Looking Back On My Travels
 
It’s amazing to think that another year has already flown by! I feel like most of my time is spent planning for the future: a teaching job in Chile, volunteering on a vineyard in France, or a simple beach getaway for the weekend in Mexico. Living life always looking forward to the next adventure is exciting, but it’s important to be mindful of exactly where you are right now and to take it all in. As I’m aware of my present, I recollect all of the marvelous experiences of yesteryear that brought me here! After all of my recent travels, here are some of my musings:
 
There Is More Than One Way Of Life
 
Nothing will shake up your world more than immersing yourself in a different culture. As you move out of your bubble, it pops, and lets in a flood of senses you weren’t in touch with before. Seeing new sights, tasting new food, hearing a new language…it makes you realize that there is no right way to live your life. That the world exists outside of a 9-5 job with an hour commute and a mortgage. There is color and wonder in the most unconventional of places. Maybe it’s not always pretty, or perfect, but it is life. And the more perspectives you truly see with your own eyes (and not through the eyes of someone else) will make this world seem a whole lot less scary.
 
You Will Find Good… And Bad
 
I have been helped by the people I would least expect, and robbed by those I trusted the most. Navigating through the seas of people, with their stormy relationships and unpredictable currents, is probably life’s hardest lesson. You will meet people who trip you and kick you when you’re down, but you’ll also meet the people who lend out a hand and carry you on their shoulders. There is no way to know who is who, but you can’t let it deter you from living the life you want to live. Recognizing that there is good and bad in everyone is a sign that you’re learning about the ambiguities of this world. The lesson is to not let people ruin you and not to depend on them too much; instead, realize that the only constant you have in this life is yourself. Love yourself and spread that goodness with everyone, but keep your inner compass pointing true to you.
 
It’s A Growing Process
 
Through the good, the bad, and the unknown, it’s all about enduring our situations. No matter how things go, just chalk it up as a learning experience and keep it moving. There’s a saying that suggests we merely “become” who we are, as though it’s life that shapes us. But I would rather view life as a blank canvas for us to create ourselves onto. See? It’s all about how we choose to grow. So it’s important not to let the unfavorable conditions get the best of us, but to trudge through them with awareness and understanding. Regardless of who we grow into, it’s all about the process. When we travel we acquire a knowledge that no book can give us, because we are actively participating in its journey. And, for that reason reason alone, it is worthwhile.
 
Gratitude Is Everything
 
A lot of people don’t realize how #blessed they are for the wonderful things in their life, and even the most miniscule things of their life. Well, when you’re trying to fall asleep in a car with another person and an 80 pound dog in freezing weather, you realize right quick how lucky other people are to be in a warm bed. But, wait a moment, at least I have shelter, and when I wake up in the morning it’s going to be an awe-inspiring landscape, and gosh at least I’m alive! Taking the moment to be grateful for the things that you do have instead of focusing on the things that you don’t, well, it makes all the difference. Turning bad situations into good ones is the First Law of Travel Dynamics, you know.
 
You’ll Realize What’s Important
 
When I decided to travel the world, I sold literally all of my possessions. My collections of books, movies, records, and my clothes. Even though I knew how good it would feel to free myself from the chains of materialism it was still so hard to let go. As a society, we place such an emphasis on these things like they define who we are, but *spoiler alert* they don’t! It’s too hard to find meaning amidst all of the clutter, so it’s only when you start to rifle through it all that you realize what really matters to you. Not just on a physical level, but even through daily interactions, the characteristics you look for in people, or the traits you want to work on for yourself. It’s really liberating to chuck (I mean donate) your fancy junk to the curb (I mean your local thrift store), but you won’t know how exhilarating it is unless you try it for yourself.
 
Everything Will Be Okay
 
I’ve been in some really tight situations where I would panic and jump to the worst possible conclusion. When that happens you just gotta get a grip and hold on. Once the storm passes, everything falls back into place. You quickly realize that you can’t always be in control of everything around you, and that might cause a freak out at first, but it’s definitely a relief to relinquish some of the responsibility. You just have to let things unfold for themselves and trust that it will all work out in the end. Don’t be afraid.
 
