The Expert Files: Teaching English Abroad from Alum Amanda Jensen

As any soon-to-be or recent college grad knows, there are so many different things you can do after graduation. Get a job? Of course. Travel the world? Yes! But today we are profiling a Communication Studies alum who managed to combine both… she got a job that gave her the ability to travel the world! How did she do it? And who is she? The author of today’s “The Expert Files” is 2009 Communication Studies graduate Amanda Jensen! Amanda chose to teach English abroad after she graduated and I asked her to share her experiences with us.

2009 COMS grad and teaching abroad expert Amanda J

“When I sat down to finally write this blog post I became depressed as I realized all the memories that have already begun to fade. Moving back to the United States I was immediately re-immersed into the fast-paced, high-speed world that I had left behind while living and teaching in Spain for 13 months. The ideology in Spain is strikingly different from here in the United States. I was surrounded by Spaniards who embody and enliven the spirit of Spain’s most culturally traditional region, Andalucia. Upon moving there I was immediately embraced by the unparalleled spectacles of Southern Spain and the quieter magic of its daily life.

For memory sake, I poured over photos of learning to dance flamenco, dressing up in polka dots for Feria, debating the tradition of the bullfight while watching a bullfight, practicing my Spanish with flourish, traveling, and most importantly becoming an active member of a foreign school and community.

Amanda in her flamenco dress!

After graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2009, I knew I wanted a challenge and I wanted to do something bold. I had always wanted to travel but just backpacking through Europe never interested me. I wanted to travel with purpose and I wanted to make a difference in my life and in the lives of others. I didn’t want to blow through a ton of money in 2 months. What interested me was embracing a new culture and way of life. I wanted a challenge, remember?

Many people decide to Teach Abroad after college and everyone has their own reasons in mind for why they want to. Many want to travel to as many countries as they can, they want to become fluent in another language, they want to re-live their study abroad days, see famous places that they had previously only read about or seen pictures of, and they want to experience a new culture. Those reasons were all included on my list, but for me, I wanted to teach. I wanted to build relationships in the classroom, in my school, and in my community.

I think that graduating from USF with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies allowed me to realize how diverse our world is and how the possibilities for our future are intimidating and endless. I chose to study communication because it would give me tremendous flexibility in terms of a career choice and it has proven to be effective in all aspects of my life.

The job I had in Spain was perfect for me. I was assigned to teach at an elementary school, in a small town within the Huelva province in Andalucia, Spain. My official title within the school was a Language and Culture Assistant. I immediately fell in love with teaching those children. I fell in love with Spanish and my surroundings. Being one of the first and only American, white girls, to live in the small town of La Palma del Condado, I was a celebrity. I was welcomed with open arms and the children, teachers and members of the community were eager to learn from me. For the students in Spain, having a Language and Cultural Assistant was very rewarding because the interactions they had with a native helped them improve in all aspects of learning English; reading, writing, pronunciation, and most importantly confidence. As a conversation assistant I found the job very rewarding because I saw the interest build in each individual student. I also saw the improvement and respect the students built for the language.

It was advantageous to experience living and working outside the United States to really discover how the Spanish people live, work, and function. It has been an incredible adventure learning about the Spanish educational system, learning to speak the language, and participating in all the traditional and cultural events. The relationships I have made with both the teachers and students I will keep forever.

All aspects of the experience I look forward to using one day in my own classroom.

You can take from your teach abroad experience whatever you want. For me, the experience solidified my passions for the Spanish language, for culture, and for teaching. Besides the real-world skills that were put to test daily, I was afforded international competency, being an active member in a foreign community, enhanced independence, increased language skills, lifelong friendships and relationships, and the difference I made within the La Palma community. But what I really left Spain with was a whole new perspective on myself, the career I wanted, and how I wanted to evolve my teaching methods.

