Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Decade In Review (or How I Got To Where I Am Today)

Looking back on the last decade I can see that I organize my years on travel. I can always remember what happened to me in a particular year by remembering where I traveled. Italy has obviously been a huge part of my life and I probably wouldn't be teaching English in Brooklyn with out it.


-I start off the year, and the decade, by studying abroad in Italy. I'd already been to Italy twice but could not wait to finally LIVE there. I finish the spring semester studying abroad and decide to stay in Italy for the summer and perhaps the fall semester.

-I spend the summer traveling with friends around Europe and working in the leather market in Florence. By August I realize that staying in Italy to study for the fall semester isn't going to work out so I quickly book a ticket home and am back at Arizona State within a week.

-I continue taking classes for my architecture major during the fall semester (minus the studio classes since I am behind from studying abroad) but all I really want to do is go back to Italy.

-November. I suddenly have a realization that if I change my major to Italian I'll have an excuse to go back and study in Italy. Don't know what I'll do with a degree in Italian but that doesn't matter.

-I go the the International Programs Office and tell them I want to do an exchange in Italy and just my luck, they tell me the director is in Florence that very day working out an agreement with the University of Florence!


-Spring semester at college.

-I'm off to Europe to visit some friends in Italy and then work in Greece for the summer. I've been to the Pink Palace several times in my travels and this summer I'm going to be there all summer working at the reception desk.

-Fall semester at college.


-My last semester at ASU (since I'll be spending my last YEAR of college in Florence)! While I'm waiting to schedule my classes with the guidance counselor I see a sign on the wall for Arabic 101. I remember a good Jordanian friend of mine in Italy jokingly saying that I couldn't learn Arabic because it's too hard. I register for the course on a whim since if fits perfectly into my already packed schedule putting me at 19 credit hours for the semester.

-My first summer since 1998 that I don't travel for the summer. Instead I work like crazy to save up to go abroad.

-Back to Italy! I arrive at the beginning of September and start to learn to navigate the mess that is the Italian university system.

-I fly home for Christmas with my family.


-I return to Italy to study for exams. I study for a month solid! Ah, the joys of the Italian universities.

-New classes start. I do some traveling during the breaks. July comes and it's time to study for exams again but it's sooo much harder in the summer than in the winter!

-I go back to work in Greece for two full months during August and September!

-I get back to Italy in September. I'm so happy to be back in Italy and I want to stay indefinitely but I'm finished with university now and job options are limited without a work visa. I've already worked in the leather market and as a waitress and neither of those are sustainable. I decided to go home at the end of September and sort out my credits (so I can officially graduate) and my life!

-Back home. What will I do next? I'm living with my parents and working at a restaurant. My parents "force" me to buy a newish car and I cry in the dealership as I'm signing the papers. This really makes it hard for me to just pick up and take another trip or do something random. Boo to car payments and responsibility.

-Still, I'm thinking about what to do next. I have a little file folder where I've been collecting information on possibilities: Peace Corps? Teach For America? AmeriCorps? Study French at a language school in Paris? So many possibilities but what makes sense?

-December. College graduation! After a long fight with the History department to accept my American History class that I took at the University of Florence I am finally able to graduate! I have a Bachelor's degree in Italian and a minor in Urban Planning and no idea what to do with my life!


-An idea finally comes to me. I will get a TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) certificate so I can teach English abroad. The best part of my plan is that I will take the month long class in Florence (so that I can spend more time in the place that really feels like home to me) and then teach in Morocco (since I've always wanted to go there AND I can try to put some of my Arabic studies to use). I've already been saving money but now I kick it into full gear so that I can save up enough to pay for my car and student loan payments for 6 months while I am gone.

-June. Just 8 months after I left Italy I'm on my way back for a whole month!

-I don't end up getting a job in Morocco so I get a job with an Italian summer camp organization and spend the summer traveling all around Italy working at different camps.

-In September I get a job working at a language school in Sardegna and at the beginning of October I'm on a plane to start another year in Italy. I've only saved up for six months of my car payments and since I know I won't be needing it anytime soon I put it on my parents to sell it. (It's the last car I've owned.)

-Home for Christmas.


-I return to Italy to continue working in Sardegna. By February I realize I'm tired of living on an island. I want to either go back to the mainland of Italy or maybe try out another country. Egypt perhaps? I've been keeping up my Arabic studies so that seems like an exciting idea. The only problem is I don't make much money so don't have much money to move.

