Which companies would your class like to visit? Leave your ideas in the comments section.
It’s been five months since my husband and I left Taipei, Taiwan, our home for the past two years, to move back to the States. We returned just in time for Portland’s Fourth of July festivities where we celebrated with family and friends. Neighborhood houses were decorated with American flags, and streets were closed to traffic so that kids could jump in bouncy houses, get their faces painted, and march their pets in a parade. Families hosted backyard beerfests, karaoke and talent shows. The day was filled with hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salads, and berry pies and literally ended with a bang: an awesome display of fireworks. Perhaps I was jet-lagged and experiencing reverse culture shock, but our homecoming felt very surreal to me. I felt out of place in this world that should have been very comfortable.
Teaching and traveling are my passions, and teaching abroad had always been on my bucket list. Just over two years ago, the opportunity presented itself (via Twitter, no less!) and within months I took a leave from my teaching job and started making arrangements with my husband, Lutz, (a retired college professor who shares this same passion) to rent our house, sell our cars and find a good home for our dog. I wanted to know all about Taiwan, so I spent time doing my homework by researching all I could about our soon-to-be new home.
A recurring theme that kept surfacing was the friendliness of the Taiwanese people. We found this to be very true. We were welcomed into homes, treated like family and invited on trips. Our new friends wanted to show us all of Taiwan: the temples, food, hot springs, mountains, beaches, night markets – you name it, we were included. Taiwanese hospitality was above and beyond what we had ever expected – this I will treasure the most. But like any experience abroad, it came with distinct challenges.
For instance, learning Mandarin is not easy! Now that I’m back, people ask me if I can speak Chinese and I embarrassingly admit that I can’t. Their responses are usually the same: “What? You lived there for 2 years and can’t speak the language”? It’s a good thing that I had Google translate on my phone, but communication would often get mixed up even with these modern technological tools. I know that if I had been able to speak the language a whole other layer of Taiwan would have presented itself. Luckily, most Taiwanese speak very good English.
At times, teaching itself also was quite the hair-raising experience. Large classes (42 kids to a class) with no teaching assistants was challenging. And, the Taiwanese expectation is that behavior problems are all dealt with in class; the principal is not involved in disciplinary action and parental contact is discouraged except in extreme cases. Despite this, my relationships with my kids were great, all 84 of them, and I do miss them – even the ones who gave me grey hair! One of the benefits of staying a second year was that I was able to loop with my classes. This allowed me to bond not only with my students but with their families as well.
Living back in the states, I’ve boycotted Chinese restaurants that serve greasy, gooey, Americanized Chinese food – not the real, fresh authentic cuisine we ate in Taiwan. We’re still trying to settle in: we’ve unpacked our household goods from storage, we’re about to purchase a car, and we’ve retrieved our dog. There’s not a day that goes by where my husband and I don’t mention something about our experience in Taiwan.
Two years is a long time to spend in a different country; it’s just enough time to begin to feel a part of it. By the end of our journey, I loved most everything about Taiwan: the people, the culture, the food, and the country, and I realized that I was becoming Taiwanese! No wonder I was so conflicted when I returned home, as living in Taipei has helped me to see the world from a more global perspective.
Many teachers who are looking to go abroad don’t have a specific location in mind. Rather, they look for a place that will suit both their professional background and their personal wanderlust. The following reflection is from Teacher Courtney, who taught in Costa Rica before joining BGL in Taipei, Taiwan.
If I was to pick one true, unmatched passion in my life, it would unmistakably be travel. It has been this way since I was a kid. I can remember the excitement and anticipation of family road trips and the joy of gazing out the window at new and inspiring scenery. As I have gotten older, this passion has only intensified to the point where I have strategically weaved my professional career together with my travels. Thus far, I have done so in two very distinctly different locations; San Jose, Costa Rica and Taipei, Taiwan. Each were such extraordinary journeys that were incredibly rewarding.
