TESL/TEFL – Changing Your Life Can Change Many Other Lives

Editor’s note: The ALI will be updating its student profiles twice monthly to let you know what some of our former students are doing today. Here is the original blog on Alicia Wszelaki, along with a look at her current status.

Alicia Wszelaki, TESL/TEFL Certificate GraduateIf you’re like most people, you are probably wondering how you can travel the world, make a difference, and still make a living doing so. One way to see the world and pay the bills is through teaching English overseas. A way to start is completing a TEFL certificate program. This program focuses on the development of effective and innovative teaching methods for an international classroom, with the added benefit of helping graduates find jobs overseas.

Alicia Wszelaki completed the TESL/TEFL program at SDSU’s American Language Institute (ALI), then traveled the globe teaching English. She shares her experiences here.

The Program
The program teaches you how to be a teacher. They prepare you to go someplace where you are a foreigner and now you have to become a part of that culture. So the program goes over, not only the essentials of how to teach students a language, but also how to be a part of, and respect that culture. You learn methodologies about teaching and you go through a lot of the theories. This helps you not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom since you’re communicating everywhere that you go.  I recommend the program at ALI to anybody thinking of changing their career because it gives you a chance to change yourself too, to challenge yourself. The program builds a lot of confidence in people. Before I took it, I was totally afraid to speak in front of a group of people. It became my vehicle to change my life.

Best Candidates for Success
I think the program is a great opportunity for somebody who is willing to take a challenge and willing to step out of their safety role. The program can be for everyone. And I think, in general, if someone is looking into the program, they already have what it takes to go because they’ve already thought about it. Somewhere the seed has been planted and they have what it takes to do it.

Change Your Life
I feel like I started again. I felt like I was going to school for the first time and I really wanted to be there. It empowered me to go out and do something different. Those four weeks really changed my perspective and gave me a lot of confidence. I think that’s the main thing. I think the program gives you confidence because I’ve never taught before. They give you everything that you need; all of the tools. In the morning, you’re in the classroom, then in the afternoon you are in another classroom where you’re actually watching a teacher firsthand and you are interacting with the international community.

Proudest Moment
I was teaching in Japan. I had a group of about 30 kindergartners. Teaching kindergartners involves a lot of songs and activities. There was one girl that would sit in the back of the room and stare at me. She didn’t sing a word, she didn’t clap her hands, she didn’t do ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes;” nothing. I didn’t know how to break through. Then one day the girl was screaming at the top of her lungs. Every single word that I ever taught in the class – every single word to every single song, and doing all the motions. I was like, “Wow, everybody gets it when they’re ready to get it.”

Just do it. It’s a bit scary to change your life, to say I’m going to leave everything behind and try this without having a safety net. It’s so easy once you do it. People want everything answered for them when they go abroad and start teaching. And sometimes, you just can’t do that because everybody is going to have a different experience. Answers will come when you get there. Put yourself out there and everything will come to you. I encourage anybody to try the program, because even if you never leave the country, the program gives you tools to being a successful communicator. In our country, you still have to work with international people, so even if you don’t step outside or get a stamp in your passport, the program still makes you change.


Alicia WszelakiWhat is your current occupation?
I’m owner of Path 88 Productions, a media production company located in San Diego. In addition to producing documentaries, we specialize in photography and video projects for the travel industry, corporations, and private businesses. Some of our recent films include, Camino The Journey to Santiago and Long Distance.

We understand you are doing a documentary on a Japanese woman who ran an English newsletter for 30 years. Please tell us about that.
Our latest film, The Newsletter, tells the story of a group of women in Kure, Japan who for the last 30 years have published Parkway, an English-language newspaper with global readership. It is a tale of passion, friendship and how life happens between the lines.

This short documentary is a direct result of taking the TESL/TEFL program at the American Language Institute. It is through my time teaching in Japan that I was introduced to the staff of Parkway, who asked me to be their English editor, a position that I have enjoyed since 2008.

You have traveled the world since you were an ALI student. How much of a factor was the TESL/TEFL program in getting you started as a globetrotter?
Being a graduate of the TESL/TESFL program has given me added confidence to travel.  It has opened up opportunities to work and live in other countries. Since my graduation in 2003, I have had the chance to visit, live, work, and teach in over 30 countries.

Do you continue to stay in touch with any of your former classmates or the staff at ALI?
There is a bond with individuals who make the decision to become ESL instructors, whether they stay at home or travel abroad. Teachers share an underlying sense of adventure and a desire to make a difference in people’s lives. It inspires and motivates me to know that my closest friends are the ones I have met abroad and at the ALI.

Do you still consider the TESL/TEFL program a life changer?
Taking The TESL/TEFL program at ALI started a chain of events that have led me to where I am today. I frequently travel the world and interact with various cultures. I tell other people’s stories through photography and motion pictures; my passions. Would this have happened without the course? No. A life Changer, Yes! And thank you.