Cuenca and Loja, Ecuador: Teaching English in Ecuador
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Chris Abraham

Liberal Arts Major(s): English, Spanish
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What was the best part of your experience?

The people. My neighbors would always say hello to me at the park, and I started playing basketball with one of them every night. My host mother would invite me to go walk the dog with her after lunch every day. My tandem partner at the university took me around the city even though he was only required to meet with me for one hour a week. When you leave everything that's familiar to you, you need somebody to throw you a rope because sometimes things aren't so great. Sometimes you miss your family, who hopefully loves you like nobody else does, your friends who keep making plans without you, or even that amusement park you used to go to when you were a kid after some silly memory resurfaces. Often times you feel different from everyone else because you are, a thought which rarely comes to my mind at home because I usually look and talk like the people around me. As valuable as some of these feelings are, they can weigh you down. Other people can help, and I’m grateful to those who did.

Especially now as I apply for jobs, I am glad to have been able to supplement my undergraduate degree with better language proficiency and work experience

How did this experience impact you academically?

I learned how to teach -- or at least the fundamentals. Before leaving for Ecuador, we read several articles about second language learning theory, considered school models in the United States, and even studied some grammar, but no one can replicate a real classroom. When we were in Ecuador, we were learning while we were teaching - taking classes ourselves during the day and teaching three times a week in the afternoons. It's one thing to learn theory and another to have practice. Both are necessary for any professional, beginner or master. I walk away from the program with a basic knowledge of both for teaching and much, much more.

How will this experience impact your career goals?

I have wanted to go live abroad and really see how far I can go with my Spanish for years now. Before Ecuador, I wondered whether I really could. After all, I don't want to be away from my family forever, and I've already written about some challenges which make life abroad difficult. I'm still a little hesitant, but I feel more confident after this program to meet those challenges, both professional and personal. I plan to apply for teaching programs abroad during the next few months.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program has allowed me to use savings which would have gone towards tuition for study abroad. Last year I went to Ronda, Spain with faculty from the Spanish Department, and now I have been to Ecuador with faculty from the Education Department. Without financial support from the Paterno Fellows Program, Schreyer, and the College of the Liberal Arts, I might not have ever gone away to boost my Spanish or learn how to teach. These were both opportunities I thought necessary for my own professional development. Especially now as I apply for jobs, I am glad to have been able to supplement my undergraduate degree with better language proficiency and work experience.

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