Teaching Traveling: Want to be inspired and informed about how to teach abroad from an expert?
Please welcome brilliant Teacher-Traveler Dana Wielgus. Dana, tell us about your background.
Dana: My name is Dana and I am a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. I am 23 years old and just received my Bachelor’s Degree in Education (certified to teach French and ELL to students ages birth-21) in January 2013. I knew from the moment I entered university that I wanted to teach and live overseas, so I curved my studies in college to reflect those goals, focusing on world languages (French) and English as a Second Language. I studied abroad during the 2010 spring semester in Caen, France, in the Normandy region. Then, during the summer of 2011, I spent 8 weeks teaching English in Fukuoka, Japan. I finished my student teaching in January 2013 and landed my first teaching job just two weeks after– as a long-term substitute ELL teacher in the Milwaukee area (two back-to-back maternity leaves)! I also taught summer school in another district in the Milwaukee area, and I now currently teach English in a professional French High School in Toulon, France, in the Côte d’Azur!
TT: What a resume! Tell us more about your travels.
D: I would not be where I am now if it was not for my semester abroad in Caen, France during my undergraduate studies. Before my study abroad I was still taking education-based classes, but I was focusing on another certification (about which I was not at all passionate!) and was not very happy. I was set on studying abroad in London, but long story short, it was too expensive. So, I ended up spending my 2010 spring semester in Normandy with the intention of completing my French minor. I am so glad that I did because because it changed my life. It changed the way I saw and understood the world, and more importantly the semester in Normandy changed the way I saw myself. My semester abroad forced me out of my comfort zone- I integrated into the French culture via living with a local family and enrolling in intensive language courses at the university alongside other exchange students from all around the world. I got to travel around France and Europe with my new friends and just learn so many life lessons. But most importantly, my stay in France rekindled my love and passion for travel, the French language, and French culture; I changed my major a week after I returned stateside.
My semester abroad inspired me to apply to teach English in Japan for eight weeks during the summer of 2011. I was accepted to a program called USA Summer Camp, which is a summer camp for Japanese students founded and established by an American named Guy Healy, who lives in Nagasaki. I was one of about twenty-five American and Japanese counselors. We worked together to lead 9 three-day camps to Japanese students of all ages. This program paid for my flight, lodging, transportation, food, and two 3-day family stays, but we worked a lot in exchange. I was mostly based in the city of Fukuoka, which in the island of Kyushu, but I took some time to travel to Kyoto, Tokyo, and Nagasaki at the end of my contract before returning home. The summer I spent in Japan was life-changing; Asian cultures are so different from occidental lifestyles; it was as if I learned things I never even knew existed.
My experience in Asia assured me that I wanted to teach abroad after graduation. Because I have been aching to get back to France, I applied to the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) when the application came out this past October. TAPIF is a great opportunity for young people between the Ages of 20-30 who want to teach in France and already have French speaking skills. I am one of 1,120 American assistants who are teaching English all around France and its overseas departments this year. I submitted my application in December 2012, was accepted in April 2013, and learned where I would be living and teaching in June 2013 (Toulon, in the Côte d’Azur- complete opposite from Normandy!) Now I have been in France for almost 2 months! This experience is a lot different than my study abroad because I feel more like a real adult- I am not doing this experience on my parents’ dime- I am living and working here completely on my own. I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember, so to be able to have made this dream come true for myself at 23 is a pretty incredible feeling. I am teaching in a public French high school, using my degree, improving my French, traveling all the time, and integrating myself into the culture– I have never been happier!
After France, I’m not sure what will become of my fate. I know I want to teach and I want to stay abroad, so I am already looking into recruitment fairs, programs in other countries, etc.