It is because of these experiences that I want to become a teacher. What it really comes down to is, who my future students will be and who they will become. I want to help them build relationships with each other and with their teacher that they will remember forever. I love being around children because their spirits are infectious, their minds are imaginative, their capabilities are endless and their enthusiasm and innocence gives me hope. I have a unique opportunity to bring what I have discovered into my classroom.

Amanda with her students

If you think that Teaching Abroad is something you are interested in, I highly recommend you pursue it. In my mind, no other experience compares. There are many countries and programs that utilize natives coming into their school systems. The program I went through is called CIEE: the Council on International Educational Exchange.  http://www.ciee.org/teach/about/aboutCIEE.aspx I found this program by researching ‘teach abroad programs’ that are recommended through Universities. CIEE also has an active study abroad program in over 50 countries. It is affiliated with many colleges across the country. I found it through Oregon State. It provides you with all services and support you will need while abroad. Depending on where you are interested in traveling to there are many programs. I have friends that are or have taught in Portugal, France, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, Cambodia and Chile.

If you are interested in reading further about my daily life in Spain, more specifically, the daily challenges and affirmations, here is my blog link:

http://amandaeryn5.blogspot.com/2009/09/from-portland-to-sevilla.html ”

Congratulations, Amanda, and thanks for sharing your experiences! Amanda’s blog is GREAT, so take a look at it if you want to learn more about her experiences in Spain.


The Expert Files: 5 Tips for a Successful Semester from Shona Doyle, Director of Academic Coaching and Student Development Programs

I am very excited for today’s “The Expert Files” post! Why? Because it comes from a true expert on helping students succeed, Shona Doyle, the Director of Academic Coaching and Student Development here at USF! I asked Shona to share with us some tips on how to have a successful start to the semester. First, a bit about Shona…

Shona Doyle has played an instrumental role in students’ development and success at the University of San Francisco for the last 13 years as an administrator, counselor, coordinator, and currently as the Director of Academic Coaching and Student Development Programs at the newly created Center for Academic and Student Achievement (CASA).  As a member of the CASA team in Student Life, she and her colleagues will be serving over 5,838 undergraduate students, helping them with everything from pre-admission to staying on track to graduate in four years, and everything else in-between!  I can personally attest to Shona’s skills, as I have her and her colleague Sara Solloway on speed dial, as I know many faculty members do!

USF Director of Academic Coaching and Student Development, Shona Doyle

Shona completed her M.A. in Counseling Psychology at the University of San Francisco, she has a certification in Core Strengths Coaching from San Francisco State University, and she obtained her B.A. in World Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Her background is in problem-solving, goal-oriented counseling, with a social justice and strengths-based positive psychology focus, which informs her work with students, parents, faculty and staff.  She has extensive experience working with students, parents, faculty, administrators and staff on the topics of academic coaching, major exploration/decision-making, student self-efficacy, transition-to-school counseling, positive psychology, development/training programs, and managing mental health issues and/or other disabilities.

Read on for Shona’s expert tips!


“You’ve already completed your first two weeks of classes!  Congratulations!  I know the transition to college can be a little bit overwhelming.  Believe me, I’ve been in your shoes before, (even though it’s been a few years since I was an actual college student), but I still get to experience a little bit of that mix of excitement and jitters each year again, when the semester starts, albeit from the other side of the desk.  Over the years, and working with countless students who have come through my office looking for support and advice, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that I’d like to share with you about how to make the transition to this new academic year a successful one.

Tip #1 College can be hard.  Learn to ask for help.  Whether you’re a new, or continuing student, I’ll let you in on a little secret: You don’t have to know all of the answers on your own.  Reach out and ask for help, make a friend, talk to your professor during office hours, talk to your R.A., come to our office (Harney 240) and talk with an academic coach.  Don’t make things harder than they are.  You should feel challenged in college, but not utterly overwhelmed.  The beauty of attending a relatively small school is that there are many campus support offices, as well as faculty, students, and staff who really care and want to be of assistance to you.  I challenge you to reach-out to someone this week and see how they’re doing, ask them if you can assist them in some small way, or if you’re feeling a little lost and need to find your school groove, seek out someone to help you figure out where to start.