Traveling abroad teaches so many skills that transcend boundaries, enrich your life, and are applicable to so many careers. Above all, travel has given me the freedom of living my life without any regrets. So, whatever you have to do to make the opportunity to travel happen for you, then just do it! Do you have any lessons to share with us? Leave a comment!
You’ve got your TEFL certificate, you know where you want to be, and what you want to do,  so the time has come for the dreaded interview process. We’ve all had to go through it countless times, but it never feels any less stressful each time. It’s the make or break of it all. But while you freak out trying to figure out what makes you such an invaluable asset, it’s important to realize that the school has to be a good fit for you too. That’s why it’s important to ask questions! It shows that you’re interested in more than just clocking in and out for the paycheck, but that you know what you want from them. Here are some specific questions for your TEFL interview to take into consideration:
 
Know The Classroom Dynamics
 
  • What is the average class size?
  • What types of resources and teaching aids are available?
  • What textbooks does the district use?
  • What technology resources will be available to me in my classroom?
    What discipline procedures does the district use?
 
New Expectations: How The School Works
 
 
  • What type of anti-bullying measures are you taking in the school?
  • What do you think are the school’s greatest strengths?
  • Do you feel that there are areas in your school that need improvement?
  • What are some of the goals you have and challenges you are facing for the school year?
  • May I have a tour of the school?
 
Administration Is The Real Boss
 
  • What administrative/other tasks are required outside of teaching hours?
  • Are teachers observed?
  • Do you have cameras in the halls or classrooms?
  • What are the prospects for future growth in this community and its schools?
  • How does the administration and teachers work together to respond to student needs?
  • As a new teacher, how will I be supported and evaluated?
 
Know Your Audience: The Students and The Parents
 
  • What is the student demographic at your school?
  • What percentage of them go on to college?
  • How would you describe the student population?
  • What types of activities do you have that promote parent-teacher-student interaction?
  • Do you find a lot of support coming from the community?
  • Do you have an active PTA group?
 
About the Actual Teaching Part: Curriculum
 
  • Is there a set curriculum?
  • Are there any required extracurricular activities?
  • What teaching methods do you use?
  • What kinds of materials are available to teachers?
  • Do teachers participate in curriculum review and change? How frequently does this happen?
 
Fellow Teachers and Staff
 
  • Does the school hold regular staff meetings?
  • Can you describe the teacher turnover at this school?
  • Have you had any conflicts or arguments with teachers?
  • How are conflicts handled?
  • May I contact a few teachers that currently work there?
 
 
A Day in the Life
 
  • How many hours will I be in the classroom per week?
  • What will my schedule be like?
  • How many classes will I be teaching?
  • Will there be any orientation or training period?
  • What are some of the qualities you need for this position?
 
 
The Elephant in the Room: Payment
 
  • What is the payment schedule?
  • What benefits does the company offer?
  • How much will I be getting paid?
  • How often are there raises?
  • How long is the contract you’re expecting?
 
The interview process is more than just a formal version of speed dating, where there’s a rapid-fire exchange of questions seeking compatibility. It’s an opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation that will begin a new chapter of your life. As long as you remember that, then the nerves will fade away. Do you have any tips for interviews to share? Drop a few for us!
When I began this program I really did not understand the actual practice of teaching English as a foreign language or the weaknesses I would have to overcome. Looking back to my first day and where I started from to where I am now much has changed. I have learned new teaching techniques, reviewed grammar that seemed to be lost in my memory, and discovered the type of teacher I want to be. In this reflection I will detail how I progressed in these areas as well as others during my training.

 

Day one opened my eyes to areas that I needed improvement on. Grammar is unquestionably what will require the most work on my part. Knowing and applying the skill of grammar is a world apart from being able to teach and explain it in a clear and concise way. Through studying and constant board practices explaining grammar points using form, meaning, and use became a very natural and fluid process. During my progression in becoming more adept in teaching grammar points I gained valuable incite into teacher student communication by observing more skilled and experienced teachers give a class. What really help me advance in my teaching was not just being told what I did wrong but how the observers help point out my strengths. It goes without saying that a person must work on their weaknesses but it is equally as important to realize what you are good at and sharpen those skills. Personally, I have a very natural presence speaking in front of people and I can intertwine humor into my lessons easily to help alleviate some of the stress and provide a very welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.

