After graduation this year, many seniors will be leaving Hillsdale College to join the work force, and some of those seniors will be teaching English abroad in places such as China, South Korea, and Ecuador.
Senior Abby Pontynen is going to teach in China at a school located an hour outside of Hong Kong. She will teach conversational English, helping students learn the specifics of Western dialect.
Abby said she worried that her history major wouldn’t be as appealing to employers, so she started looking into job opportunities posted by Career Services.
Teaching abroad interested her, and she began searching for similar programs online.
“I found out about this job on Google. It sounded exciting,” Pontynen said.
Pontynen has no fears about going abroad alone. This last summer Pontynen went to Würzsburg, Germany with the Hillsdale German department and stayed behind after the group left. She only knew a little bit of German at the time.
“Living in a foreign country made me realize I could live completely in country where I didn’t speak their language,” Pontynen said. “I wasn’t scared, and the language barrier wasn’t a barrier at that point.”
Though Pontynen does not speak Chinese now, she will be learning Mandarin under the program while she is in China. Pontynen called it a very marketable skill, and she hopes that it will help her in the future if she applies for the state department, working for an ambassador or as a diplomat.
Along with the Mandarin classes, health care and housing are included under the program. The program is also helping her get her visa. However, the program doesn’t pay very well, and Pontynen said she knows that another friend has found a similar, but more lucrative, job. So though Pontynen was offered the job in China, she hasn’t fully committed.
“I’m kind of looking around; maybe there’s a better deal out there. But at least I have this one offer,” Pontynen said.
The program lasts a full year, and Pontynen is unsure what the future holds after that year. She said she may go to graduate school or even become a museum curator with her history major.
“I don’t particularly want to teach in the U.S. I don’t really have that passion. I just want to experience that culture [in China],” Pontynen said.
Senior Juliann Ulrickson will be heading off to Quito, Ecuador to teach at the Center for Continued Education. She found out about this opportunity through a friend already teaching in Ecuador.
Ulrickson is not too concerned about going abroad; she studied abroad in Spain last year. She also has experience teaching English to Spanish-speakers from that trip. Ulrickson’s parents, however, are not as calm.
“My parents are mildly wary,” said Ulrickson. However, both of her parents will be visiting her in Ecuador while she is there.
Ulrickson said that she never expected to teach abroad. It was simply something she applied for four weeks ago.
“I had no clue what I was going to do [after college]. I figured I would end up in South America at some point,” Ulrickson said.
Ulrickson has no long-term plans to teach. She will do this for a year and then move on to something else.
“It’s not a huge financial gain, but it’s a great experience,” said Ulrickson.
Also planning on leaving the U.S. to teach are seniors Samantha Nasser and Adam Petersen, who got engaged this past year. They will be getting married in May and leaving for South Korea in mid-August to teach classes for Korean students in English only.
“We will only be speaking English because the students know enough English [already],” said Petersen.
Nasser said that she got the idea from a friend and Hillsdale graduate, Gracey Roskam ‘11, who went to Taiwan after graduating. There are other Hillsdale graduates working in South Korea with whom Nasser and Petersen may connect.
To prepare for the trip the couple has to go through criminal background checks, send in transcripts to the program, and take a 100-hour teaching certification program online. Because more people have been applying for these sorts of positions recently, the application process has become more and more vigorous.
“But if you have a good resume and good references it shouldn’t be hard to get in. Anybody who is willing to uproot themselves for a year looks good to an employer,” said Petersen.
Nasser said that the experience “is very marketable,” and that they are looking forward to “an adventure.”