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After grad­u­ation this year, many seniors will be leaving Hillsdale College to join the work force, and some of those seniors will be teaching English abroad in places such as China, South Korea, and Ecuador.

Senior Abby Pon­tynen is going to teach in China at a school located an hour outside of Hong Kong. She will  teach con­ver­sa­tional English, helping stu­dents learn the specifics of Western dialect.

Abby said she worried that her history major wouldn’t be as appealing to employers, so she started looking into job oppor­tu­nities posted by Career Ser­vices.

Teaching abroad inter­ested her, and she began searching for similar pro­grams online.

“I found out about this job on Google. It sounded exciting,” Pon­tynen said.

Pon­tynen has no fears about going abroad alone. This last summer Pon­tynen went to Würzsburg, Germany with the Hillsdale German department and stayed behind after the group left. She only knew a little bit of German at the time.

“Living in a foreign country made me realize I could live com­pletely in country where I didn’t speak their lan­guage,” Pon­tynen said. “I wasn’t scared, and the lan­guage barrier wasn’t a barrier at that point.”

Though Pon­tynen does not speak Chinese now, she will be learning Man­darin under the program while she is in China. Pon­tynen called it a very mar­ketable skill, and she hopes that it will help her in the future if she applies for the state department, working for an ambas­sador or as a diplomat.

Along with the Man­darin classes, health care and housing are included under the program. The program is also helping her get her visa. However, the program doesn’t pay very well, and Pon­tynen said she knows that another friend has found a similar, but more lucrative, job. So though Pon­tynen was offered the job in China, she hasn’t fully com­mitted.

“I’m kind of looking around; maybe there’s a better deal out there. But at least I have this one offer,” Pon­tynen said.

The program lasts a full year, and Pon­tynen is unsure what the future holds after that year. She said she may go to graduate school or even become a museum curator with her history major.

“I don’t par­tic­u­larly want to teach in the U.S. I don’t really have that passion. I just want to expe­rience that culture [in China],” Pon­tynen said.

Senior Juliann Ulrickson will be heading off to Quito, Ecuador to teach at the Center for Con­tinued Edu­cation. She found out about this oppor­tunity through a friend already teaching in Ecuador.

Ulrickson is not too con­cerned about going abroad; she studied abroad in Spain last year. She also has expe­rience teaching English to Spanish-speakers from that trip. Ulrickson’s parents, however, are not as calm.

“My parents are mildly wary,” said Ulrickson. However, both of her parents will be vis­iting her in Ecuador while she is there.

Ulrickson said that she never expected to teach abroad. It was simply some­thing she applied for four weeks ago.

“I had no clue what I was going to do [after college]. I figured I would end up in South America at some point,” Ulrickson said.

Ulrickson has no long-term plans to teach. She will do this for a year and then move on to some­thing else.

“It’s not a huge financial gain, but it’s a great expe­rience,” said Ulrickson.

Also planning on leaving the U.S. to teach are seniors Samantha Nasser and Adam Petersen, who got engaged this past year. They will be getting married in May and leaving for South Korea in mid-August to teach classes for Korean stu­dents in English only.

“We will only be speaking English because the stu­dents know enough English [already],” said Petersen.

Nasser said that she got the idea from a friend and Hillsdale graduate, Gracey Roskam ‘11, who went to Taiwan after grad­u­ating. There are other Hillsdale grad­uates working in South Korea with whom Nasser and Petersen may connect.

To prepare for the trip the couple has to go through criminal back­ground checks, send in tran­scripts to the program, and take a 100-hour teaching cer­ti­fi­cation program online. Because more people have been applying for these sorts of posi­tions recently, the appli­cation process has become more and more vig­orous.

“But if you have a good resume and good ref­er­ences it shouldn’t be hard to get in. Anybody who is willing to uproot them­selves for a year looks good to an employer,” said Petersen.

Nasser said that the expe­rience “is very mar­ketable,” and that they are looking forward to “an adventure.”

mshowalter@hillsdale.edu