Jennifer Sugrue - 2015 Program Participant

Tiles in Korea

Korea loves anything "cute"

Why did you decide to apply for a TEFL course?

I love history, culture, and exploring, but I never had the funds or confidence to do anything about it. I spent a long time checking the i-to-i website and daydreaming. I finally decided I had to get out and spread my wings as I felt the walls were closing in! The final push came from my mum though, when she told me I needed to get out and do it. “You can always come home if it doesn’t work out” were her exact words.

What made you choose the 140 hour course over the 120 hour or shorter TEFL programs?

I figured I might as well do as much as I could, seeing as I had zero teaching experience. I needed all the confidence I could get. Also, something like this is a great opportunity that doesn’t come around too often, so I decided to invest.

What set i-to-i TEFL apart when comparing other TEFL programs out there?

From day one i-to-i TEFL appealed to me most. Maybe it was the bright, easy to use website, the great customer service, or the resources available, such as Chalkboard and the interactive webinars. Something about them caught my eye, so I followed my gut instincts and went for it.

Shops in Insadong Seoul, South Korea

Shopping in Insadong Seoul

What were the requirements like for a 140 hour TEFL certification?

Not as bad as I thought actually. I was a little worried about the weekend classroom part of it, and even more worried about the grammar section! There are no time limits on any section, except the overall course limit. There are little quizzes along the way to test you, and then more important checkpoints to pass before you can move to the next section. The quizzes have unlimited tries, but there are only three attempts at the checkpoints. And boy did I need them a couple of times! You really just need enthusiasm and some free time to get it done.

What was the most useful part of your i-to-i TEFL course?

The constant feedback from the checkpoints giving you pointers, advice, as well as useful tips. Chalkboard for help, advice, and support from fellow TEFLers, and the weekend classroom section were amazing with all the tips, advice, and experience I gained.

What was the biggest challenge you had with the course?

Grammar. Oh my word, the grammar. I still have nightmares three years later (I joke! Well, mostly I joke). I have always struggled a bit with grammar though, so don’t let my reply put you off the course!

How did the i-to-i TEFL staff support you throughout your program?

They were, and still are, available anytime for those annoying, never ending questions you have, and advice on teaching destinations once you complete the program. For me, I needed their help from the get go when for some reason I couldn’t login to the course. They sorted me out and gave an extra two days onto the course deadline (it took a couple days to sort out but wasn’t anything difficult). Also, you get tutors marking your checkpoint answers and they give advice, corrections, tips, and alternatives to your answers.

Banners in South Korea

Bright colors are everywhere in Korea

What advice would you give to others interested in a TEFL program with i-to-i?

Make a list of your questions, big or small. Go onto the website and request a call back. Talk with them, and, as cliche as this is, DO IT! Take that first step, and before you know it you will be in your third year in South Korea (or Thailand, Japan, South America, Europe) giving the same advice to others.

How has your experience in the i-to-i TEFL program impacted your life?

I have gained so much confidence; no one from home recognizes me, and I hardly recognize myself! I’ve traveled to places I only ever dreamed about seeing, China and the Great Wall being the main one. I’ve made some of the most amazing friends in the last two years. Also a bonus, I’ve lost so much weight from walking around everywhere and exploring!

You currently teach in South Korea, how have you been able to apply your knowledge and skills from the TEFL course to teaching abroad?

I’ve taught two to 13-year-olds over the last two years I’ve been here, and I can tell you I’ve needed every scrap of knowledge at times! The course teaches you everything from the best way to set up your classroom desks (it does matter!), to how to mark and correct the student’s writing while not discouraging them. The i-to-i TEFL course taught me how to encourage shy early teen girls and how to help the puberty stricken 13-year-old boys to focus and learn. It also helped me figure out how to keep cool in front of six year olds who barely know phonics and the alphabet. But, best of all, it helped me not cry and run home when I first had lesson planning thrown at me.

I won’t lie and say it is easy, but the course certainly makes it easier. Mind you, getting paper hearts with “I love you teacher” written on them help too!

View of Seoul from the forest

Korea is a surprising mix of country and city!