Monday, January 5, 2015

[Teach Abroad Blog Carnival] Travel and teaching resolutions in 2015

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I'll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog at the start of every month, and the carnival is always published on the 5th by that month's host. Check back for more articles, and if you'd like to contribute to next month's Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at, and he will let you know how you can start participating.

This month's host is Carissa Peck of mELTing activities, which is where you can read all of this month's entries.

Prompt: What's the resolution that you will make for your year of teaching (or traveling)?

Reach to Teach - Teach Abroad: New Year's Resolutions

As someone who's constantly working on various self-improvement pursuits, not to mention checking in monthly on my yearly resolutions, no doubt I've been putting together some new resolutions for 2015 (post to come this week!).

I almost wasn't going to participate in this month's carnival, though, since I'm not teaching ESL right now, nor do I have concrete plans to teach it again in the near future (though who ever knows...). But this is actually the perfect opportunity to flesh out some ideas and get focused on part of what I'd like to accomplish in the new year. So why the sudden change in opinion?

Over the second half of last year—and after writing all my life—I transitioned from a full-time English teacher in Korea to a freelance writer and editor, currently doing exciting work directly involving language learning/teaching. The change was intentional, so that I could have location independent work and keep on traveling. But the point of this little tale is to show that both categories are still very much applicable to me: teaching and traveling.

Let me tell a quick story to show one way I've continued to teach since leaving my classroom in Korea.

A week or two before I came back to the states this fall, I got an email from an alumni group at my university, looking for alumni to volunteer and come to a night where current undergrad students pick your brains about careers and whatnot. Although it wasn't something I'd normally do, I signed up—to push myself out of my comfort zone, have a new experience, and try to give back. 

I didn't think I'd have much to offer, as it seemed most were looking for information on landing good jobs in a set career right after graduation—can't help you there. But it turned out my carefree "do what you love, passion and interest are so much more important than money and security" view was helpful to some overly stressed seniors, juniors, sophomores, and yes—there were also freshmen at this alumni/career connection event. 

I shared my personal experiences, emphasizing the fact that the startup I work for now didn't even exist when I graduated. Just get involved in your passions, spend time with people who share some of your interests, and the rest will follow. That single evening exemplified for me the fact that you don't have to be a complete expert or have "made it big" in order to help someone else. You just have to be a few steps ahead, which in that case meant a couple of years.

So to continue teaching—but keeping in mind the direction I'm heading—this year, I'll focus on teaching through my written words.

2015 Teaching Resolutions

  • Teach new Korea expats about ordering and enjoying Korean food through an awesome written guide.
I got the idea for this guide last June when my former boyfriend was visiting me in Korea. I was exhausted on a Friday evening after a full week of work, and we were looking for dinner in an area I hadn't yet been. I had no idea where to eat, and was getting overwhelmed at having to be the sole communicator, because I rarely tackled new restaurants on my own, and he has dietary restrictions. 

To cut the story short, it was not a happy night, but I ended up turning that frustration into productive energy when the idea hit me to create the ultimate Korean food guide—everything I would have liked to know from the start. The project has been on hiatus since August or so, but I have a decent amount drafted up, so I really want to see this project to completion (and see how many copies I could sell!).

  • Teach study abroad students and English teachers (auxiliares de conversación) in Madrid (or Spain) about life in Spain through a high-quality written guide or guides.
Similar to the first resolution, I've racked up lots of knowledge after two years as an expat in Madrid. I've written up hundreds of advice-filled posts on my Spain blog, Oh No She Madridn't, and answer emails with questions from readers every couple of weeks.

I want to put together a super organized guide or two that has all of my best advice and tips in one place, everything you could possibly want to know about moving to and living in Spain as either a student or English teacher.

  • Teach others what I learn about good health by posting every Thursday on my health blog.
Last year, in resolution to improve my personal health, I began a new blog with the former boy. I want to continue researching, experimenting, and sharing my findings in writing each week this year. This way, my efforts can reach beyond myself, and perhaps positively impact someone else.

  • Teach myself French, such that I reach an upper intermediate level.
Lastly, French is going to be a huge focus of mine this year. I got bit by the French bug in 2010 when I went to Morocco over my Spring break (I lived in Spain, so it really wasn't far!). I signed up for two semesters of French during my senior year, but then lost a bunch of it during my time back in Spain, then the United States, and finally last year in Korea. I really, really want to be able to speak French fluently, so the time is now. 

I resolve to use my teaching skills, and what I know about language learning, to teach myself French to the best of my abilities this year. How could I learn the most French, though? Well that involves moving on to travel resolutions.

Travel Resolutions

  • Go to France, and max out a tourist visa soaking up and practicing that French!
The day I spent in France this fall, my first day walking the Camino de Santiago, was pure bliss. I ordered a sandwich for lunch at a bar (huzzah!) and then understood that the bartender's jibber jabber at me meant that he had a free sandwich if I got paté instead of jamón—double success! I ended up talking with many more French speakers throughout the walk, somehow managing to communicate in my very limited knowledge.

And so this year, I must return to France. With a portable work desk, so to speak, there's nothing holding me down. I just have to sit down and make some plans, buy a ticket, and hop on a plane.

  • Visit as many friends as possible who live in other places.
I could very well get involved in a stationary position if there's a neat seasonal job or something in a new place, but at the moment I'm mobile, and I have hard-earned money saved up from Korea. So I want to visit whoever I can that lives elsewhere (here's your shoutout, Jordan!), because if not now, when? I actually have my first trip in a few days, visiting a friend in DC for a week. 

  • Push myself out of my comfort zone when traveling.
The more time I spend in new situations, the more my comfort zone expands, but it still has a lot of growing to do. So in whatever travels I end up making this year, I want to push myself to step out of my comfort zone, speak my mind, and not hesitate to interact with strangers. Kind of like at the end of the Camino this fall, when I interviewed about 40 pilgrims who were standing in line, waiting for their Compostela. Just me and my notebook, some courage, plus my English, Spanish, and broken French. I can hardly believe I did that, looking back! (Yeah, I still have to write about it... it'll come, don't you worry). So more of that this year.

And that, folks, is where we'll leave it for now. I'm putting together my "regular" resolutions post as well, but I think this gives a good idea of where I'm headed.

These resolutions focused on travel and teaching, but in what areas do your resolutions fall this year?
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