Meet globetrotter Samantha La Mendola from Brookfield, Connecticut who chose teaching in China as her next career move. After finishing high school, Samantha brought her charisma and vivacity to Xindu, China for 5 months last September, to teach English to young learners. Samantha is a driven and talented young woman, who at the age of 19 has already traveled to 11 countries through competing with her choir!
Samantha, you are #LIFEGOALS!
Spill the beans, Sam! Why did you decide to move to China to teach English after finishing high school?
I decided to move to China after high school because I love traveling and exploring different cultures and I was looking for a different experience before college. I wanted time to fully decide what I wanted to do before pursuing higher education. I was looking online for travel experiences and TEFL happened to be the best option for me, which made the most sense and was the most interesting to me as well.
How did your family react to the news that their daughter was moving halfway across the globe? Did you ever get homesick while you were away?
My family thought that this was an amazing opportunity for me to pursue. Teaching in China married perfectly with my love of travel and exploring new cultures. But, of course, they were a little apprehensive because of the distance and fear of the unknown. I did get homesick, but traveling around China helped me to cure this, as I was able to take in what an amazing experience this was. I missed American food and my family the most.
We love that you taught songs to your students in English with your ukulele Do you think music plays an important role in teaching English as a foreign language?
I loved teaching my students Christmas songs. They helped the students learn the most English. I also wrote my own songs for the students about animals, fruits, and vegetables. I liked writing my own songs because I could tailor my teaching to what I wanted the kids to learn. I found that videos and music helped tremendously in my teaching as it made the content fun and relevant to the kids.
At such a young age, did you find it difficult to manage a classroom? How did your online TEFL course prepare you for your time abroad?
Managing a classroom was a joy because the Chinese students were so well behaved and welcoming. I think that the online program helped me to learn about different types of lesson plans that I would be able to use in my classroom. I found that the hands-on experience of working with the children was more difficult to learn through the online course, but the course prepared me for my own lesson planning.
What were the best and worst (if any) parts of China? Where were your favorite places to travel to on your days off?
The best part about China was that I was able to continue to learn about kindness through the warm welcome that I received while there. The people all treated me well and I felt incredibly welcome. I truly enjoyed the culture and traveling as well, but the people made my experience so wonderful. The most difficult part of my time in China was the barrier that a lack of a common language caused. I made many friends, but we often had a difficult time communicating, as I only knew basic mandarin.
However; it was interesting to see how far we could get without language. I made sure that I visited every city that I was interested in. My favorite place to visit was Beijing. There was a great city vibe without being overcrowded. The Great Wall was my favorite site that I visited in my travels. I also got to see the terracotta warriors and the bamboo forest, which were amazing.
What are three things a future teacher in China should know before they start their gig?
I would recommend that future teachers get accustomed to the language in China. They should also be prepared for the workload which can be difficult, but well worth it and fulfilling as it allows for a creative experience that gives you control over your own classroom. I would recommend taking in as much of China as you can, as you never know when you will be able to return.
What’s next in the life of Samantha? Do you plan to teach again in the future?
I would love to teach again in the future. I am so grateful for this opportunity and want to continue to work with TEFL when I am able. I am still unsure of the future, but I love teaching and writing songs for non-English speaking students so we will see where that takes me.
Samantha, thank you so much for sharing your amazing stories with us about teaching in China! We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this bright young star.