 

My first teaching practice showed that I did not have the best classroom control. Additionally, my positioning in relation to my student was not the most comfortable for a pleasant learning environment. I would often loom over student and look onto their book because I was not aware that it could cause intimidation and nervousness for the student. After the class my observer provided some well received constructive criticism that brought several key issues to light. These type of corrections occurred after nearly every teaching practice. Instead of being offended I just understood that there is always room to improve. That attitude helped me progress and eventually present and lead a class with confidence and efficiency. Once I achieved the belief that I could teach the process became much easier.

 

In the beginning a lack of confidence created the majority of my issues. I felt like the book was the complete law and would almost teach in a robotic form never deviating from it. I noticed while watching my trainers, who were experienced TEFL teachers that the book was merely a reference point and that it did not dictate their class. Once I realized that and began to prepare different activities and explain lessons in my own words rather than just reading the book, the entire energy of my classes changed and the flow of the lesson was much more natural. Additionally, I learned that having a backup plan is always the wisest option. Even a slow student can come to class one day and just have a good day and just blow through your lesson plan faster than you would expect. This was the case for me in my first teaching practice.

 

I got caught with about fifteen minutes left in class and had nothing else prepared. My body language changed and I was basically a deer in headlights, frozen and confused as to where I should go next. Now I am always prepared with additional grammar points and activities just in case the situation arises again.

 

Coming from America I have a predisposition of how I thought schooling operates. What I expected and the realities are two very different things. The main hurdle that can be hard to overcome is a lack of materials. Many schools will not have a book or many other things that one might think is necessary to teach. When I began I did not considered that a school would not have a book to teach from. What each day taught me is that a book is not necessary and really is not that big of an issue. Now I am confident enough in my skills as a teacher that I am not worried whether or not the school provides materials or not. I have the knowledge of the subject and all I need is students who have a desire to learn and progress. Also, every student is different and probably have outside influences that will affect their learning. This is why you must get to know your students. I am fortunate that I am a patient man and am hard to get flustered because I had days where my students did not show up or they were in class physically but mentally they were miles away. Every class showed me the importance of knowing who you are teaching and what could help them or what could hinder them both inside the classroom and outside.

 

Looking back I see a tremendous difference in myself now and how this program opened my eyes to what it means to be a teacher. Criticism is your friend and should be taken as a way to better oneself not as a insult. Improve the weaknesses you have but never forget your strengths and that they can also get stronger. Not every job you get teaching will be idealistic and just a walk in the park. There is no set way to be a teacher and creativity and ingenuity are just as important as discipline and structure. Knowing who you are teaching is just as important as knowing what you are teaching. My training made all of these things and more very clear to me, and each lesson I gave taught me just as much if not more than what I taught them.
There are 3 keys to teaching: heart, knowledge, and confidence. Before coming here, I was all heart. Believing in education as the cornerstone of every community was the foundation of my desire in becoming a teacher. My discontent with the systematization of education compelled me to become a wrench in its machine. However, upon arriving to my TEFL certification course, I realized that I have a lot of work to do on myself before I can actively make a difference in education.

 

My Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature prepared me for most of the grammatical knowledge component of teaching EFL, but only teaching practices could help me with my lack of confidence. As a social introvert, I have an inclination to engage with people yet lack the ability to comfortably express myself in front of a group. So the tools and philosophies to be a great teacher are there, but only performing them could strengthen them.

 

Throughout my 10 teaching practices, I was put into a variety of different situations that brought out different aspects of my teaching style. My first two teaching practices were with Erika and they went well because she appealed to my strengths, mainly: patience and compassion. With her, I realized the importance of instilling confidence and motivation in my students and, also, when to move past something they just are not grasping. After Erika, who was on Essentials, I taught Sonia, who is much more advanced and quick to learn. The change of pace took me off guard, despite my observation, and I was blown completely off course (and off my lesson plan). For the first time, I experienced a deer in headlights moment and my confidence completely plummeted, but I had to get back out there. I realized that I was relying too heavily on a “structured” teaching approach, when I am a much more unconventional person. So, I incorporated more of my personality in with the next lesson and showed two YouTube videos to deviate from the norm; needless to say, it went much more smoothly. I was beginning to create the kind of teacher I want to be.