-I remember my file folder of possibilities and think of Teach For America. If I could do that program it would give me two years teaching experience and certification which would allow me to teach abroad later at an international school which could be a real job with a real salary! I check the website and find out and the application is due in a week!

-I get called for an interview with TFA and in March I'm on a plane to NYC for the very first time. I love it just as much as I thought I would! My mom convinces me to change my placement preferences to New York as top choice (because it's where I really want to be) from what I'd originally put (which was Phoenix so that I could be near my family for two years).

-April. I find out that I've been accepted to teach ESL in NYC. I am so excited! Now I just have to tell my boss I'm going to be leaving a month early. I start a blog to chronicle my experiences in TFA and teaching.

-May/June. I return to Phoenix for a month to work and get ready to leave for NYC.

-July. My life as a TFA Corps member begins! Induction in Philadelphia is just as intense as they said it would be.

-September. I start teaching ESL in Brownsville. Yeah, the first year teaching is rough.


-I finish the teaching year! Sadly I don't have enough money to travel during the summer. Instead I go to a week-long workshop in Philadelphia, get paid to attend a week-long workshop in NYC, and visit my family in Phoenix.

-I start my second year teaching at a new school where there are many more ESL students for me to teach. The school isn't perfect but it's a HUGE improvement over my old school.


-Graduation! Grad school is finally over. My parents come to visit me in NYC for the first time to celebrate.

-Summer. I finally have enough money to travel! I decide to take a trip to Guatemala and take a little Spanish class while I'm there.

-New school year. I'm still teaching ESL though I'd asked to have my own class teaching a self contained grade. I start thinking about international schools again and put the job fairs on my calendar for early next year.


-The job fairs come and go. I realize I'm just not ready to leave New York.

-July. I get a job working with a study abroad company in Florence for a month. I've wanted this job for a couple of years now and I'm SO excited to be going back to Florence.

-August. I travel around Italy, Greece, and Switzerland visiting friends from previous trips.

-Fall. I start my fourth year teaching. I remember being in Italy and thinking that two years in the States would be *SO* long. now I've doubled that time.


-I start thinking about summer plans. I toy with a couple of ideas including going back to Italy and going to the Middle East. I decide it's finally time to go to the Middle East. I've been studying Arabic for long enough now and wanting to go for even longer.

-I plan to go to Syria for two full months to study Arabic. After two weeks in Syria I take a side trip to Lebanon and fall in love with it. I decide to change up my plans and stay in Lebanon for the whole second month.

-Fall. I start my fifth school year really itching for a change. I really want to go back to teach in Beirut at the American International school there but if that's not possible I'd be willing to go to another country too. As much as I love NYC now might finally be the time to make a change.

-December. I register for the job fairs to find an international school to work at for two years beginning in the fall.

So, in conclusion, what started out as me not having any clue about what I wanted to do at the beginning of the decade has all sort of started to fall into place and make sense. Things build on each other and one thing leads to another until it all seems meant to be. Maybe next year I will be at an international school (in who knows what country) and that will be the start of a whole new chain of events. Or, maybe not. We'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Could this year be the year?

I've been thinking about it for a *long* time. Could this year finally be the year that I decide to work at an international school?

I have wanted to work at an international school since before I started teaching. At first I thought I'd teach two years in NYC and then immediately apply to work abroad. I quickly realized I'd need at least three years to be ready to leave New York (both financially and mentally). At the beginning of my fourth year I even had the international school fairs on my calendar but by the time they rolled around I knew I still wasn't ready to leave. Now it's my fifth year and I think I'm finally ready. In part my travels in the Middle East this summer have inspired me to go abroad and do something exciting again. Especially since I fell in love with Beirut (like I knew I would) and even visited the two American schools there. Lebanon has been my first choice for teaching abroad for a long time. Another factor has been my boredom with school lately. At the end of last year I started feeling that I was getting into a rut and it came right back at the beginning of this year. I need a new school, a new environment, just *newness* to keep me interested. Five years in the same city and with the same job is a really long time for me.

For the job fairs you have to specify three regions that you would be willing to go to (and by "regions" they mean continents). My first choice will be Lebanon (followed by elsewhere in the Middle East), then Europe or South America.

I took the first step yesterday and started an application to go to an international school job fair at the beginning of February! Today, I even brought it up to my principal. I need her (and two others to be references on the application). She was really excited for me and the realized it would be "really sad" to not have me at the school next year. She said it would be hard to replace me. (Awww!) Now I just have to line up one more reference and submit my application.

I feel like things could start happening quickly.