Tip #2 Start a new habit that helps you study smarter, manage your time better, or feel more energized.  You have many years of experience creating some habits that are helpful to you, like waking up on time to get to school, eating a healthy breakfast, and *not* texting in class, (yes, your faculty see you, even if you’re in the back of the classroom).  You probably also have a few habits that you’re not so proud of, like always underestimating how much time it will take you to write a paper, or thinking you can cram for a test the night before, (otherwise known as p r o c r a s t i n a t i o n), or only getting four hours of sleep, because you couldn’t tear yourself away from your computer or friends to get to bed at a decent hour.  Habits are powerful.  It is harder to break a habit than to create a new one.  I challenge you to think of one new habit that you can start this week that will be helpful to you.  Some examples of new habits that students I’ve worked with have tried to start are: to go to bed an hour earlier, go to the Learning and Writing Center (Cowell 215) BEFORE papers are due, make an appointment at CAPS to help with test anxiety (Counseling & Psych. Services, Gillson Lower Level), go to Gleeson library to study/review notes right after classes, find a study buddy and set-up a weekly study group, go to professors’ office hours, go to the Priscilla A. Scotlan Career Services Center (UC 5th Floor) to ask about internships/jobs, and put all of test dates in their phone with reminders.  Whatever new habit you want to try to create, make sure it’s realistic and that you stick to it.  Make it a part of your daily routine and before you know it, it will be second nature to you.

Shona, enjoying one of her healthy habits, yoga!

Tip #3 Take responsibility for your own academic path.  What do I mean by that?  I think Adrienne Rich from her convocation speech at Douglass College, 1977, “Claiming an Education” sums it up well: “The first thing I want to say to you who are students, is that you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education; you will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one.”  I think it is important to remember that it is your responsibility take an active part in your education, and to sometimes get out of your comfort zone and take some risks, and realize that it’s okay to be wrong in class once and a while, (trust me, you’ll learn to embrace making mistakes in life, that’s how we all learn!).  Make an effort to discover what motivates you, what you’re passionate about, and how you can be your best self, academically and otherwise.  Remember, you are attending a Jesuit Catholic institution which holds as one of its core values: “the moral dimension of every significant human choice: taking seriously how and who we choose to be in the world”.  Also, as our new University tagline states, Change the World from Here.  I challenge you to make one small change, or take one risk, this week to help move yourself forward on your path to academic success and personal fulfillment.

Tip #4  Hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals, (starting with finishing your homework), and find others to help you to be accountable, (a.k.a., “Someone help me!  I’m addicted to Facebook!”).  Ahhh, the allure of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, TMZ, Angry Birds, Words with Friends, email, etc.  You only ever plan on going to any of these websites or checking email for a few minutes, but wow, do those minutes tick away even faster, when you’re in “Procrastinationville”, and before you know it a whole 45 minutes has passed looking at a friend of a friend’s pictures on FB, when you really should have been writing a response paper for your Ethics class.  Sure, the web can be a fun distraction, and even a useful tool sometimes, (like right now, you’re reading this very informative blog!), but sometimes you need to turn off the internet,…I mean literally, turn off the internet.  If you can’t manage doing that on your own, as I mentioned in Tip #1, learn to ask for help, especially if you’re having some trouble with procrastination and managing your time effectively.  I’ve heard students talk about how they need help with time management many times in my office.  The good news is that they are reaching out for help and asking someone how to manage their time a little better.  If this is something that you struggle with as well, I encourage you to meet with an academic coach, (in Harney 240, Malloy Hall or Gleeson Library Lower Level), talk to the folks in the Learning and Writing Center, (Cowell 215), or attend one of the 33 helpful and *free* workshops in the Student Success Workshop Series this semester, (Note: The Time Management& Procrastination workshop will be on Sept. 8, 11:50am-12:40pm in Cowell 216).  I challenge you to turn off the internet while you are doing your homework for at least one hour this week.

