|Kelly Klus, just one week before departing for Barranquilla.|
It was a delight to have Kelly Klus in both my "Spanish in the Community" course and in "Spanish & Entrepreneurship." She was interested, engaged, smart, responsible and I sincerely enjoyed reading her reflexiones and listening to what she had to say in class. She worked at SOAR in my class, and she did her study abroad in Ecuador.
She emailed me a few days ago and told me her big news:
"I accepted a year-long job assistant teaching in Barranquilla, Colombia. I've been meaning to email you since I accepted it; I'm super excited to go. I've been doing some reading and trying to give myself some crash courses on teaching English as a second language in a classroom. If you have any time this week I'd love to pick your brain about what you've learned about teaching languages and any resources that would be good in exchange for a coffee or lunch :) I'm going to be with third graders, a long shot from crazy college kids (ok, so they're just big kids) but I'd still love to hear any advice you have for me."
Kelly's experience: networking
First I asked her how she found this opportunity to work in Colombia. She told me that she told a friend who works in AIESEC that she was interested in living and working abroad. Her friend said, "You should apply for a paid internship through Shape Colombia." She did.
Take-away for all studentsClarify what you want. Name it! Claim it! Then tell everyone you know what you are looking for. Post it clearly and simply on Facebook. Make an announcement at your family reunion this summer. Send an email blast to your high school teachers and college professors. The more people you tell what job/internship/program you're interested in, the more likely it is that someone will be able to help you.
Kelly's experience: persistence and determinationShe had to apply for the internship along with all the other people from the US *and* abroad who were also interested. Not only that, she then needed to be matched with one of the many programs within Colombia that participated in the program. In other words, there were many layers to the process. Many people with whom to communicate. And most importantly: many chances for her application to get lost in the shuffle. Kelly told me that every couple of weeks, if she hadn't heard anything, she would follow up with all the people with whom she had been corresponding to say, "Hey, I'm still here. I'm still interested."
Take-away for all students
Be persistent. Think about the process from the other person's point of view. They're juggling lots of work, lots of projects, lots of candidates. Maybe they meant to get back to you but got backlogged. They didn't get back to your email when they intended to, and now it's buried under 100 new emails. Give them a reminder. Or several. If they don't want to contact you, they won't. But if they do, it will refresh their memory.
Kelly's experience: the interview
She will be working in a private English-immersion school in Baranquilla. In the interview, the interviewer simply confirmed that Kelly spoke Spanish while conducting the interview in English. Most of her questions were about Kelly's experiences working at SOAR (which she did for her service learning work in my class) and at Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana. Kelly was able to talk about the many ways in which she kept children on-task, focused and learning.
Take-away for all students
Take classes that give you experience. The interviewer was interested in Kelly's experience. Her hands-on experiences in real-world work environments. She wanted to know what strategies Kelly had learned, how she handled challenges, if she was ready to jump into the job in her school. Take all the CSL courses you can. Look for internships. When you study abroad, do something besides attending classes and hanging out with American friends.
I hope Kelly's experiences inspire you. And speaking of networking, don't forget that if you are my student, there is only one degree of separation between you and Kelly. Connect with her! Introduce yourself as an Illinois Spanish student who is inspired by her choices, who shares her passion for languages and cultures. Follow her time in Colombia. Learn from what she learns and shares. Network so that you, too, will be able to find your path after graduation.