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“TEFL Changed My Life” – TEFLPros Founder, Jos Pollak, on Why Take a TEFL course

TEFLPros founder

 

Today, we hear from TEFLPros Co-Founder and international TEFL trainer & teacher, Jocelyn Pollak.

Having travelled extensively, Jocelyn has leveraged her TEFL qualification to teach both online and in-person all over the world. 

Transitioning from the hectic world of sales, Jocelyn walked away from her stressful, overworked schedule, to pursue a more rewarding journey in EFL teaching before later founding GoOversea’s #1 online TEFL provider, TEFLPros.

 

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Hi Jocelyn, so you currently live in Thailand and have lived there for around 8 years now. What made you leave your home and move abroad?

I wish I had a better answer to that question. I feel like people are expecting some noble answer about a passion for Thai culture or following the love of my life to a new country or wanting to change the world — but none of those even remotely factored into my decision to move abroad. 

I guess it all started for me when I was around 17. My dad, sister and I packed up the minivan and drove across the country for what came to be an absolutely life-changing experience. The build-up, the journey, the experience  — I knew there was no turning back after that, I had been bitten by the travel bug.

When I was a kid, we never really went on trips that were more than a few hours from home, which I totally understand now as an adult; my parents had 3 children within 4 years of each other, no further explanation required. As a result, my bubble was small and not very diverse.

Suddenly, this eye-opening road trip showed me there was so much more outside my door that I just hadn’t even begun to consider! I knew I wanted to live abroad from that moment on. I needed to see the world and see what was out there.

Thailand isn’t the only place I’ve lived, but as most TEFL teachers will tell you, the flexibility allows you to explore all different corners of the world and find the places that intrigue and comfort you best, and make a home there. For me, that’s been Thailand for the last few years.

 

Having been bitten by the travel bug at 17 years old, how did you start your journey abroad?

Basically, I graduated from high school and went straight on to college. 

I started college as a biology major but quickly switched to an International Relations major after barely making it through my first semester. It turned out that being a doctor wasn’t on the cards, after all!

Seeing a loophole in the college system, I realized that with enough work and credits, I could pull off three majors. To do this, however, I needed to fulfill 3 final credit hours over my many course modules. 

I had to take a summer course. 

Luckily, my university had a campus in Luxembourg that offered a sprint summer program that had the exact course that I needed. A fine sprinkling of serendipity.  

All the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly as I realized I could combine my passion for travel with my drive to complete 3 majors. 

Thanks to the program, I could travel around Europe every weekend, seeing snapshots of lots of different countries. 

In the end, I did graduate as a triple major  — International Relations, History and Anthropology (and miraculously, a French minor. Bonjour!)  — but, now, I was also desperate to continue my life’s journey abroad. 

So, what was the plan out of college? Did you travel immediately.

No, I didn’t move abroad until much later in 2012.

Instead, like most new graduates who have no idea about the real world, I had hopes of finding a dream job that allowed me to just travel and get paid a 6-figure salary; note to recent grads, this job does not exist. 

As this seemed less and less likely, my dream of getting out of my parents’ house quickly surpassed my original dream of globetrotting.

I took a job in inside sales in Chicago. Cold calls – all. day. long. At least I would get out of the house, right…?

In my job interview, they told me they were expanding internationally which is what really sold me on the less than ideal position of inside sales. 

While it wasn’t my ideal position, I learned a lot in the role there that I would later take with me into the teaching profession.

Let me tell you, there is nothing that helps you build a thick skin like making 120+ cold calls a day. 

While I’d moved from the boiler room hell of sales calls to a more consultative role, I wanted out. But, the 2008 economic crash happened and rocking my own job security seemed foolish. Friends, family, and colleagues appeared to be losing jobs left right and center, and I didn’t want to be left with nothing so I stayed.

 

With such a dire economy, what made you eventually take the leap to move and teach abroad?

As the dust of 2008 finally started to clear and I could come out of my professional hole in the ground, I accepted the fact that even though I had success, I had no passion for what I was doing and I needed to make a change. 

It wasn’t easy to come to that decision. I was making good money, had awesome benefits and a great career at a company that was consistently ranked as one of the top 10 companies to work for in the US. 

However, over that five year period, I’d had time to reflect on the work I’d been doing. I realized that my two favorite parts of the job were teaching my clients and travelling to different locations. It was time to make a change and it was becoming obvious in which direction I should be going…

In April of 2012, I finally said goodbye to my job. It honestly felt like breaking up with a boyfriend who “is a great guy, just not the right fit for me”. 

 

TEFLPros Cameroon

 

In May, I went to Cameroon (for the second time) for a month to visit my sister who was working for an NGO. No running water, no electricity, a hole in the ground if you know what I mean… it was remote. 

While I was there, I had the opportunity to teach English at the local high school. There were 100+ students in my classes. I truly had no idea what I was doing, but I wanted to know more so I could do a better job. It just clicked and I felt like I had finally found my passion.

I knew that I wanted to go home, train to teach, and take off on the next jet plane outta town!

What were your next steps to getting on that plane?

When I came back to Chicago, I enrolled on a TEFL course. It was different back, then. I had to sign up to a pricey, in-person TEFL program. 

It covered all the basics, yes, but nothing more. No resources, no job help, no resume building skills, not even a hand-out (certainly nothing like TEFLPros!). 

That said, the greatest value of that course to me was that it helped me find a community center in Chicago where I could volunteer (which TEFLPros can help you do in your own area).

I spent my time there teaching a truly inspirational group of immigrant women; an experience I’ll never forget. 

Even from the outset, with my TEFL certificate, I was starting to see doors open around me. By completing the qualification early on, I could prepare myself with teaching experience at home before embarking on my international journey.

 

When did you finally take the leap to move abroad?

One month after completing my TEFL certificate, several months of teaching at the community center and one long day of trying to fit all my stuff into a storage locker, it was finally time for me to take that leap and move abroad. I

I arrived in Bangkok for a one-year teaching placement in late 2012. I landed Sunday, interviewed Monday morning and was offered the job Monday afternoon. 

 

TEFLPros Bangkok

 

That one year has turned into eight years living in Thailand, traveling to 40+ countries, making hundreds of friends, and teaching thousands of English lessons. 

I can confidently say that that scary leap was the single best decision of my life.

 

How did TEFL enable you to follow this path?

From first completing my TEFL certification through to founding TEFLPros, I am repeatedly reminded of the unparalleled opportunities that I have been afforded thanks to the TEFL organization and its associated institutions.

For people like me who didn’t have any idea of how I could fulfill my dream of living and working abroad, TEFL carved a pathway for me to be able to pursue that vision. I felt like I was stuck in a job I hated and suddenly, TEFL changed my life.

With a TEFL qualification in my hand, I was immediately more desirable for jobs abroad, and I was ready with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in the classroom from the get-go.

But over the years, TEFL has proved its worth well beyond that first teaching job. 

An extremely diverse qualification, my TEFL has enabled me to travel all over the world and offer my TEFL expertise in a whole range of scenarios. 

Through the years, I have taught copious numbers of students online, I have worked with language agencies, online English schools, private groups, and individuals. I have used my qualification to offer business consultancy, commercial workshops, team sessions, and for many other unconventional TEFL applications.

Not only have I had the opportunity to teach thousands of students in multiple countries both online and in-person, I now have the honor to birth a new generation of TEFL teachers who can provide a network of high-quality English teaching all around the world. 

We have a 99% rating from all graduates and we’re the number one online TEFL course! If it weren’t for TEFL I would never have been able to take my dream to this level!

 

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