Getting to Know You – Sarah

Hello spring semester!  And welcome back to you, my dear readers.  I thought that it might be nice to get back into the groove of things by starting the semester off with an installment of Getting to Know You.  To kick off this semester’s series, the first interview is with my friend, Sarah. Sarah is a really cool person who happens to live a stone’s throw from me (it’s pretty awesome).  She’s also in some of my classes this semester, which is also fantastic.  Read on to learn more about one of my favorite people in the TESOL program.

What’s your name?  Sarah

What’s your hometown? Avon Lake, Ohio

Where did you go to undergrad?  Denison University.  I graduated in May 2011 with a dual BA in Spanish and International Studies.

Have you ever taught English before?  I was a Teaching Assistant in Spain for two years. I worked with middle and high school aged kids. It was a lot of fun! I had no idea what I was doing at first because I had no classroom experience, so that was a little scary. But I was lucky that I had a teacher to mentor me and give me some practical teaching advice, like speaking slowly and using visual aids. Also, the kids were hilarious and sweet so that helped.

I also tutored a family of four girls between the ages of six and thirteen for about a year in Cleveland. They were from Thailand originally and I helped them with their English homework.

Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL?  While I loved my experience in Spain, and I definitely learned a lot, I felt like I was winging it the whole time. I planned activities or did things in class that seemed like a good idea to me intuitively but had no reasoning to back it up. I wanted to get a Master’s in TESOL because I wanted to understand the intellectual foundations of the discipline while also having the opportunity to improve my teaching under the guidance of more experienced mentors.

End of the Camino
Sarah at the end of the Camino de Santiago.

What made you want to come to GSE?  A lot of things. Obviously, it’s one of the top Education schools in the country and the faculty are well known and respected. I liked that the TESOL program incorporated linguistics and education. When I looked at other schools it seemed to be one or the other and I liked that the program at Penn GSE integrated both. Also, it seemed like there were a lot of opportunities to teach in various settings, like non-profits and in universities. Getting a scholarship and a GA-ship definitely tipped the scales too.

What do you want to do after you graduate?  I’d like to teach English in a university, something like Penn’s ELP. I love to travel and would love to have the opportunity to teach abroad. My dream job would be working for the State Department as a Regional English Language Officer.

Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class!  I love to cook and spend the majority of my free time thinking about food and/or eating. My GSE friends and I are actually starting a cookbook club and every month we’re going to choose a different cookbook and everyone will bring a different dish from it. I’m excited. I also really like exercising (I guess that’s the flip side of constantly eating and cooking and thinking about food) and am super happy that the gym is right across the street from GSE. I don’t know if that qualifies as fun, but it definitely keeps me sane (especially during finals and other stressful times).

What do you think of Philadelphia?  Love it! I had actually never been to Philly before I was accepted to Penn so I was silghtly worried that I had made a huge mistake. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I like that it’s a big city but not overwhelming or super expensive, like New York. I love that I can ride my bike or walk almost everywhere. Also, Fairmount Park is gorgeous and it makes me really happy that there’s so much green space in the city. I wasn’t expecting that before I moved here.

Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students?  I think grad school is what you make of it. Maybe your goals aren’t the same as mine or another student’s, but there are so many resources at GSE and Penn that you can take advantage of to shape your experience. Yes there are core classes and a generally accepted timeline of how people do things, but none of that is set in stone and you can tailor the program to fit your needs. Also, applying for and actually going to grad school can be super stressful! So take care of yourself (see question 8).

Thanks so much, Sarah!  And look for more posts about this semester starting next week.



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