CoworkersWhen most people think of Colombia, they think of a corrupt and dangerous country. They remember the drug wars of the 80s and 90s and how uncertain Colombia's future was at that time. But that's not the Colombia of today. When I think of Colombia, I think of my young adult students, full of entrepreneurial spirit who sincerely want to make a difference in their communities. I think of families gathered on their porch on a balmy Caribbean evening listening to salsa, merengue, and vallenato. I think of children, teenagers, and adults getting together with friends in parks to play volleyball, choreograph dance routines, or simply sit in the shade and eat ice cream. This is the Colombia I have come to know and love.

In 2013 I taught a number of Colombian students in some of my very first classes as an adjunct ESL instructor. I was working on my masters in ESL at UAB, and I was just beginning to cut my teeth as a new teacher. While I hold all of my students in high esteem, I couldn't help but develop a special connection with my Colombian students. Something about the energy and good nature they brought to the classroom made me excited to teach every class. As graduation neared, I began searching for full-time teaching positions in Colombia, wondering if I could carve out a life for myself among these people that I had come to admire. In the summer of 2014, I boarded a plane for Barranquilla, the largest city on Colombia's Caribbean coast, eager to begin teaching as a full-time business English instructor at Universidad del Norte.Anniversary CEDU

The liveliness of the city is contagious, and I follow suit by pouring that kind of energy into my work at the university. Each semester I teach high intermediate and advanced English classes for undergraduate students in the international business program. Classes involve discussions on current business trends, analysis of articles from sources like Forbes and the Harvard Business Review, email writing, and even a module on how to write business content for social media! With my students I focus heavily on expanding their business vocabulary, so we play lots of games and perform many roleplays for retention. I also target fluency by having students give each other mock business presentations and "walk-throughs" with little or no preparation. It may sound very no-nonsense and formal, but we actually keep it pretty light-hearted and have a lot of fun.

Three-and-a-half years later, I'm still learning about the culture, language, students, teaching, and myself. One thing is for sure: none of this would have been possible without the training I received in the master's program at UAB. In just about every class I still use the same IPOTs and techniques that I learned from Dr. Spezzini, Dr. Oxford, and my other professors. Not only that, but they also revealed just how intimately linked language and culture are, a prominent theme brought out in almost every course. This has really helped me navigate the cultural identity crisis that everyone inevitably faces living and working overseas. So in both my professional and personal life, what I learned in the master's program has proven invaluable and directly applicable, and I can't imagine trying to do this without that knowledge.

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