Alumni Spotlight: Caroline Smith


Caroline worked for HESS in Keelung, Taiwan from 2009-2011. She taught the same two kindergarten classes, as well as some older ages during this time. During her time abroad, Caroline enjoyed exploring the local area and hiking along the many coastal trails. She returned to the USA in 2011 and currently works for a non-profit in Madison, Wisconsin.

Why did you decide to teach abroad with HESS International?

I graduated from college at a time when there weren’t any job prospects nearby, so when I heard about HESS from a fellow English Literature major, I decided to do some investigating.

I was immediately impressed by the intuitive design of the program’s website, as well as how easy it was to get more information about all aspects of living and teaching in Taiwan.

Even after exploring other options on the island, I kept coming back HESS. Everything they did, from guiding me through the application process to getting me to Keelung, was well-planned and eased the way for me to be able to live and teach there.

What made this teach abroad experience unique and special?

HESS does a great job of making sure their teachers are taken care of and well-informed. I was based in Keelung, at the northern tip of the island, and enjoyed the enthusiastic camaraderie of my fellow NSTs (Native-Speaking English Teachers), as well as the support of the Taiwanese co-teachers and staff. Teaching with HESS allowed me to earn a decent wage while still affording me the opportunity to go exploring around the island. Additionally, as a Kindy teacher I was also able to go on dozens of field trips to places I wouldn't have known about or had access to, otherwise. I helped harvest bamboo, went to aquariums, and learned about Taiwanese culture first-hand.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc.)

After my two years of teaching with HESS I came back to the USA with a great work ethic, a much more easy-going attitude, and also a negligible fear of the unknown.

The cost of living in Taiwan was so affordable, I was able to save enough money to move to a completely different part of the US from where I’d lived before.

This allowed me to quickly get a new job where, utilizing the skills I’d acquired teaching Taiwan, I was able to easily integrate into a diverse team, which I’m still part of three years later.

Teaching with HESS taught me how to be a more confident public speaker, how to adapt quickly to different situations, and that working hard pays off.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering teaching abroad in Taiwan?

Teaching in Taiwan is an incredibly rewarding experience, but going overseas is always going to come with challenges. I would recommend, first and foremost, that any newcomer make the effort to seek out and befriend the other teachers, both NST and Taiwanese, in your school and area. Utilize their knowledge and experiences to help get you through the rocky moments you’re going to face. Keep a sense of humor, make sure you stay connected with people back home, and don’t worry if you’re overcome with random food cravings that take you on hours-long bus rides to Costco during your days off (yes, there is a Costco near Taipei). It happens. There are also some great ex-pat forums online that can help you with other problems, so be sure to check those out as well.