Alumni Spotlight: Jenny Currier

About me: I'm a little obsessed with Greece, inordinately fond of gelato, sometimes funny.
By day I'm a research assistant an an Ivy League Institution. By other parts of day, I'm a writer, food tour guide, fitness instructor, and adventurer.
Things I like: eating, nerding out about books I've read or podcasts I've listened to, and meeting new people. Every stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet! I also love being outdoors, especially when the sun is shining.

Why did you choose this program?

I originally signed up for an in-person course in Chicago, but because of extenuating life circumstances, I had to defer admission (good news: admission is good for life! or so I was told when I signed up in 2013. There is, however, a cancellation fee, plus an additional cost if you switch programs). In order to avoid fees, I switched to the online course. This also allowed me to continue working in Rhode Island and save money while I prepared to move abroad.

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

The course was online, and all the course materials were provided. The only thing I was responsible for organizing myself was the practicum hours. The program is really flexible in the types of ELL/ESL programs with which you can earn these hours. I work at Brown University, and there is a campus-affiliated program working with international students, so I volunteered with them.

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

This may not be feasible for everyone, but the thing I found MOST helpful during this course was the fact I was concurrently taking Greek lessons. If you haven't taken a language course in years, I highly recommend finding a community class or a teacher who will let you audit or at the very least download a language app-- I found this helpful because it allowed me to understand my own learning style, to experience first hand the types of lessons that were helpful, the ones that fell flat, and better gauge the effectiveness of the materials I created as part of the course.

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

There's a "packet" of materials each week to go through, and these include readings (in a PowerPoint fashion), videos, and some other sundries. It's important to watch the videos! There's a timed quiz, a discussion board with a new question each week, and there are also assignments that involve applying the new information -- everything from researching the country where you want to work to design a full lesson plan. It took me about 5 hours per week PLUS the assignments, which could take a few hours to an entire weekend depending on the complexity of the assignment and the outside research required.

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 have not yet taught English abroad because I haven't been able to find a visa-providing job in Greece (in my "old" age, I've decided to be stubborn. Greece is the place that inspired me to earn my TEFL certificate, so it's there that I wish to work.) I can tell you my greatest fear is not knowing what to expect in the classroom: what materials are provided, what the school's and students' expectations are, how the classroom dynamics will be. I'll get back to you when I've crossed to the other side.

How should you decide between taking TEFL as an online course or an in-person course?

Consider the following questions.

  • Are you financially strapped and/or working at a job that won't let you leave yet?
  • Are you open to the possibility of teaching anywhere?
  • or/ Is the country in which you'd like to teach seeking American teachers?
  • Are you already overseas?

If the answers to these are yes, definitely take the online course. However, if you have your heart set on one particular country (*cough* Greece *cough*), especially if it might be difficult to find a job/visa there while living in the United States, why NOT take the course in the country of choice (if it's offered)? You'll get a feel for the culture and the student/classroom dynamics during your practicum hours. You might make job connections, and at the very least, you'll get to spend time in the country you love. Essentially: if you are as Greek obsessed as I am, I recommend taking the course on Crete! :)