Real talk: the more I do this series on my blog, the more I grow to love it. I am learning so many interesting and cool things about my classmates, and James is no exception. Last semester, we had Educational Linguistics together and this semester we are both in Language Assessment. He had talked a little bit about his time in Mongolia before, but it wasn’t until talking to him during group work for Language Assessment and doing this interview that I learned more about his time there and his goals for after graduation. Read on below to learn more about James!
What’s your name? James
What’s your hometown? San Diego, CA
Where did you go to undergrad? University of California Santa Cruz. I graduated in 2008. My major was European History.
Have you ever taught English before? I taught English for 2 years in a small village in western Mongolia, as a Peace Corps volunteer (Khovd Aimag is the province’s name if your interested in looking it up). It was one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences I have ever had. Not only did I have to learn how to teach in a formal classroom setting, but I also had to adapt to the different educational culture in Mongolia (not to mention the -30 degree days in winter). I often team taught with my Mongolian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, which was great because we were able to learn a lot from each other.
Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL? I decided to get a Master’s in TESOL because I have always enjoyed learning languages and as a TEFL teacher in Mongolia, it was fascinating for me to see language learning from the perspective of the teacher. The flexibility of being able to travel, live and work in many different countries was also enticing.
What made you want to come to GSE? Of course the faculty and program of study at GSE was what first attracted me because I felt I would receive a good theoretical background in language teaching, while also having an opportunity apply what I was learning in the real world. But GSE really stood out from the other schools I was considering because of the friendly, personal way that they communicated with me during the application process (something which has also continued in my first few semesters here).
What do you want to do after you graduate? After I graduate, I am interested in working with Peace Corps again, either as a language specialist, helping design language programs for volunteers around the world, or specifically working with the Peace Corps TEFL program. In the long term, I would really love to be a Regional English Language Officer, with the US Foreign Service.
Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class! Playing sports is my first love (especially soccer, basketball and volleyball), although I have not had a whole lot of free time to play anything since I started school. I also like watching sports. Living in Philadelphia has been great because I can easily take the subway down to the stadiums to watch any sport I want. It doesn’t hurt that 76ers tickets are really cheap because the team is so bad…
What do you think of Philadelphia? Philadelphia is a really unique city, because it is a big city but it has a small city vibe. If you like big buildings and busy city life, you can go to center city. But if you like smaller neighborhoods which aren’t as busy or noisy, there are many of those as well.
Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students? I don’t really have any advice. But something that surprised me when I started taking classes at GSE was the small, intimate nature of every class I have taken. I was accustomed to big lecture style classes from my undergraduate days. It’s completely different here at GSE. You really have the opportunity to get to know the faculty and your peers, as well as hearing many diverse opinions in classroom discussions. It’s been great.