TeachingTraveling.com: What a cool guest we have today! Candice Broom is a world-traveling teacher who is currently educating in Laos!
Candice, tell us about yourself.
Candice: I am from Birmingham, Alabama. I finished my Mass Communications degree in 3 years at the University of Montevallo, got married, and went to a Mayan Indian reservation in Belize for 3 months, followed by a year teaching 1st grade in Beijing, China. Currently I live in Vientiane, Laos, where I have been since 2003. I earned an MA in Teaching in 2006 and now I work at the International School in Vientiane. I have two boys who are 6 and 3. I teach 3K, this year my youngest son is in my class! I blog at MomMostTraveled.com.
TT: Fantastic! Please explain some of the travel adventures you have undertaken recently.
C: I have tried to take advantage of my location in Southeast Asia and have traveled to Xi’an and Shanghai, China, Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia, Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Luang Prabang, Savvannakhet, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane, Laos, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Yao Noi, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, and Nong Khai, Thailand.
The most exotic voyage was to the Ubud region of Bali. I learned how to surf there, and I also visited a 4,000 year old nutmeg forest inhabited by a bunch of scary “sacred” monkeys.
TT: Amazing! What is an organization that helped launch your Teaching-Traveling career?
C: I taught in China with an organization called English Language Institute China, or ELIC. I learned about it from a friend who had also taught with ELIC and ended up signing on for 4 years in Mongolia.
TT: Excellent. How do you fund your travels?
C: I have funded some of it through fundraising, but currently I get a normal salary as a teacher at the international school.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.
C: Well, my experience teaching in China was very “sink or swim.” I rotated between four Grade 1 classes every day, teaching them English. 99% of the students were Chinese and they were very much used to sitting in rows of desks and learning by rote. I tried to teach Western style but they just went berzerk. So in the end we did flash cards for a part of every day and they were really comfortable with that and learned a lot. I did get stressed a lot though; I had 130 students in all. It was a boarding school though and they were absolutely in love with me. I would be swarmed in the hallways to the point that I was afraid they would cause me to fall down during our group hugs. I always tried to get in a door jam for stability.
TT: Love that image! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
C: As a person, I think I have a connection to “outsiders” now. Living as an expat has given me a really good perspective about what it is like to have very little understanding of my surroundings. It feels so helpless to not know the local language or how to do normal tasks like go to the grocery store. When I lived in China I always needed help to do these things. I was like a preschooler in an adult body! When I went back to the states in 2007 to have my second child, I found that I really clicked with a group of Kenyan immigrant women and ended up eating delicious Kenyan dinners as a guest in their homes several times. I felt like we had a lot to talk about.
And, I did get really burnt out on ESL/EAL initially, but I think I will always have a soft spot for ESL students.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
C: I feel really empowered. I never thought I would live outside of the US for 10 years, but I have! I have learned different languages, navigated difficult and unfamiliar situations; I really feel like I can handle anything life throws at me.
TT: So great! What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
C: I would say for certified teachers, the world is your oyster if you go to an International School job fair. Try groups like “Search Associates.” Most schools give you a relocation allowance, full salary, health insurance, and they pay for housing and round trip travel every year. Usually the minimum contract is 2 years. It is the best way for teachers to see the world, and the schools are in a much better state than public schools in the US as far as classroom management situations.
TT: Candice, thanks so much for your fascinating story and helpful insights! Keep on teaching and traveling! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?