Alumni Spotlight: Sophie Lee



Why did you choose this program?

TravelGrad peaked my interest while I was finishing my third year of uni, during lockdown. I had a rough idea that TEFL would be my ticket to the world, and rather than backpacking, I'd have an anchor, salary and would learn a lot about the society & country I'd move to. Since the beginning, Andrew has been incredibly warm, honest, and timely with our interactions, which are all values of mine! It was a no brainer really.

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

Winchester Uni encouraged me to have a GradIntel profile, to elevate my chances at employment. The organization treated me like a human, not a number, since the start. Likewise, TravelGrad assisted me with (basically) the whole recipe for what I needed to do to be accepted into the country (South Korea and China) and then all I had to do was jump through those hoops. It was not always easy (so much paperwork and details of course) but they made it incredibly simple for us.

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

Have fire in your belly, not in your mind: depending on where you go, ground your own purpose and have it in the back of your head. Because you're going into a different culture, there will likely be clashes inside of you, so at least you can do a 'good job' by your own metrics and not fall 'victim' to thinking you're useless or out of place. For example: I set out in my first year (in Korea) to target low confidence students and build their confidence up. So, when my managers would tell me I've been making this and that mistake, I had the choice to feel guilty and beat myself up, or to realize, actually, I'm not doing so bad, my girl raises her hand and feels safe to speak in my class now!

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

Currently, I'm teaching in a Chinese public school. During my first term, I had Mondays off (3 day weekends, every week!) And my teaching hours were about 10 hours a week. They will change in the upcoming term, but it's been lighter than my previous placement, in Korea. I have lots of time to spend with friends, travel, plan ahead and enjoy myself. The scales, for me, tipped from heavy work and a slice of life, to lots of life and a slice of work.

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

My biggest fear was not making friends or meeting people, or people not liking me. I overcame it by facing it. And also being vulnerable and talking over these thoughts with new people who turned into friends, and also friends from back home. My views changed the more I opened up, more times than not, it was me against myself anyway! I also got lucky with the good people I met, I learned to be myself and welcome rejection (it won't matter in 10 years time, ZOOM OUT).

Any advice for someone who is on the fence about teaching abroad?

No matter your age, you're young (because you're still alive and breathing.) Life is for living, not only for autopilot antics. You could let time pass or you could live now! I have too many stories, some of them scandalous, but if we're to cross paths I'd probably share a couple with you. So, come join us foreigners & leave your bubble for a bit, if you don't like it~ least you don't have to wonder anymore. You'll replace your old nostalgia and have fun in the present, if you let yourself ✌🏼