Alumni Spotlight: Laura Wilbourn

Laura is from Austin, Texas. She will be in Shanghai, China, September 3, 2012 to September 2013. She is 31 years old, and attended university for art. She teaches English at Kid Castle Academy. While she is not teaching, she is writing and illustrating children’s books.

Laura Wilbourn

What inspired you to teach ESL?

Laura: I have always been interested in living overseas. When I was younger, my family and I lived in Thailand, and I loved it. We visited many countries during that time, and I always wanted to continue gaining more cultural experiences.

Why did you choose Reach to Teach?

Laura: I was searching the Internet for recruiting agencies. I submitted my resume and application to several. I found Reach to Teach actually checked up on me. Another recruiting agency just past me off from one person to the next, and I would never hear from the people I was sent to. If positions are filled for a county, I would like to be told so. Reach to Teach told me where there was availability, and did not leave questions unanswered.

Describe your day to day activities as a teacher in China.

Laura: The job I have now is very nice. The school I work for, Kid Castle, relies on the Total Physical Response method for teaching. It allows me to use my creative side with the children, which is a lot of fun for me. It also requires quite a bit of energy, as I am working with kids. I try to get them out of their seats as much as possible, jumping up and down, acting out vocabulary, dancing, and anything else that involves movement. I usually work 4-9 pm Wednesday to Friday, then 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It is a great schedule, because during the day I can study Chinese and work on art.

How did you adjust to your wariness of China and how did Reach to Teach help you with that?

Laura: I suppose I adjusted to my wariness of China just by deciding to come to China and experience it. I was basing my concerns of China off of two people I knew who really disliked living in China. I would say that this isn’t a fair way to know if you like or dislike something. I don’t know if this is the best approach to take when going into something, but this is my approach to living abroad. People always seem to post the most optimistic views on what your experience will be like. However, I just go in thinking it’s the luck of the draw. You don’t really know what your experience will be like, but your attitude can make or break it. Make the best of any situation. For some people being incredibly optimistic helps. For me, I just assume that I will have a good time, but there will be things that happen that will be frustrating. It’s bound to happen. Just deal with it in the best way you can. Really, the reason I came was to find out for myself whether or not I would dislike my time here. I have to say, I am having a wonderful time! I love the friends I have made, and my co-workers have helped me in so many ways that make me grateful to work with them.

What is one piece of advice you would give to others thinking about teaching abroad?

Laura: I think it is important to reverse the perspective, and experience what it’s like to be the foreigner in another country. When you go home, maybe you will bring some of these experiences back with you.