GoAbroad Interview

Sophia Isis - Senior Placement Consultant 

Sophia Isis - Senior Placement Consultant

Sophia is originally from Austin, Texas, where she graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in biology. She absolutely loves traveling, and the personal growth it offers. So far, Sophia has traveled to over 25 countries, and she is currently going on five years living in Shanghai with her husband and cat.

Petting a llama at Machu Picchu in Peru

Hanging out with the llamas that live in Machu Picchu

How did you get connected to Teaching Nomad?

Before coming to China, I spent about eight months traveling throughout Central and South America with my boyfriend at the time (now husband). For a while, I had been wanting to go to Asia to teach English and after my travels, I wasn’t quite ready to go back to America. I ended up finding a teaching position in Shanghai and got my boyfriend on board to join in on the next adventure.

Shortly after arriving to Shanghai in February 2011, my boyfriend saw the demand for teachers in China and utilizing his experience in recruitment, he started Teaching Nomad. After seeing a lot of teacher friends working at jobs they were unhappy with, his main goal became to connect teachers with opportunities that were the right fit for them. After teaching for about two and half years in Shanghai, I decided to give up teaching and work full-time with Teaching Nomad.

What international experiences help you in your role with Teaching Nomad?

I think the fact that I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit and also teach abroad, has put me in the unique position to be able to share my experience with others looking to have a similar experience. I know a lot about the different types of international schools and what it’s like to teach learners whose first language is not English. I use this experience and knowledge to make sure the teachers I speak with are well informed about the type of opportunity that they are getting involved with.

Lago Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche, Argentina

Stopping to see the wildflowers on a bike ride around Lago Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche, Argentina

What is the biggest benefit of going through Teaching Nomad as opposed to finding a teaching job in China independently?

The biggest benefit of working with Teaching Nomad as opposed to applying directly to schools is that we can give you information about the schools and positions from an unbiased perspective. After interviewing with a Teaching Nomad placement consultant, you will be presented with job options that are aligned with your goals and can easily apply for as many as you like. There’s no reason to go it alone, because we offer professional service, which is free for teachers and you’ll always get the same benefit package as if you applied directly with the school.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

A typical day for me consists of speaking with teachers from all over the world via Skype, making matches between the candidates and jobs, responding to emails, communicating with the HR managers at schools, and developing relationships with new schools who need help with teacher recruitment. 

What is the most commonly asked question you receive from applicants? How do you answer it?

A lot of teachers want to know what they can do to prepare for their teach abroad experience. I usually advise teachers to learn more about the country where they are going by talking to people who have visited, watching videos, and reading articles as well as studying up on the language a bit is a good start!

It’s also really important to have some money saved up for your trip. Even though you are coming to work, there will be a little lag time in between arriving and receiving your first paycheck. Although some schools offer a loan or bonus upon arrival, every school recommends bringing money with you.

Hiking the Great Wall of China

Hiking the Great Wall in Beijing, China

What is the most challenging part of placing teachers abroad?

I believe the most challenging part of placing teachers is combining an understanding of the type of position a teacher is looking for with the job requirements for individual positions and the details about our partnership schools to match teachers with the most ideal positions for them.

How does your educational background help you in connecting with schools and organizations you place teachers with? In connecting with participants?

Although I didn’t study education in school, I grew up with my Mom and Step-Dad who both worked as school administrators. From them, I have heard a lot about their expectations for teachers and how some educators fall short and others succeed. This has helped me develop a sense for judging the type of people who will be successful in schools here in China. I believe this helps me connect with the schools we work with, because when they receive a teacher candidate from us, they know they can trust our recommendation. Also, being around educators my whole life has really given me an appreciation for the job that teachers do and I think this element of respect helps me connect with the participants.

How do you ensure that each participant is placed in the best possible position?

Making the best possible match between the teacher and the position is the toughest part of the job, but also where Teaching Nomad can really shine. We take the time to learn what each teacher is looking for in a teaching job and use knowledge of our partner schools and job requirements to get teachers the best job possible.

What is the most important piece of advice you share with aspiring international teachers?

In the industry of education recruitment, we find that not all international positions are on the same level, so if teachers do not utilize our help in finding a new position, we always advise teachers to do their homework on schools before making the move abroad. A few things to check for are whether the school can get you a work visa, their reviews online, and competitive compensation packages.

English teaching at a university in Shanghai, China

A photo from my experience teaching English at a university in Shanghai 

What do you like most about working for Teaching Nomad?

I love that Teaching Nomad allows me to share the experience of teaching abroad with other teachers. For me, it has been an amazing experience that has inspired in me a desire for growth and to continue learning and developing.

What are some of your goals for the next year?

My goals for this upcoming year are to do my part to help Teaching Nomad continue to be able to connect more teachers with great positions and continue to expand into other countries in the Middle East and Asia. Some of my personal goals include taking a trip to Tibet to hike to Everest base camp along with some scuba diving on some beach in Southeast Asia.