Monica Largess classroomI finished UAB's ESL graduate program in 2014. Since then, I moved to Vienna, Austria and I teach at a community center funded through a church. We work mainly with refugees and other low-income immigrants.

My students are brave, enduring people. Most of them are native Persian or Arabic speakers. We are learning German together. Sometimes our sessions become a class to distinguish between German and English - thank goodness for Comparative Grammar and Phonology!

Personal experiences as an immigrant can be difficult. Now, I am the person in the room who didn't get the joke and can't find things at the grocery store. But through this, I am becoming a more compassionate and relevant teacher. I have learned to slow the pace of my class. Patience is the biggest commodity in the classroom. The students are adults with founts of knowledge in many other fields. Teaching them English provides a common denominator for them to express all the things they know.

Of course expat life has its challenges but they are outweighed by the benefits. Although I don't always understand everything that's happening around me, I have learned to see people for more than what they say. We are truly similar. Recently, my dinner table had eight people around it. All of us were born in a different country, with seven mother tongues, but we are able to have authentic friendships. Language is the bridge. Whether I am trying to speak German or people are practicing English with me, language learning is a unifying experience.

Monica Largess MarketTeaching overseas and learning another language is an incredible experience. I have been able to fully submerge myself in Austrian culture and in the German language. Since I am learning German and teaching English at about the same level, I am becoming a better teacher. The theories that I learned at UAB are becoming personal experiences.

If you are considering studying at UAB, I would recommend it. UAB brings scholars together to advance every field. You will become more well-rounded, empathetic, and knowledgeable. The MAEd/ESL program will train you in education and in the principles of linguistics. I appreciated that many of my teachers encouraged us to think rather than just research. Ultimately, you are leading a classroom alone and must be able to think for yourself about each student as an individual.

If you are in the program daydreaming about living abroad, do it. I cannot express to you the personal and professional growth I have acquired. You will spend a great deal of your time in your job. Choose something you will enjoy. Choose something that will challenge you.

I am thankful that I chose to complete the MAEd/ESL at UAB. It was a difficult decision, but I have no regret. It brought me to Vienna. This is my place and these are my people. Vienna is a thriving international city. No one ever sticks out on the sidewalk because half of the people living in Vienna were born in another country. This international experience is something I have craved my entire life. Having the qualifications to teach ESL opened the door.

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