Shona, taking some time to smell the roses at the Golden Gate Conservatory of Flowers

Tip #5 Find a mentor.  This can be anyone really, but someone who you can look to for support, encouragement, advice and guidance.  Your mentor relationship could be on an informal basis, or a more formal basis, but find someone, (or many someones), who inspire you and with whom you feel comfortable asking questions.  This could be someone in your family, your professors, an academic coach, a career counselor, a dean, alumni, a friend of the family, a peer, etc.  You can find a USF staff, faculty or alumni mentor by signing-up for the Mentorship Program, which has many alumni ready to make connections with current students, (you can be a mentee now, and then when you graduate, you can be a mentor!).  I challenge you to find at least one mentor this semester and to make a connection with that mentor.

I hope these five tips are useful to you, and that you share them with a friend!  I challenge you to implement at least one of them today, and you get bonus points for implementing more than one! Let us know which tip was the most helpful to you by leaving a comment on this post.Good luck the rest of your semester and be sure to stop by my office (Harney 240) to say hi and find-out even more tips and tricks on how to be academically successful in your four years at USF!”

A very big thanks to Shona for sharing her advice with us here on the blog! Shona, and the rest of the CASA staff, are excellent at what they do and are there to provide you with the help and support you need to be successful here at USF. Thanks, Shona!


The Expert Files: 11 Tips to Keep on Track in College from Alum Kelly Tenn

I’m excited today to feature a guest post from 2010 USF Communication Studies graduate Kelly Tenn in “The Expert Files.” Kelly currently works as an associate account executive at Blanc & Otus, a San Francisco-based technology public relations/consulting firm. Check out Kelly’s expert advice on what you should do while in college to stay on track and prepare for life after college!

Outstanding alum Kelly Tenn, '10

From School to the Working World:

11 Tips to Keep on Track from USF Alumna, Kelly Tenn, Class of 2010

“At the launch of the school year, you have a unique opportunity to start with a fresh slate. You likely have some resolutions and goals in mind, but may be overwhelmed as where to start. As a USF alumna having entered the professional world last year, I found a handful of skills and habits that not only helped me through school, but really geared me up for the real, career-oriented, working world. Check out my 11 tips to keep in mind as you embark on the fall ’11 school year:

  1. Listen attentively. Be engaged while in class and take notes. Minimizing your distractions, such as shutting off mobile devices, will help you to retain information and allow you to ask informed questions. After all, there’s nothing more embarrassing than being called out by your boss during a meeting while you were weren’t paying attention.
  2. Read. Whether for school, leisure, or information/news, reading will help you grow your knowledge base and will influence your writing. Remember, keeping up on the news sparks a great opportunity to start a conversation. You’ll always have something interesting to talk about, which will work in your favor during a job interview.
  3. Manage your time.  Maintaining a calendar of your deadlines is a vital asset to have in the professional world. Missing a deadline in school may only affect you and your grade, but in the working world, dropping the ball could hugely impact your coworkers, bosses and clients.
  4. Use your resources. Work on your writing by attending professors’ office hours, scheduling a tutorial at the Learning and Writing Center, or even asking a trusted peer to review your paper for feedback. In the office, find a peer who recently served in your position to review your work or bounce ideas off of.
  5. Attend events that pique your interest. Be bold and try something new. Go to a CAB event, a club meeting, a baseball game, or an exercise class at the Koret Center – it sounds cliché but really, you might make a new friend. When you start your job, go with your coworkers to happy hour or on a lunch run. For me, attending small outings really helped me to connect with my coworkers on a more personal level.
  6. Introduce yourself.  The more you rely on others to introduce you, the less confident you’ll be at introducing yourself in the future. Empower yourself to start a conversation. I got my foot in the door for a job by introducing myself to a recruiter that visited USF and gave a presentation to my class.
  7. Pose questions. Don’t be afraid to ask informed questions and inquire with an authority. Posing questions will help address any issues at hand, both in academia and at work. At work, you have the ideal opportunity to express your voice during brainstorms, and your thoughts could really impress your team!
  8. Connect locally. Join a team, volunteer, get a job, intern – do whatever fits your interests to engage with San Francisco. Any experience could inspire your career path. It was my fourth internship that allowed me to discover how I fit into public relations.
  9. Stay savvy on online media, but don’t let it run your life. Nothing’s wrong with spending time on Facebook, Twitter, gaming sites, celebrity gossip blogs, etc. but beware; these things can inspire major procrastination and really suck your time away. How might you combat the temptation at work? Only check your Facebook at lunch. You don’t want your CEO walking by, catching a glimpse of your Facebook account up on your monitor while you should be working.
  10. Think before you post. I’ve heard this from many mentors and colleagues. Before sending an email, message, online wall post, picture, or status update on social media channels – realize your online identity is always under scrutiny. What’s posted isn’t easily forgotten as a digital trail can be blasted to many people at once, and be logged forever. Many organizations perform online identity checks through the hiring process, so take a moment to think about the implications before you post online.
  11. Take care of yourself. Create a schedule that will help you maintain your sanity. What do I do? Take Friday nights off to do something fun and go to a regular class at the gym on Saturdays.”
Kelly knows what she is talking about… she graduated with honors and was recognized as one of our two Outstanding Students in Communication Studies! Thanks, Kelly, for sharing your expert advice! We are so proud of you!

