From Korea to Ethiopia: A Global Educational Perspective

In the past year, I was lucky enough to travel across the globe and experience teaching in new and exciting environments. I moved from Korea to Ethiopia — East Asia to East Africa — to teach abroad, which allowed me to experience completely different cultures through the classroom. After teaching in Korea for five years, I decided it was time for a change, both geographically and academically, and I moved to East Africa to transition from being a high school teacher to a university lecturer.

Teaching in Korea

My time in Korea granted me countless opportunities to develop and expand on my teaching skills as well as strengthen my cross-cultural communication skills. While teaching in Korea, I noticed that the academic skill and ambition of Korean learners was unmatched: Students rose to any challenge they faced and prepared for standardized tests with unparalleled dedication. My classroom in Korea was filled with the latest teaching tools and technology, such as SMART boards and Internet-integrated applications, which offered real-time simulations of English language contexts.

While I taught in Korea, I enrolled in the online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program at USC Rossier, which helped me adjust to this new educational environment. During the MAT classes, I shared my experiences with other teachers and offered tips on which teaching methods were working in my classroom in Korea. I also asked for advice on how to effectively communicate and teach in a cross-cultural classroom.

My Move to Ethiopia

After I taught in Korea, I decided to apply to an English Language Fellowship run in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and Georgetown University. This particular program places qualified educators interested in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) in developing nations. I was accepted into the program and have spent the last five months in Ethiopia as a university lecturer.
I am still adjusting to the teaching environment, which is different from the one in Korea — chalkboards have replaced SMART boards, and students share chairs and desks in a cramped classroom as opposed to the spacious rooms that allowed students to work individually in Korea. Books are nonexistent, and pencils and paper are the only materials available — far different from the texts, photocopies and manuals offered in Korea. However, the students’ desire to learn and aspiration for success remains the same. My Ethiopian students overcome personal obstacles on a regular basis that only the grandparents of my Korean students could comprehend, and school often provides a respite from the realities of daily life.

A Global Perspective

While I have spent considerable time working in classrooms in the United States, the experiences I have had overseas provided me with new insights that I never would have gained back home. The students I taught are culturally different but share many similarities in terms of sheer determination for improving their futures, their communities and their countries. Although I am a teacher, I find myself learning about culture and global communities from my own students.
In addition, I learned a great deal from my MAT classes. The international viewpoints I encountered with classmates of my own through the USC Rossier MAT program laid a foundation for me, which I have continued to build upon through my work as an English teacher. With colleagues in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and even New Zealand, I bring a global perspective with me to class every day that I try to share with my students. However, it is the lessons I learn from my students that truly make this journey worthwhile.

Matthew Jellick (’12) holds a MAT (TESOL) from USC, which he completed while living and teaching in Korea. He is currently working as an English Language Fellow in Ethiopia. He can be reached at mjellick@gmail.com or followed @mjellick. All photographs are by Matthew!