I really must say how grateful I am for the kindness of the everyday Korean person. My language skills are very poor right now as I am a beginner, so the patience and kindness really helps.

What has surprised you the most?

What surprised me the most is how kind most people are here.  A long time ago Korea was known by China as “The courteous people of the East”.  I have to say that from my experience that this is very true! It is, of course, important to be courteous in return.

Also the number of Christian churches here is very surprising.  I had read that Christianity is quite popular here in Korea, but I never imagined to see so many churches!  When you look down on my city at night-time you can see all of the red crosses (neon lights).

What are three items that you brought with you from home that you just couldn’t live without?

My computer, my camera, and deodorant.  I do not really need any of these things to live, but they are things that I do enjoy and appreciate a great deal.  Technology is very well advanced in Korea; I am always finding new things in shops that I had never seen in the West.  That being said, computers are more expensive here in Korea.  I really enjoy taking pictures, writing about them, and sharing them with others; there was no way I was going to leave my camera at home.  Deodorant may sound a little funny, but it is not as easy to find here; when you do, it is much more expensive than back home.  I ran across the same issue in China where I paid about five dollars for a tiny roll-on deodorant.  This time I came well prepared!

What words of wisdom would you give to a recent study abroad returnee interested in teaching abroad?

The absolutely most important thing I can think of is to arrive with a smile on your face and an open mind!  If you have already been traveling, your mind has probably been opened a bit; keep it that way!  The worst thing you can do is to shut out experiences because you think that they are weird or embarrassing.  By being narrow-minded you will not reap the full benefit of the experience and you may even offend people.

Make sure that you actually want to teach; don’t think of teaching abroad as a vacation.  My regular schedule is about 22 classes per week.  I am at school from 8:30am-4:40pm (6pm on Tuesdays), but since I enjoy teaching I love coming to work.

If you are serious about teaching abroad I would highly recommend taking a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course.  There are several of these courses offered online, but be sure that you take one that is at least 100 hours.  By doing this you will gain a great deal of information on how to teach English to students with a different native language. As an added benefit, most schools offer a higher wage to those who are TEFL certified.

As far as schools go, research them!  I spent at least 3 hours every day for about a month prior to my arrival researching schools, contracts, issues people had, and simply life in Korea. Also, buy a book about the culture of the country you plan on going to.  This is probably one of the best ways to avoid the brunt of culture shock. Either before you leave, or once you get to the country, try to learn at least some of the language!  It makes an incredibly good impression if you are able to say “hello”, “goodbye”, and “thank you” correctly in the native language.

Michael with two of his students

 Thanks, Michael, for the interview!

Love Locked

Today is my two-year wedding anniversary to the most wonderful man who just so happens to be my best friend. To commemorate our day, I decided to be creative with Hubby’s gift and got an idea from pictures I’ve been seeing on a variety of blogs: the love padlock. The cultural phenomenon  of hanging a padlock with lovers’ initials has covered historical sites around the world. Have you hung a lock on any of these?

Mount Huanshan, China courtesy of Wikipedia

Locks in Moscow, Russia courtesy of Hotel Club.

Padlocks on the Pont des Arts in Paris courtesy of David Lebovitz.

I wanted us to have our own love padlock but rather than permanently place it, I wanted to be able to take it with us.  So here’s what I did:

1. First I purchased a 5×7″ matted frame, a padlock, and one of these 3M metal command hooks.

2. I created a 5×7″ Publisher document with important words and events from our marriage, leaving a space for where the hook would go.

3. Then I framed the Publisher document and placed the command hook on top of the glass over the reserved space.

4. Since the lock I bought has a four digit code, I put our anniversary 06.19 as the combination.

And voila! A one-of-a-kind anniversary gift for Hubby.

Exercising Around the World

After eating my way through Vegas this weekend, I am feeling a little round. It doesn’t help that my motivation for exercise has been lacking…I’d rather blog, read, cook, blog, etc. So this evening I decided to search the web for inspiration. I thought I’d look for exercises or tips from around the world, but what I came across was even better. In my search I found Nerd Fitness and the video Exercising Around the World in which Steve, the founder of Nerd Fitness, does just that. He travels over 120,000 miles and videos himself exercising in every country along the way. Watching him actually made me get up and do some jumping jacks (I did 50).

After being motivated by Steve’s international exercise, I thought I should keep reading and see if he had anything else good to say. It just so happens that he did have some great advice and now I have new rules for my exercise goal setting. As I get back into my routine, I’m determined to start small and do something I love: hike the cliffs. I’m actually excited.