Guest Post: Christine Ellsworth on being an English major, living abroad, and her unexpected career choice

Christine (right center) with her husband

When I was an undergrad, I loved being an English major. I loved reading all the time, the writing, and the discussions that came with it. It took me a little while to figure out that English literature was the right major for me, but once I got there, it felt so great to finally be in a program I enjoyed and was passionate about.

Currently, I am studying in Ball State’s MA in TESOL (Teaching English as Second Language) program. I still find it ironic that I ended up here, because when asked, I would adamantly insist that I did NOT want to be a teacher. The path that led me here started with my interest in foreign languages. I took a few German and Italian classes, but my real love is French. After I spent a semester abroad, I couldn’t wait to find a way back to France. So, I applied for a position teaching English at l’Université de Nancy through the Ball State French department. A little piece of advice: if you want to spend time abroad, teaching is a great way to go because you get paid. Seven months later, I was on my way!

Teaching English in France was a true eye opener. To begin, I was completely terrified. I’ve always been a little shy, so the idea of standing up in front of a classroom was extremely intimidating for me. I’d never done it before and sometimes I wasn’t even very familiar with the subjects I was asked to teach. (Case in point: English phonetics. AH!) But it got easier as the year went on. And what surprised me the most—I actually enjoyed it! As the year came to a close, I realized I didn’t want to stop. Teaching English as a second language combined all of my passions, plus it allowed me to work with people in a meaningful way.

The next step for me was to get a degree teaching English as a Second Language. It was an easy decision to apply to the graduate school at Ball State. First of all, my soon-to-be fiancé was finishing his masters in Architecture at BSU. Also, after a campus visit and sitting in on a class, I was completely confident in the TESOL program. The opportunity to teach English in the Intensive English Institute (IEI) at Ball State seemed exciting as well. The IEI offers English classes for international students, and when I was offered a teaching assistantship in the IEI, the deal was sealed. I was headed back to Ball State.

Now I’m in the second year of my program and planning to graduate in the spring. Graduate school is challenging, but I’ve found that my literature classes prepared me well for the type of research, writing and analysis that is expected of me. What I love most about my program is that I get to teach people from diverse backgrounds. I’ve had students from Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Tajikistan. Meeting new people and learning about other cultures is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. After I graduate, I hope to find a position teaching ESL at the university level, or perhaps abroad.

My advice to all you English majors out there is to not worry if you’re not sure where your English major will take you. There are more possibilities than you might think. If you’re like me, it may take you somewhere you didn’t expect!

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One comment

  1. Way to go, Christine! I’m proud of you, your success so far, and the wonderful possibilities for your future! Félicitations with your coming wedding and bonne chance to you both !!!
    Monsieur Peden

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