A few weeks ago we interviewed our assistant manager here at EEC, Sahar. Following on from that, we thought we’d have a chat with one of our English teachers. Laura joined EEC one year ago now, and comes from the UK. Here’s what she had to say…
What did you do before you became an English teacher?
Well, I pretty much tried my hand at everything! When I was at university, I had a weekend job cleaning at a hotel, and then I became a receptionist. I also worked in a clothes shop for a while, which was actually great fun. After university, I worked at a bank in the south of England. I didn’t actually think about teaching until I was 24 years old, a couple of years after I graduated. It was a great decision and I’ve never looked back!
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I was a bit bored with my job in a bank, and with living in England too. I wanted some excitement and I had always dreamed of traveling the world, only I wasn’t sure how to do it. Even as a kid, I would study maps and plan the countries I’d try to see when I was older. One day, an education company sent me an advertisement about an English teaching course in Australia. Without too much thought, I decided to apply for it. I got accepted and soon departed for Sydney to learn how to become an English Teacher.
Where was your first teaching job?
My first teaching job was in Seoul, South Korea. When I first arrived, I was very homesick. I wasn’t used to the climate, the smells, the sounds, the people, the food – everything! It was such a huge and dramatic change for me, and I was only 24 years old, after all. However, I was lucky because I met a really nice person in my first week and she showed me around the city, introduced me to lots of other people, and even taught me to speak some basic Korean! My first month there was really tough, but I ended up living in Seoul for two and a half years and having the best time of my life. I have some great memories and friends from my time in Korea.
Where did you go after that?
I knew that I still wanted to explore a lot of the world, so after some time back in the UK, I went back to teaching. I taught in Brazil, Spain, and Palestine. I had a great time. Finally, in 2011, I came to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I thought I would be here for just one year, but I’m now on year 5!
What has kept you here so long?
A combination of things, I think. I have some wonderful friends here, I actually enjoy the weather (although not so much in July and August!), and I enjoy my job. It feels like home now. Saudi Arabia is a fascinating country, and the people are so hospitable. For example, if you are invited to someone’s home, you’ll always be given Arabic coffee and dates! It’s the little things like that, which I really enjoy.
How would you compare all the countries you’ve been to?
Each country has something unique to offer. Brazil was certainly fun and lively, and Brazilians are among the friendliest people in the world. I also loved living near a beach, as I was based in Rio de Janeiro. Spain is wonderful and I’ve been visiting that country since I was a child with my family, so I know it well and it’s familiar to me. I also speak some Spanish, so it was nice to be able to chat with the locals. Palestine was a new and incredible experience for me, and I made some lifelong Palestinian friends, and Korea was my first adventure abroad so that will always have a place in my heart. Korean food is always going to be my favourite kind of food. When I first came to Saudi Arabia, I experienced a bit of culture shock. I couldn’t read the numbers or letters, I had never tried Middle Eastern food before, and I had never met any Saudis or, of course, worn an abaya. It was strange not seeing so much greenery and living within a completely different environment. However, I met some amazing people and started learning a lot about the region and culture. It was fascinating for me. After six months of adjusting, I started to feel really comfortable in Riyadh. Now, I think of this place as a second home. The best thing about teaching Saudi students for me is their sense of humour. It’s similar to the British humour and so classes are more fun. Unlike other students from other parts of the world, Saudis are not afraid to speak up in class and make mistakes, and so we have some fun and interesting conversations in class.
What do you enjoy most about teaching at EEC?
Unlike universities, we’re a much smaller team here and we all get on really well. There are just a few of us and I enjoy the family-like atmosphere. We have unlimited resources (which is fantastic for a teacher), great technology, and small class sizes. I like getting to know each one of my students not just by name but by personality and it means I can develop a really good rapport with them, and help them develop. I feel like I’m making an impact on their learning. Everybody is always smiling around the academy and there is no stress. I enjoy that kind of working environment.
What does your future hold?
I don’t really know. I know that I’ll always love traveling, so I’m sure I have many more countries to visit in the future. I still really enjoy teaching, especially writing and IELTS, so I’d like to keep doing that. Beyond that, who knows?
Teacher Laura, UK