 

Nino (my TEFL Trainer) made it a point to express “attitude and confidence” when teaching, so I made sure to do so in my own quirky, nerdy kind of way. In lieu of an authoritative military teaching style, I emphasize the excitement and benefits of learning the language. By making sure the students understand the importance of education, I can instill motivation in them while making a fun-filled environment with activities and discourse. My young age, trendy appearance, and pop culture savviness make me an easy-to-approach mentor-like teacher figure. I relate easily to my students and build a rapport with them, but this can work two ways. One, it may create a bond that pushes them to work harder so as not to disappoint me, or, two, gives the students a reason to not work hard enough. When the latter occurs, I need to be able to innovate a new strategy to compel them.

 

With my last 5 teaching practices I taught the same three girls. This allowed me to max out my interpersonal strengths, and to work out my weaker skill: disciplining. The students are smart and friendly, but they never do their homework, they forget their book, and they shy away from hard work. I made the activities in class much more engaging, such as incorporating role playing activities, listening to songs and making lyrics grammatically correct, and I also thought to assign a fiction novel to read outside of the classroom. The problem with assigning a text outside of class is that my students do not have the means to access the book via internet and I do not have the funds to buy the book/print the pages for them. Because of these hindrances, I will allot class time to reading out loud and assign reading comprehension for homework. This class has reinstated my confidence and desire to teach, while I also note the different ways I have shown improvement and where I still need to improve.

 

There will always be room for growth and I am just beginning. I will continue perfecting my grammar knowledge, honing in on my lesson planning skills, and building on my classroom management abilities. The most students I have taught in front of is three, so I definitely need to prepare for a classroom of 20 if I want to teach higher levels of education. As I said, this is only the beginning and I am very excited to see all of the opportunities this TEFL certificate will create for me. It has truly been a learning experience both in my development as a teacher and, more importantly, as a person.
When I first arrived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico I was experiencing my first culture shock. I did not know how to speak Spanish, I was the whitest person around, and laws are few and far between. Life was different, but that is what I wanted. Teach, travel, and adventure. And that is what I received. I had the opportunity to teach in front of a class for the first time, travel to a new culture where I gained a new perspective, and to adventurethrough the nature here that is truly beautiful.
 
I have known for quite some time that teaching is what I want to do. Education is the paved path to everyone’s future and the cornerstone to every community. I was excited to begin my English teaching career. I completed an online TEFL certification and I thought I was prepared, but that was not enough. I had no teaching practice, and no tangible experience. I had no idea what it felt like to be responsible for the education of a classroom and have those eyes staring at you, hungry for knowledge. My confidence was shaky, but I knew that only practice and mastering the grammar was going to make me a better teacher.
 
I am forever thankful I received another opportunity to take the in-class intensive ICEP TEFL certification. All of the grammar I learned online was the same in class, but it did not stick in my brain the first time. I needed practice. Not only with grammar, but standing at the front of a classroom and actually teaching. Building my own techniques. Having unplanned questions asked and having the knowledge of correct answers ready to respond. Actually obtaining the teaching practice that the in-class, on-site course offers is crucial to becoming a successful EFL teacher.
 
Having a kind and knowledgeable TEFL trainer present to immediately give feedback and answer questions helped me immensely. That is another aspect one does not get online. I was taught and drilled with correct grammar until I knew every form, meaning, and use. I was taught different techniques to build my own communicative approach to teaching. During teaching practices I was blessed with the opportunity to teach a wide range of ages, levels, and personalities. There were a few times that I felt overwhelmed, but I persevered because I knew that this is what I wanted to do. And, now I know what it takes to not only be a great EFL teacher, but an educator.
 
I know the twelve tenses of the past, present, and future and all the grammar in-between. I am prepared to answer on the spot questions that may not be in my lesson plan. I am familiar with multiple intelligences, the possible differences between students and that it is important to get to know them. I know the perfect communicative balance between the four skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I will be a teacher that keeps learning English interesting and fun, but professional.  The students will talk more than listen and they will be actively speaking English.