I moved to San Jose in the summer of 2008 to complete the final semester of my teaching practicum. Fresh off of a recent trip to Spain and throughout Europe, I was anxious to absorb the culture and customs of the Ticos and put my Spanish skills to the ultimate test. Teaching and living in Central America are two very different experiences. On one hand, days in the classroom are a twisted sonnet of Spanish and English spent with incredibly intelligent, bilingual students. Each day you hone your expertise in the realm of multicultural/multilingual education. On the other hand, the wandering soul in me would take over on the weekends and I would find myself on a different beach, mountain summit or international border. The duality of my lifestyle was so incredibly addicting and exhilarating that I fell in love with my life and in turn, my profession.
After returning to the States at the end of the year, I submerged myself in the American education system, coupling my newly-acquired understanding of the classroom with learned pedagogy. I found myself facing the unique challenge of educating middle school students who were chronically in and out of homeless shelters and living on the streets of Central Phoenix. It didn’t take long – three years to be exact – before I was ready for another international journey. Due to my previous location, it seemed only natural that I set my sights on a new faction of the Pangea for another professional and personal challenge. My open-minded exploration eventually led me to a unique opportunity teaching in Taipei, Taiwan, for a company based out of Los Angeles, Banyan Global Learning. Needless to say, I was intrigued and thoroughly amped on the idea of traveling to Asia, a portion of the globe on which I had yet to trot.
As my travels began, I was amazed at how much nervous travel-energy I had, especially in comparison to all of the previous adventures of my life. The thought of literally being on the other side of the world, far from all that I knew and trusted, was paralyzing.
However, upon arrival in Taipei, any previous anxiety I had manage to manifest had lifted. I found myself surrounded by an incredibly authentic culture, in many respects untouched by Western influences and yet existing in beautiful harmony with the fluxing world. Winding neighborhoods scattered with temples and shrines, genuine smiles from a truly kind and generous people abounded, and my mind wandered through waves of knowledge, experiences and paths. For the first time in years, I remembered how it felt to be truly alive and acutely aware of how fragile and inspiring life can be.
Professionally, I had never before found such a balance of being intensely challenged while simultaneously in awe and inspired by my student prodigies, most of whom were trilingual (speaking Mandarin, Taiwanese and English). For such a young age, they had so much warmth and acceptance toward a new face and new teaching methods. All at once, the teacher in me became the student.
To say that I wasn’t challenged to my core along the way would be a lie. Navigating a city where you are not only unable to speak the language, but also read the language, was challenging at times. Self-expression became steadfast and much more of an act than a word or phrase. I quickly grew to trust my instincts and appreciate the weight of a kind word or gesture. In hindsight, the duality of this challenge opened me up to strengths in myself I never really knew existed. Unlike my experiences in Costa Rica, where I was able to fall onto my “crutch” of my language abilities, in Taiwan, I had to find other methods. My life in Taipei began to change as I began grasping basic phrases, learning daily from my students and being exposed to an entirely new side of myself. I was slowly assimilating and falling in love with my new home.
Now, as time has passed (it’s been just over a year since I returned from my incredible Taiwanese adventure), I have had a chance to become accustomed to the normalcies of my native land once again, and I can’t help but reflect. I find myself quick to compare these two very distinctly different travel experiences, weighing the good and the bad in both. Each opportunity was a beautiful balance of professional growth and exposure, accented by an introspective expansion that left me only wanting to see more.
When asked which experience trumps the other, or which I would recommend, the lines are blurry and I am not able to make a clear-cut decision. Yet there are a few changes I found in myself that are unmistakable and of which I can be completely. Living in Central America was beautiful and rich with culture, natural beauty and a welcomed proximity. But, my time in Taiwan exposed me to an altered and grander picture of the world and of my personal goals. Living in Southeast Asia made me, without question, a better teacher, a more patient person, far more independent and, above all, acutely aware of my life-long goal to live a life full of authentic, worldwide travel.
See all the information at http://banyangloballearning.com/employment.
Tsai Hsing School is an esteemed institution with a rich history in Taipei. Recently the school has added to its stellar reputation by opening a branch in Zhengzhou, China while leading Taiwan in the adoption of technology and Western teaching methods, especially for language instruction.
Banyan Global Learning seeks US state-certified teachers for two content-based English kindergarten programs. There is an immediate opening in Taipei, Taiwan and multiple openings for the fall of 2014 in Zhengzhou, China.