By: Taylor Karnilaw
I was approaching the end of my college career and was feeling as many other soon to be college graduates, like I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. My parents were pressuring me to apply to graduate school, and every single day of the summer, I would come home with a new idea of what I was going to be when I “grew up”, whatever that means. I cycled through the standard combinations; going to school to get an MBA, being a social worker, working as a lawyer, and the list continues. After another day of frantic searching, I came across International TEFL Academy’s website and felt like I finally had found something that made sense for myself.
I was attending Soka University of America, a liberal arts university that placed a large emphasis on being a contributive member of the global community. Being a part of this environment and community had greatly expanded my perspective, and I now felt a calling to not only live abroad but to contribute to the community I was with and to really live there and understand a culture different than my own.
As a junior I had studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador, and had the opportunity to work in a couple of elementary schools as an English language assistant, I found this experience to be so incredible rewarding not only in the classroom but in the amount of personal growth that I experienced through living and working in another country for five months. With these thoughts in mind and an enthusiasm that I had found a path that made sense, I filled out the survey online to request for more information and within the next couple of days I was on the phone with my admissions advisor, Tyler Parsons. For someone who was so clearly confused about what they wanted to do and had many questions about the future, this was such an incredibly comforting experience. I was in contact with someone who was very eager to answer my questions, was very well-informed and was both open and honest. I believe I had something like four or five phone conversations with Tyler as well as many emails before I decided to commit to ITA and getting my TEFL certificate, but I can honestly say that the entire process could not have been more user friendly or supportive, such that I have recommended International TEFL Academy to many of my friends.
While I was tempted to do my TEFL course on site as I love to travel, I chose to do the online program because I was still in school. The online course was very manageable and I was able to complete it with no issues even while being a full time college student, college athlete and working. Throughout the process of taking the course I began to think about where I would then teach abroad, the exciting part, and maintained contact with my admissions advisor, Tyler, who helped me navigate the admissions process.
I first began by applying to the JET program, a very well established governmental program in Japan where you work as an assistant language teacher. This program was attractive to me for a couple of reasons; I knew many people who had done this program and enjoyed it, I had worked in tutoring native Japanese speakers in English and I had an interest in Japanese culture. I very meticulously worked on my application and one day I received an email in my inbox informing me of another governmental program in Israel, MASA Israel Teaching Fellows, where I would be doing the same thing, being an assistant language teacher but in Israel. This program immediately resonated with me as I am Jewish and have always felt a connection and drive to be in Israel, and now it was like a sign from the universe, giving me an opportunity to live and work there. I finished both of the applications I was working on and crazily on the same day I received my acceptance to both programs. YAY! Then I was faced with the decision of where to go and while Japan seemed like an incredible opportunity I had to go with what seemed more relevant to myself and I committed to a ten-month program in Israel.
Fast forward and I am now six months into my program in Ashdod, Israel, and I can honestly say that I am the happiest I have ever been. Every single day is an adventure and the friends that I have met here are for life. When I arrived, I was of course overwhelmed, I landed extremely jet lagged in a country where the majority of people do not speak English and my Hebrew is very limited. Additionally, I walked in to the apartment that the program had provided me with and met my seven roommates, so needless to say I was feeling a little overstimulated. Before I knew it though, the seven people I was living with became more than friends, they became my family. We all work in different schools around the city of Ashdod, and it is amazing to come home to a support group that understands what it is like. We have all experienced a big adjustment when it comes to Israeli classrooms, they are loud and there is very little in terms of behavioral management which has been difficult, but the children are also some of the most affectionate and loving that I have ever met. As a part of the program that I am apart of we get to experience cultural aspects of Israel as well and this has been one of the huge benefits of this program. I really feel that I am getting a full picture of what it means to live and work in Israel. I can honestly say that I would recommend teaching abroad to anyone, the lessons that you learn about yourself, other people, and in patience are invaluable. I now feel so grateful for the months of indecisiveness about the future because it has led me here.
Taylor Karnilaw is a 22 year-old from Houston Texas, she attended Soka University of America where she earned a Ba in liberal arts. She loves working with kids and animals.