My professional and personal life has been a series of - as at least one gifted artist would call them - "happy accidents." The first accident on this journey was during undergrad, where a mid-semester malaise combined with terrible Ohio weather to make me late for class and made me miss an interesting discussion about studying abroad in South Korea, leading to an after-class discussion of studying in South Korea and, due to a chance run-in with the program's director in that moment, enrolling in the university's Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate program.
This led to me considering teaching abroad, since I missed the opportunity to actually study abroad due to scheduling problems. Enter AYC. The second happy accident was an email that just popped up in my inbox one day, and the program presented me the opportunity to accomplish some life goals of mine: 1. Learn a foreign language in an authentic context; and 2. Live in a foreign country.
I was placed in a small city outside of Changzhou, but conveniently, that meant easy access to some of the best cities that I have ever visited in China: Shanghai, Nanjing, and Suzhou. I met some people who have become lifelong friends, and I still visit some of them who are in or around the city.
I learned that I actually have a knack for teaching English as a second language and enjoy a lot of the theory and application of it. My experience with large classrooms let me focus on understanding what is an appropriate scope for a given lesson or activity. I realized that my Mandarin could help support my students' English. I learned some basic conversational skills in Mandarin, and I set myself up for a lifelong career in ESL.
Oh, I also met my wife. So that happened. (Happy accident number three.)
My basic Mandarin skills and English as a foreign language teaching experience landed me a job back in the States after I was finished with AYC, helping a school with their Mandarin program. As it happened, that same network of schools would open their first international school in China, and as it happened, I was certified to teach in China as a result of my experience with AYC (four, for those keeping score at home), so off I went to teach ESL in China - again.
I have since enrolled in an MA in Curriculum and Instruction in ESL program online, am looking into pathways for getting a teaching license in the States, and am researching different Ed.D. programs focused on Curriculum and Instruction in ESL. On the personal side, my wife and I both love to travel and take as many opportunities to do so as possible. Since moving back to China, we have visited a combined seven countries over two years. I do not feel that I would have pursued this career had it not been for the fact that AYC made it so easy to have such an experience.
And it's all because I showed up late to class that one time.