The Expert Files: Job Search and Interview Advice from Alum Matt M.

Many things make me smile, one in particular is thinking of a new category of post for the blog! This one came to me after I contacted an alum (soon-to-appear-on-the-blog-alum-Kelly Tenn) about writing a post for the blog. She asked about sharing some advice, and that simple question led to (drum roll please) the new category that I am debuting today: The Expert Files! (Sound of wild clapping. Do you hear it?).

The Expert Files will include experts (thus the name) from different areas sharing advice based on their experiences. First up, recent alum Matt MacLean, who is sharing job search and interview advice based on his success!

Expert job searcher and interviewee Matt MacLean!

Matt currently works as an Associate Account Manager at Acxiom where he is responsible for digital content. Here is Matt’s list of things you should do to get an edge in the job search and interview process:

  • “Internships!!! They help in every way. An internship puts you at an advantage in a company since (especially if you are a senior) a company looks at internships as a trial employment (at least at Acxiom).
  • Learn Microsoft Office (SO IMPORTANT)
  • Networking: connect with as many alums and professionals as possible. Show interest and desire to learn and grow.
  • Put your resume on Monster, Career builder and DEFINITELY the Career Services Center at USF (that is how I was found for the job!).
  • Don’t be afraid of recruiters. Take their advice and go to as many interviews as possible! Interviewing was great practice for me and I was later placed by a recruiter.
  • In the interview: keep your hands away from your face and sit up straight. Be prepared for any question and know how to apply anything you have done to the company you are looking at.  Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’ if you don’t know.
  • Express a desire to learn.
  • Dress well, even if the environment is casual.
  • Be early to your interview!
  • Bring 5 copies of your resume.
  • After the interview, send an email and say thank you for the interviewer’s time. This made a good impression and I got feedback that they liked that about me and that they hadn’t received that from other candidates. It helps you stand out.
  • Don’t get discouraged, if you don’t get the job use the interview as practice.
  • Be professional on your FB and social media outlets because employers check that. I had to unblock mine so they could learn more about me.
  • Stay in touch with your advisor and add university communication to your email and social media sites!!!!”

Where to begin… Matt shared so much great advice! Use the Career Services Center, both while you are here and soon after you graduate. They are experts and here to help you find internships and gainful employment! He shared excellent advice about the interview process, advice that I have heard from many successful alums. Oh, and, as Matt’s former advisor and keeper of the COMS social media, I, of course, love his last piece of advice the best.

Thanks, Matt!

Question: Do you have some expert advice to share? Or, are you in need of expert advice in a certain area? Or, do you just love the newest blog category?  Contact me at edoohan@usfca.edu.