GoAbroad Interview

Mike Patton - Director of Marketing and Technology

Language Corps’ Mike Patton reveals the challenges of teaching English in a foreign country, and tell us why you should do it too. If Director of Marketing and Technology sounds like a grumpy old man’s job, be prepared to have your world rocked. Contributor George Chelebiev interviewed Director of Marketing and Technology, Mike Patton, who is the nicest guy that has ever been scanned for swine flu in Cambodia. He also has a fear of cubicles. Read on to find out why this experienced traveler settled down to work in a family owned business.

Can you please introduce yourself shortly?

My name is Mike Patton, and I’m the Director of Marketing and Technology here at LanguageCorps. My background is in Economics and Finance actually, but before I graduated college I realized that I’d rather not work in a cubicle for the foreseeable future. I had done some travelling with my family, and knew that I enjoyed it. So, I decided to move to Costa Rica with a friend. I can’t say it was the wrong decision, since my time down there helped open the door for my current role with LanguageCorps.

At LanguageCorps, you help teachers acquire new skills and provide them with the opportunity to work in interesting locations around the globe. What kind of people take up such challenges?

Oh geez, that’s a tough one. Really, anyone. We’ve had teachers as young as 16, as old as 80, from all around the world, all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds, and motivated by a number of reasons. I’d say most of our teachers are independent, adventurous types, who enjoy new experiences and don’t mind treading a different path. Another common motivation is that they like to give back and make a difference.

What advice would you give people that are thinking about teaching English abroad? What should they keep in mind?

Give it a shot!! Seriously – it’s not a lifelong commitment, it’s a wonderful and life changing experience that lasts only as long as you want it to. Just be upfront with your hiring school about how long. Take a year or 5, or 10, and see the world, have an adventure, give back to some local communities, and learn something about yourself in the process.

If you could teach in one of the 23 locations you currently provide teaching opportunities, which one would you choose? Why?

I’d probably choose Cambodia. It’s such an interesting country, with a fascinating and tragic history, some wonderful people, great food, plenty of job opportunities, inexpensive to live in, and it’s a convenient location from which to travel around the rest of southeast Asia. Plus, it’s so wildly different from the U.S., which really appeals to me.

Can you please give us the world’s shortest description of Language Corps?

LanguageCorps – facilitates global adventures.

What makes you different from the other companies offering the same services?

We’ve been around for a while, so we’re an established name in the industry. On top of that, we’re still a family owned business so you get that personal service.

Tell us something you discovered during your travels around the world that changed your life or your way of looking at the world

Yikes, I could answer this with an essay of its own … I mean, the better question is, how hasn’t travel changed my way of looking at the world? If we are the sum of our experiences, then each time we travel we’re altering the equation. 

I’ve learned how little stuff I need to make me happy –  both because of the limits imposed by what I can take on a plane, and the experience of living in and travelling to places where some of that stuff just isn’t an option. I’ve learned patience, and also to appreciate timeliness. Tico time (schedule in Costa Rica) is a thing. Appreciation of what I’ve got and really, what most of us seem to take for granted in the States, was drilled in by seeing just how little some of the rest of the world has and is content with.

What was it like to visit Angkor Wat being aware of the tragic events during the 1970s and 1980s when Khmer Rouge controlled of the country?

I’ve been humbled by some of the wonders of the world, but also saddened when I realized that the pock marks in it were from bullets fired by the Khmer Rouge in one of the world’s greatest tragedies.

Each step along the way has expanded my personal horizons, and given me insight into and appreciation of the unimaginable depths of the human experience, which has made me a better and more understanding part of it. Plus, I’ve had a ton of fun along the way.

Can you share with us something funny or unusual that happened during your work? Some strange foreign custom or a funny situation you experienced.

One of my favorite experiences was my first time going through immigration in Cambodia. It was during one of the flu epidemics, so there were infrared sensors set up as you entered customs – but the monitors were turned towards you, so it was up to you to correctly read it and then notify authorities if you were sick. Then you handed your passport to an officer, and went to wait while your passport went through a 10 person assembly line of stamping and stapling. When it came out the other side, another officer called more or less your name, and without checking ID or even looking at the passport photo, they hand it back to you and you’re all set. It was a novel approach to customs/airport security for me at the time.

Did the decision to work in the family’s business come naturally to you and how hard is it to work with your family members? Is it difficult to avoid mixing private and business matters?

It did – it started out as me just chipping in and advising due to my recent graduation, time abroad, and business background giving me a different perspective on the business and its clients, and I just kind of kept accepting more responsibility for things. The work was fun, the product is a good one, and I don’t have to sit in a cubicle.

It hasn’t been an issue working with family members – it has a tendency to crop up in conversation over dinner more frequently than any of us would like, but overall it’s been fun.

If Mike has moved you as much as us, head over to LanguageCorp’s site to find out how you can be a part of the life-changing experience of teaching abroad. Apart from Mike’s favorite Cambodia, there are 22 more absolutely awesome locations to chose from. LanguageCorps also offers Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages or simply TESOL certification programs for newbie teachers abroad so there is no excuse to pass on such adventure opportunities.

Interview by George Chelebiev

George is a creative young man with broad interests. He has studied Psychology in Newcastle, England and he's now expanding his world view through blogging, photography and music. He is a current contributor for the LanguageCorps blog, where he writes about current topics that concern people who want to travel and teach abroad.