Alyssa’s Expat Life Chapter 3

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After a lot of online searching for a reputable school that would certify me as a teacher, I came across the International TEFL Academy, based out of Chicago. After speaking with my adviser Shay on the phone, I felt very comfortable with my decision to go with this institution over others. He answered my questions and was always there to alleviate my fears. The online class schedule worked with my crazy schedule (assignments were due on Sunday nights, which was great).

My class began and I was so excited to begin! Little things along the way solidified my choice. After the first day of class, we already got a job posting from a school in Vietnam. I did not wish to go to this destination, but it was exciting to already hear from a school that was looking for teachers.

I found myself saying goodbye to little things in St. Louis along the way. After almost 10 years back here I feel like I’ve done everything I can do and am in a comfort zone that has triggered this whole process. Some people feel that comfort is OK, and in some cases it very much is. But, when I think about it, I could be doing the exact same things—watching movies, going to the same bars, rinse and repeat—10 years or more from now.  And, I don’t want to look back 25 years from now and not have grown at all.

The first chat with my teacher, Mariam, and fellow students went well, and I got an A on my first assignment. Even though it was an online course, I was happy with the thorough way the class was taught and the accessibility to the teacher. Before I knew it, I was looking further into which countries had what I was looking for. I knew I wanted somewhere that I could have a furnished apartment with Internet access, someone to pick me up at the airport and somewhere I wouldn’t starve to death. (I’m a picky eater.) Europe was my first choice since I had been to many countries there and knew more of what to expect, however, their teaching structure was one where you had to pack up, live in a hostel and knock on doors until a school hired you. I did not want that much uncertainly going into living in a foreign country. Along the way I found that Asia and Russia were the only viable options, which didn’t excite me very much. Was my dream about to come to an end before it even began?

Change is hard. And I knew I was about to make the biggest one of my life. I was essentially preparing to leave my life. I remember back in 2002 my ex-husband and I had a choice—Chicago or Arizona. At the time Arizona was the easy choice. Bigger house for more money, he had friends there, etc. And, it turned out to be a disaster. I didn’t want to go for the easy choice again because I don’t think in the end that it will change anything. So, here I was, wondering where in the world, literally, I was going to be.

I loved my TEFL class. By week three of 11 the work was fun and different. Student affairs sent me a note including a 215 page manual about all of the countries, comparing and contrasting, and all of the things I would have to do to interview and secure a teaching job overseas. It was very overwhelming, like picking a place to vacation times 100. This was a country choice that I would have to live with for an entire year, and coming from someone who isn’t a great decision maker, I went back and forth every day among country choices.

Add to that, I really was learning to be comfortable in my own skin and being my own best friend. I was able to go to movies, restaurants and bars by myself and not feel weird. Sure, there were twinges of loneliness, but for the most part I knew that I had the confidence to move on. For the first time I wasn’t running away from life, I was running toward the person I wanted to be and always, really inside, had been. I was still stuck on leaving my dog. I knew I was leaving him in great hands, but he is my best friend and I know that I will have a much harder time than he will. Summer was almost to an end and I hadn’t made any decisions on where to go, so I decided to focus on school and work and see where fate would take me.

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