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Teaching English in Ashdod, Israel - Alumni Q&A with Jennifer McCall
Written by: Jennifer Mccall
Last Updated: March 11, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Epsom, New Hampshire
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Master's degree or Higher
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
I've traveled to China, Israel, and Greece
If you have studied abroad in the past, where did you study?
I studied abroad in Chengdu, China.
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I first realized that I might want to teach English abroad when I studied abroad in China. I volunteered at my university's English Corner and loved helping students there improve their conversational English. I also liked the idea that I could do something in my field (education) and not go right into a traditional school. I wanted to be able to travel and be exposed to different cultures and experiences before I settled down.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was so worried about teaching abroad before I got here. My biggest concern was being alone in the classroom with a bunch of Israeli students (I'm teaching abroad in Israel right now). I was afraid that I wouldn't be an effective teacher, and they wouldn't be able to learn anything from me because they couldn't understand me. I also wasn't very familiar with Israeli schools prior to coming here and being in one. So I was concerned about classroom management.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends and family were a little worried about me when I said I would be moving and teaching abroad since I was going to Israel. But other than that, they were so supportive and are still very supportive of me going abroad. My parents think it's great that I'm seeing the world. And my grandparents are so cute because they tell everyone their granddaughter is teaching in Israel. They're pretty proud of the fact that I am doing something different and worthwhile.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I decided to become TEFL certified because I was already abroad and teaching on a program when I realized that I might want to teach abroad elsewhere. One of my roommates had gotten her TEFL certification and was telling me about it, so I emailed her recruiter and went from there. I chose International TEFL Academy because the online option was so convenient for my schedule. I was already abroad, and I didn't have to worry about getting to classes or the time difference with their online course. I'm so happy I did it!
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I really liked this course. I got my Master's in Secondary English Education, but didn't really focus on ESL. So I found this course really helpful. Plus, I was able to use the lessons I was doing in my course for homework each week in my actual classroom (such a plus!). My instructor was really good with feedback, and responded super quickly to questions I emailed to her. What I also really liked was the weekly blogs in response to the reading and instructor prompts. It was cool to see what others were thinking in the course, and exchange ideas about different classroom activities.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
TEFL training has helped me a lot in my current teaching position. I started my TEFL course about three months into my job teaching abroad, and it was really helpful to be taking the course while I was teaching. There would be things in the readings addressing problems I was facing in my classroom, and I was able to try out the different solutions suggested to see what worked with my kids. I also feel way more confident teaching ESL than I did before.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Israel in the city of Ashdod. I decided to teach English in this location because it was a unique opportunity for me to experience a country that I am connected to culturally (being that my family is Jewish). I wanted to learn more about my identity by being in Israel. And I also just really wanted to go to a country most people don't normally go to.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in this country for 10 months teaching English. I came here in September 2017, and I plan on leaving at the end of June 2018.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
Masa Israel Teaching Fellows
During which months does your school typically hire?
They usually look to close applications by June (you can apply any time beforehand), but you can also apply during the summer if there's room for placements in remaining cities.
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
After being accepted in Masa's program, they helped get me the forms I would need to get my visa for the Israeli Consulate. The Israeli Consulate in Boston was relatively easy to get a visa through because I didn't have to go in person. I just printed all the forms, sent my passport and money order in with secured mail, and then got it back with the visa via secured mail. I think they had a question or two about my forms and called me, but it was very simple and stress free. I will say that getting a hold of the Israeli Consulate via phone was kind of a pain since there's an answering system and the hours are odd.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Native English speaker
- Bachelor's degree
What is the best way to apply?
Please include any application resources (website, email, etc.) or other information here:
You need to be Jewish in order to apply since it is a government funded program. Feel free to contact them if you have questions though because they're very helpful!
Tell us about your English teaching job!
So, I teach grades 1-6 in my school in Ashdod. The program I'm on provides us with housing, so I have seven roommates, and our apartment is in an awesome location.
Vacation time: We get Jewish holidays off since Israel is a Jewish state. There are two tracks with this program, the Teaching Fellows (who are not certified teachers) and the Teacher's Track Fellows (people who are certified to teach).
Salary: The Teaching Fellows make about ~$700 a month, and the Teacher's Track Fellows make about $1,300 a month. This is subject to change year to year though.
