By Leah Boucher – Staff Reporter

Hannah Somes and Willa Barron are starting off their teaching careers in France and China respectively, where they are teaching students English and learning more about other languages, as well.

Somes, who is a 2017 UMF Elementary Education graduate currently teaching conversation-oriented English classes at University of Angers, initially wanted to teach abroad in this country due to her interest in French that started in sixth grade.

“Ever since my first French class, I have been seeking more immersion in the language and wanted to travel to France,” said Somes in a Skype interview.

Somes first arrived in France in August and was quick to experience culture shock. “I was informed that I was not allowed to hand my class a syllabus,” said Somes. “France has a much more open view on education in this sense, which has quickly made me a strong and creative lesson planner.”

Somes was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Montreal for the spring semester of 2016, which prepared her for her current teaching position. “Being at a university in Quebec, I ended up speaking French the majority of the time,” said Somes. “Without this experience of constantly speaking in French for several months, I think my transition to France would have been much more difficult.”

Willa Barron, another 2017 UMF Elementary Education graduate, is teaching second grade in Shanghai, China, at Shanghai Fushan Zhengda Foreign Language Primary School. She first heard of this opportunity at an Educator’s Career Fair at UMF last March, where there were representatives from Lee Academy, a private high school in Maine.

Willa Barron teaches an English lesson to her students at the Fushan Primary School.
(Photo Courtesy of Willa Barron)

“Lee Academy has connections with many international schools, the Fushan school being one of them. When I heard about an opportunity to actually teach abroad, I jumped at it,” said Barron in a Skype interview.

Although there are many challenges that arise as a first-year teacher, Barron always tries to find the positives in her day through her students. “When I’m having one of those ‘I’m the worst teacher and I’m not doing well at my job’ days, I just think to myself ‘Even if I teach my students nothing all day, they are still learning English, which will get them so far in life,’” said Barron.

UMF not only has international alumna, but also current students who will represent the school while student teaching abroad in the spring of 2018. Bailey Ohman, a senior Elementary Education major who will be student teaching abroad in Daegu, South Korea, was initially worried about a language barrier between the students and herself. However, she was quickly informed that the school in Daegu has an English curriculum.

“At the Daegu International School, the curriculum is pretty much the same to that in America,” said Ohman. “They use Common Core throughout the school, and all students are expected to read and write in English. I am excited to listen to a different language being spoken among students in the halls and among people in the city, though.”

Barron encourages other education majors to put their fears aside and student teach or teach abroad. “Although some future teachers may worry about language barriers when teaching in foreign countries, it is always important to remember that we all smile and laugh in the same language, and that is one of the best ways to build relationships with students,” said Barron.