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Alyssa (Wolan) Wabalickis ’13 (left) with her fifth-grade English class in Galicia, Spain.

English Teaching Opportunities Attract New Graduates

Each May, SNC graduates walk across the Commencement stage to receive their diplomas after four years of hard work and determination. For some, the next step will be on to graduate school, while others will start on their career path. But a few will decide to embark on a different journey altogether.

An adventure for the taking
Megan Duff ’14 has been teaching English at a public elementary school in Ulsan, South Korea, since August. Despite not being able to speak the native language, Duff took the journey alone and admits she isn’t struggling as she thought she might.

“I first came across the idea of teaching abroad when I traveled to Lille, France, in summer of 2013 for a five-week study abroad program,” Duff says. “I met a friend who was going to teach in Korea and I became intrigued. First, I already knew I liked Korean culture. Second, I wanted to travel more and knew that I may not have another excuse to go to Asia. And third, I didn’t know what to look for in the job market or even if I wanted to attend graduate school so soon after my time at SNC.”

Teaching abroad seemed like the perfect alternative.

Duff decided to work with EPIK (English Program in Korea), which is run by the South Korean government to bring native English speakers to teach in public schools. Despite some uncertainty, a long recruitment process and mountains of paperwork, EPIK was able to provide Duff with several perks: airfare reimbursement, weeklong job training, a settlement allowance, a fully furnished apartment, health insurance, a generous wage and plenty of opportunities to travel.

But for Duff, that’s not even the best part. 

Culture shock has been almost nonexistent in her experience so far. With a wonderful support structure of new friends and encouraging Korean co-teachers, she’s been able to handle the teaching aspect and also enjoy her time in a new country. 

She’s not sure whether she’ll renew her contract next year, but her advice to new graduates and alums is simple: 

“Even if you’re afraid of taking the leap, remember you are capable, you can adapt, and you can be open to what the world has to offer. Now that I’m here, I can say it was worth it. I still can’t believe this is my life! Youth and opportunity are fleeting, so just do it. Jump!”

A post-graduation “sabbatical” for two
Robin ’13 and Alyssa (Wolan) Wabalickis ’13 were married soon after graduation and found themselves wanting a different experience from their peers who were searching for teaching positions. They were young, newly married and ready for a soul-searching adventure. Alyssa says she believes strongly in taking time after college to search for one’s true path.

Both Robin and Alyssa had worked as ESL resident assistants for St. Norbert College and enjoyed connecting with people from all over the globe. Sharing in other cultures and being able to express their own proved to be something that would guide their decision to teach abroad. 

Alyssa says: “After studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, my junior year, I fell in love with the city, the country and my host family, and knew that I wanted to return someday. After much discussion, Robin and I decided to work with the Spanish Ministry of Education in a program called Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. We were both placed in Vilagarcía de Arousa, a city of about 38,000 people in the province of Galicia in northern Spain, teaching English in elementary schools. Robin was even lucky enough to teach three-year-olds!”

For this couple, teaching Spanish students the ABCs of English was only a part of their spectacular yearlong experience. 

“Besides revisiting Spain and being able to travel around Europe, the most remarkable aspect of our time was the numerous relationships we formed there,” Alyssa says. “I feel like my world is so much smaller now that I can say that I have friends in multiple countries.”

For example, Robin and Alyssa were able to spend Christmas in Prague thanks to the hospitality of a former ESL student they met at SNC. While in Vilagarcía de Arousa, all the Americans celebrated Thanksgiving with one another and the get-together was featured in the local newspaper. Even during their travels, the pair conversed with people from Austria, India, Israel and Slovakia. They even ran into a woman from Burlington, Wis., visiting a small coastal town in Italy.

“When you are abroad, you realize the immense advantage it is to know English,” Alyssa says. “That is the only way Robin and I were able to meet so many people from all across the world.”

Since they’ve learned so much from other cultures and about themselves, the couple has been recommending the experience to everyone they know. Their yearlong stretch in Spain has even changed their lifestyle, and for the better.

“Robin and I still take walks after dinner, which was a huge tradition with all the families in Spain … and we really try to get in that afternoon siesta!”

At the moment, Robin and Alyssa are spending their time in Kenosha, Wis.

“Robin and I were eager to use all we’ve learned in Spain to help our hometown and community,” Alyssa says. “On a more practical note, we’ve set a goal to pay off all of our student loan debt by the first of next year. Pretty lofty, but we think it’s doable since we’re back home.”

Alyssa works with Spanish-speaking children through the Early Head Start Program, helping them meet all of their early developmental milestones. She also provides parents with resources and activities to help the process along.

Robin currently substitute-teaches in Kenosha Country and uses his unique experiences from Spain as ice-breakers for his classrooms. His students are usually surprised to learn that he’s eaten ham-flavored Pringles and boiled octopus.

From De Pere to the rest of the world

  • Jennifer Barrette ’14 plans to teach ESL in Asia. After becoming certified to teach through LanguageCorps’ flagship program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, she will travel to a yearlong teaching assignment in Vietnam next fall.
  • Joel Van Fossen ’13 and Miles Lamensky ’14 both currently teach in Tokyo, Japan. Joel worked with recruiters in AEON and recommended the program to Miles, who decided a travel stint with his good friend wasn’t such a bad idea.
  • Jesslyn Karrels ’10 has been teaching for a private school in Turkey since August. She works for NACEL, an organization based in Minnesota that partners with a private-school system to integrate and encourage a bilingual school system in its institutions throughout Turkey.
  • Having always had a love for languages and cultures, Amanda Miles ’14 is now a Peace Corps volunteer working in a St. Lucian school to improve English literacy in grades 1-3. The official language of St. Lucia is English, but the cultural language, Kwéyól, is most people’s first language. Because many of the children are often taught English in the classroom but speak Kwéyól in daily life, Miles’ role is to combat the knowledge gap created by this common practice.
  • Cory Fuller ’09 traveled to Lille, France, to teach English at the Catholic University of Lille from August 2010 to May 2011. He was accompanied by his wife, Flora (Lienard) Fuller, a citizen of France who spent time at St. Norbert as a French-language teaching assistant.
  • Anne Berkovitz ’09 taught at Anders Englisch Lernen and ELT in Thüringen, Germany, from 2009 to 2011. She returned to the United States to attend law school and, after passing the Wisconsin bar exam this summer, she has moved back to Thüringen to start her career in the legal field.
  • Eileen Abitz ’08 worked with recruiters in the AskNow program and was placed in Daegu, South Korea, to teach English to children ages 3-11. Clare Mucker ’08 and Leslie Frett ’08 joined her for the journey.
  • Lynn Koves ’07, Becky Ryan ’07 and Angela (Mangine) Withrow ’07 were placed in Seoul, South Korea, shortly after graduating from St. Norbert.
  • Jeremy Doughty ’05, a former study-abroad adviser for St. Norbert, served in the Peace Corps teaching English in Ukraine from 2005 to 2007.

Nov. 4, 2014