Alumni Spotlight: Shana Leigh Heagwood

Shana Leigh is a full time English teacher and YouTuber living in Japan. She received her Bachelors of Science in Criminology and Psychology from Florida State University in 2011. She also completed her license in Cosmetology from the AVEDA Institute in 2012. She has always been an adventurer and lover of life and learning, so after years of trying different careers she decided to pursue life abroad as an English teacher.

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Why did you choose this program?

I chose the International TEFL Academy's online program because it was not only the most convenient for me (I was incredibly busy with a full time job and other working projects), but it offered the best program available combined with the most opportunity to travel and work upon completing the program. Other programs were more limited due to their lack of qualifications/hours.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

ITA assisted me with literally everything. They provided a multitude of online lists and services for places to look for jobs in each country, as well as a chart showing cost of living and average income for each country. They checked my resume and my cover letter when I was applying for jobs. They were willing to talk with me about what to expect in an interview and if I wanted to practice they would work with me. They offered letters of reference. They also offered an incredible network of alumni support.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Don't hesitate or be afraid to contact your teacher if you have any questions or concerns about anything. They are very helpful and understanding. Also, there is a good opportunity to communicate with your classmates and even alumni while you are in school, so definitely take advantage of that. The connections you make can go a long way!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The work load isn't overbearing at all. I worked a full time job, also did part time freelance work, had another part time job, enjoyed time with my friends, and was still able to complete both the coursework and the practicum hours. The practicum is probably the most intensive part, as you are expected to treat it like work (or I was in my case with the school I volunteered at).

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was so afraid I was going to run into problems or make no friends because of a language barrier. I came to Japan not knowing any Japanese, and I was overwhelmed with how kind and helpful everyone was despite my lack of knowledge. Even in situations where people spoke no English, they went out of their way to try to help me. I've definitely come to realize that although, yes, language can in some ways be a barrier to understanding everything, your attitude and approach will make all the difference.

What is your biggest piece of advice to someone traveling or looking to travel and/or live abroad?

Go and go without expectations. Yes, it's important to do some research, have an idea of where you're going, have an idea of what may be different culturally. Nonetheless, from what I've seen, the people who don't make it, don't enjoy it, or can't handle it are the people who travel expecting things to be a certain way and not being open and flexible to differences in whatever mindset they arrived with.