How did I find myself sitting on an airplane, holding my first passport ever
and heading so far west I would eventually end up east? Me, whose relocation from small town to city had, not so long ago, caused me to cry with anxiety for a full month. Me, so shy I spent four years of university consciously avoiding any course that involved giving a presentation. Not a likely candidate for teaching anywhere let alone in a new country. So, how did this happen?
The butterflies, more like Nazgul, in my stomach had appeared about ten months earlier with the realization that I’d be graduating without an exact profession
. My friends studying science were moving into graduate school. My best friend in nursing was, well, becoming a nurse. Translation students were getting translation jobs. You get the idea. But me? My degree was so insanely liberal I had taken courses from almost every department in the faculty of arts. No joke. What was there for me to do? Shelving books for $6 an hour would not quickly reduce my student loan. As the wings flapped under my ribcage one day, I overheard a lanky boy in the cafeteria talking about Japan. I think someone’s cousin’s friend’s sister was teaching there or something. I got curious.
I didn’t know anyone less than 5 Kevin Bacons away who had left the country to teach, so I did the one thing I knew how to do: research
. (Not exactly true- I could also write essays about Princess Lea’s feminist heroism or Finnish immigration to northern Ontario)
. I checked my school’s career office
for something to read. Books and magazine articles expounded on the basics, but what made the experience seem achievable was a Q&A session given by a visiting alumnus. I especially liked what I heard about working with kids and getting my airfare paid- how else could I afford a plane ticket? But I still wasn’t sure it was for me.
What sold me was a bit of ESL-related work on campus
. In the spring before graduating I came across a job posting for summer work with visiting Korean students. I got the excellent job of monitor
: helping with English homework, touring cities and explaining some language and culture casually along the way. I was also lucky enough to sit in on the classes
given by the ESL teachers and talk with professionals
about starting in the field. Since the students I worked with were all Korean, I had 18 people encouraging me not only to find work in their country but making sure I would go to their city, specifically.
Over several months, the reading and talking process convinced me that teaching overseas was something I wanted to do. Once I decided to find work in a school for children and because I knew my destination country, those pre-graduation butterflies changed their tone. It was no longer a dreadful flapping but an anticipatory flutter that kept me from eating. In hindsight, I can see how I could have further reduced the anxiety. And that will have to be my next chapter. Comments welcome. I'd love to hear stories of how other people decided to start ESLing, if that can be a verb.