Ability to save: I am on the Teacher's Track, and have been able to save so much money since I don't pay for my apartment or utilities. I've saved most of my monthly stipend (usually half of it a month), without making much of an effort to save. I know people on the Teaching Fellow's track who have also been able to save with the smaller stipend.
School type: The type of schools we tend to work for with Masa are lower socioeconomic schools that normally would not have access to English resources that wealthier communities might have.
Hours: We work four days a week and have three days off (including Saturday).
Sunday is usually a programming day with your Masa organizer and some of them (like Destination Israel who is in charge of my city of Ashdod), take you on trips to different places around Israel for free. I've had a lot of free time here to explore. And I've also been able to make extra money tutoring (one or two lessons will cover my food expenses and then some for the week).
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
Masa provides us with a place to live. Depending on the max number of people in the city, and if the city is filed to capacity with the number of people, you can have anywhere from 5-10 roommates. It really just depends on the city and the organizer. Currently I have seven roommates (so eight of us total in one apartment), and it's great! I love all my roommates so much, and know that many of them are friends for life.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Israel is so rich in cultural experiences. There's the history, tons of different ethnicities, and exposure to major world issues (like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). I have been able to see places that are thousands of years old and learn so much. The people are so welcoming. They can come off as very rude, but they're really just blunt and don't waste time trying to make people read between the lines. There have been so many times I've met people at the beach, and they've invited me over for Shabbat dinner.
The religious aspect of living in a Jewish state is so unique too since everything closes in most places on Shabbat. And it's weird to see things actually close on a holiday each week (especially if you're from the U.S.). So keep that in mind because you'll have to get your groceries for the weekend beforehand! And public transport (except cabs) shut down.
The nightlife is really fun. There are tons of cool bars and dance clubs. It's easy to do a weekend in Tel Aviv and get an Airbnb. Additionally, there's always something going on. In Ashdod, they have tons of random food festivals, or cultural festivals. There are also concerts in the parks (and while you do have to pay to be up close and personal in the amphitheater, you can find some nice spots standing a good distance away). The acoustics carry throughout the center-city area.
There's so many opportunities to travel with the holidays, I've managed to go to all of the big national parks and the typical touristy things (Dead Sea, Masada, Jerusalem) in my time being here. I don't think I'll ever explore a country as well as I have Israel, and I know that there's so much more I could continue to explore.
Also, Israel has the best food. Shakshuka. Hummus. Falafel. Shawarma. I'm seriously going to miss it.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent/utilities: Since I'm with Masa, my rent and utilities are covered with the program.
Food costs me about 100 shekels a week ($30 a week), and it's good fresh produce.
Transportation is very cheap, and my organizer includes the additional transportation cost of my bus pass in my stipend. A bus from Ashdod to Tel Aviv is about $2. So it's quite the deal.
Phone/internet: Additionally, I pay $11 a month for my cell phone and it comes with 15 GB of data (seriously crazy cheap compared to my Verizon bill back home).
Travel: I spend most of my money on traveling, but even then I set aside about $275 a month to do that and shop frivolously, and it more than covers the expenses.
How would you describe your standard of living?
The standard of living is good. Most places have central AC. I have all the amenities I need to live. It's very similar to Western culture. There have been some people who haven't been pleased with the living situations here, but I think they're used to a higher standard of living. I'd say that as someone coming from New Hampshire, this is pretty average. The only thing you won't have is a dryer, but everything dries super fast in the Israeli heat.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
I think someone on my program can be fine on the $700/month stipend and live quite comfortably. However, I hear housing is pretty expensive on its own and teachers aren't paid a ton here, so it might be harder on your own. However, I don't really have the information outside of this program to answer adequately.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
DO IT! You will not regret teaching abroad at all. It is an amazing experience and you can really learn a lot about yourself while making a positive impact in the lives of your students. I love being here in Israel and definitely recommend it.
Before you go abroad, if you're picky about where you live or how you'll live, definitely research. Also be willing to be flexible, things don't always go as plan or meet your expectations. But that's okay. Having a positive outlook goes such a long way.
Jennifer is from New Hampshire and took ITA's Online TEFL Course. Jennifer studied abroad in China and then took the plunge to teach English abroad in Israel.
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