Kristine Bolt is an ex-desk jockey from Jamaica whose life underwent a dramatic one hundred and eighty-degree change a few years ago. Suddenly the things that mattered most to her – like stuff and position and people's opinions – didn't matter so much anymore. Now, she's a traveler and a helper who values getting out of her safe little box, going out into the world and serving people. So that's what she does, mostly through teaching English as a foreign language. She currently lives and works in Yakutsk, Russia. You can follow her blog at https://gooutandserve.com/.
Why did you choose this program?
About 2 years ago, after a series of dramatic changes in my life, I found myself in Indonesia as a volunteer teaching English to underprivileged children. Other than the odd tutoring job here and there during high school and university, I had never been a teacher and I never before had a desire to be one. However, 2 years ago I found that I liked teaching so much that I wanted to make it official. So during 2016 I completed International TEFL Academy's online course and became a certified Teacher of English as Foreign Language.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
International TEFL Academy helped me with practically everything! They started with helping me re-organize my CV and draft a solid job application letter that I could use throughout my job search process. They also provided me with resources that pointed me towards language schools in many countries where I could apply for a job. Somehow, they managed to organize that tonne of information in an easily navigable way. Once I landed an interview, I was also able to reach out to them for help on how to approach the demo lesson that I needed to prepare as part of my interview. From beginning to end, ITA was a reliable source of help and support for me.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
First of all, be willing to do the work. The course syllabus is laid out from the start so expectations are set up front. Keep yourself organized and you will be able to attend the online lectures, do the readings and submit the coursework on time. Also, it would be great if you found a tutoring position where you are located (or online) so that you can put what you're learning into practice as you're learning it. I found that extremely useful in building my confidence and in solidifying my comprehension of the concepts I was learning.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Going through the International TEFL Academy online certification course is very straightforward. There are online lectures to attend early in the week, plus an accompanying reading. There is an associated assignment, usually including a lesson plan (after the introductory week) that is due by the end of the week. Doing the online course is like having a part-time job. It took about 10-12 hours out of my week to attend the classes, do the readings, work on my assignments, and do any extra reading or research that I thought would help me.
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 had no fears, to be honest. I was too excited. After I finished my time in Indonesia, I returned to my home country of Jamaica, eager to set off again on my next adventure. Unfortunately, I had to cool my heals there for a while, as I did my job search. Once I landed my current job in the far northeast of Russia (typically called Siberia), I was nothing but excited to get going. I suppose I should have been somewhat anxious, having never been to Russia before; I also knew zero Russian and had never been exposed to the Cyrillic alphabet before.
But none of those things phased me. I immediately started learning the Russian alphabet and I must have packed and re-packed my suitcases a hundred times before it was time for me to go. Still, I suppose for anyone who is fearful of going, I would say, do it anyway...do it afraid! Before you know it, you'll be asking yourself what you were afraid of in the first place.
How do you overcome culture shock?
This was an issue for me when I was in Indonesia; I was in culture shock for 3 months before I even realized it. It wasn't until I was coming out of it that I realized what was going on. Fortunately, I was able to analyze my experience and conclude that my culture shock was due more to the organization I was working with (they were terrible) and not the country (it was beautiful, the food was delicious and the people were amazing). Through that experience, I learned what to look out for in terms of culture shock. I also learned to separate a country from an organization.
Luckily, the school I work for now is, hands down, the best place I've worked in my entire 20 years of working, so I totally bypassed culture shock and went straight to loving where I'm at. I also encourage people to go to a new country without taking on other people's preconceived notions of it, so they can form their own opinions. For me, that means, beyond a basic security check (a woman traveling alone can't be stupid), I don't do too much research into a new place where I'm going to live. I go with the mindset that it will be different from what I'm used to and I will enjoy all that it has to offer. And that attitude has worked wonders for me in enjoying the -50C winter here!