 

I went from thinking I knew everything there was to teaching, to realizing that I knew only the beginning, to becoming a great EFL teacher thanks to my TEFL trainer Nino DiLoreto. If I had not have taken the ICEP TEFL class I would still be the inexperienced online TEFL certified teacher I was before.

Complaining is an aspect deeply embedded into our human DNA coding. Maybe it’s the first world privilege talking, but I can whine about anything! But the truth is that anyone can complain, and they choose to. It takes true character to look into the dark abyss of imperfection and shine the light into it. These are some of the negative things I’ve caught myself saying about Puerto Vallarta, only to (quickly) realize are actually blessings.

 

“It’s so humid I feel like I’m swimming.”

 

This is true. It is hot and it is humid. But you know what else? You’re surrounded by the ocean! You can literally walk across the street and jump in it! It’s easy to work up a sweat after a day of sightseeing, but at the end of it all you can cool off in the ocean and reflect while watching a sunset. It really doesn’t get better than that.

 

“Everyone just sell tacos.”

 

So that’s an exaggeration, there are a lot of other things to eat here. Enchiladas, yum! Have you ever tried an enfrijolada? They’re delicious! And the tacos here are not “just” tacos. There are mahi mahi tacos, octopus tacos, shrimp tacos, tuna, chicken, beef, so many tacos!!! And they’re all $2!! Everyday is Taco Tuesday!!!

 

“I don’t even speak Spanish.”

 

The language barrier can be frustrating and it might deter you from engaging in even the most simple dialogues. The difference here is that the people on the receiving end are genuinely trying to understand you, instead of writing you off as a typical tourist. Through all the extravagant charading, there was laughter and a sense of understanding. Whether you’re crawling or stumbling along, at least the friendly Puerto Vallartenses are there to hold your hand.

 

“This place is so touristy it doesn’t even feel like Mexico.”

 

PV is a resort town so there’s a Wal-Mart, Domino’s, KFC, Burger King, and a lot of other chains from the US. While it can be disheartening to see them while you’re on vacation, it’s also pretty cool to grab a Whopper in Mexico, especially when they make their own Jalapeno ketchup. When you start feeling a little homesick it’s nice to eat something familiar, and what’s more American than a tub of fried chicken?

 

“Everyone is always trying to sell me something.”

 

When you’re trying to relax on the beach or have a conversation while you walk down the street, there will be a lot of offers to buy things. It’s easy to get frustrated with them but you gotta respect their hustle! These people are lugging around merchandise in hot weather all day long without complaint doing what they have to do to feed themselves and their families. You don’t have to buy what they’re selling, but you can at least respect that. Welcome to a different way of life!

 

“I can’t even drink the water here.”

 

Okay so you probably shouldn’t order tap water at a restaurant. However, why would you want to when beers are $1? That’s right. $1. And even if you’re not a drinker, restaurants offer natural juices in lieu of water. They’ll take mangos, pineapple, coconut, what have you, and liquefy them into a refreshing (and healthy) beverage. That’s even BETTER than water!

 

Basically, don’t let the negativity get the best of you. Take a deep breath and gain a bit of insight. There will always be something that isn’t perfect, so your attitude is everything. Finding the energy to be grateful for every moment is very powerful and you’ll find yourself enjoying life a lot more. So build up that light, friends! And it will spread onto others. Are there any qualms you have with Puerto Vallarta? Share them with us.

When it comes to studying abroad, no matter who you ask, you’re going to get the same answer: THE TIME IS NOW. If your inner dialogue is going something like this “it’s too expensive,” or “I won’t have any freedom as a student,” or “how am I supposed to choose just one!” then this is for you. We’ve considered all of the countries in each region, staying away from all of those obvious ones, and we suggest the best programs too! Say goodbye to those doubts and say hello to this:

 

 
Denmark

 

With only 6% of the population living below the poverty line, everyone riding bikes and wearing Birkenstocks, and wind turbines gathering electricity for them, it’s no wonder Denmark is called The Happiest Country in the World. One of the top ranked countries in terms of socio-economic, artistic design, and environmental sustainability progression, Denmark is the ideal country to study abroad. At DIS, you have plenty of programs to choose from. All of the programs feature an experiential education with hands-on learning activities, study tours taking you somewhere else in Europe, and fieldwork opportunities.

 

 
New Zealand

 

 
We all know New Zealand as “the place where Lord of the Rings was shot,” right? Well, it’s for a good reason. New Zealand was one of the last places modern humans inhabited, and the biodiversity is outstanding. Unfortunately, the presence of humans challenges environmental conservation, so it’s a huge education opportunity! One in particular is essentially a semester long field trip worth 12 credits, where students are constantly immersed in nature without cell phone reception for weeks on end. If this sounds like something you’re into, visit the site here: Wildlands Studies.
  
Nepal

 

Nepal: the place where dogs have their own day of celebration. Sounds like exactly where I want to be, but Nepal is still so much more than that! Religion is a huge component of their culture. With the largest Hinduism practice in the world with Buddhism as a close second, most citizens actually identify as being both. This creates an interesting syncretic culture- where antithetical beliefs are unified to create an inclusive school of thought. If you’re a World Religions major or are just fascinated with Hinduism and Buddhism, then we recommend a semester at The Dragons College. If the name doesn’t have your attention, the curriculum will. It includes: home-stays in the Kathmandu and Himalayan regions, a stone carving and mask making mentor, and a 10-day retreat at a monastery. This cultural immersion is the best way to learn about the developmental issues in Nepal and to truly inhabit a new perspective.

 

Poland

 

Ready to learn something new? Poland is the ONLY European country that completely dodged the recession that devastated the global economy in the late 2000s. Thanks to their strong domestic market, low private debt, and flexibly currency, where else would you want to study Business and Economics? A nonprofit, nongovernmental international education exchange program, CIEE, boasts a rigorous curriculum in the oldest and most prestigious school in Poland complete with cultural city excursions in the capital. Warsaw was obliterated in World War II and has completely reconstructed itself from the bottom up due to the hard work and resilient disposition of its citizens. Rich in culture, history, and economic opportunity, you can go as high up as their skyscrapers!

 

 Morocco

 

If you have never looked at Morocco on a map, I prompt you to do so right now……

 

Okay, so, if you didn’t already know, then now you know how absurdly close Morocco is to Spain and, subsequently, the rest of Europe. Because of its centralized location, Morocco is seen as a tree with African roots, a trunk in the Arab-Islamic world, with branches reaching into Spain and France. Morocco is a major player in world politics and the country is changing rapidly with a widely diverse culture. In terms of food, architecture, music, and much more, Morocco is so very rich in culture that it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That’s why the School for International Training has a program that highlights Multiculturalism and Human Rights in Morocco from past to present. The country is filled with complexities and challenges due to its rapid thrust into modernisation while clinging onto age-old traditions. In the SIT program, you’ll not only get to analyze it, but you will live it.

 

 Uruguay

 

Uruguay has steadily become Latin America’s leader as the country with least corruption, most fundamental rights, best public health and education opportunities, and all of the other wonderful things that make a country great. In particular, Uruguay is a big agricultural country, which is what caused their economic growth since the 80s. Because of this, several universities in the United States and Canada offer study abroad programs in Animal Science and Sustainable Agriculture. Through these programs, you’ll be able to visit and work on several Uruguayan farms and witness that how we treat our animals is a direct manifestation of how we treat one another.

 

Mexico

 

 
How could I end this list without Mexico? It’s so close to home that we don’t realize its magnificence as anything more than a Spring Break hot spot and El Chapo drama. We overlook Mexico’s rich indigenous history, ancient ruins, and its title as the “Aquarium of the World.” Well, no more! Take a 21 day excursion from La Paz to the Yucatan Peninsula with this program as you travel through the desert and into the jungle all while snorkeling in coral reefs, playing with sea lions, and examining sea turtles. This program is more geared to high schoolers since it doesn’t offer credits, but it’s still a killer thing to put on your resume! And, of course, totally worth the experience.

 

There are so many possibilities out there available to students that it would be silly not to take full advantage of it. This is the chance to network on a global scale and to understand a perspective outside of what you’re used to. Complete with seminars, excursions, and independent study, what’s to think about? The deadlines are comin’ up for the 2016 semesters, so hop on it!

 

Is there a program or country that you wish you saw on our list? Let us know!