The country still felt like the days of the Soviet reign. They spoke limited English and were not accustomed to outsiders. Finances were limited, as was the diet, and the roads were underdeveloped and traversed by unreliable vehicles.
For Leslie Newton, her time in the Republic of Georgia was rewarding, but not easy. To anyone following in her footsteps, she gives one piece of advice: Tread lightly.
Newton, a 2008 HU English graduate, spent a year teaching English overseas after receiving her master’s degree in English from the University of Tulsa in 2011.
“I wanted a little break from academia while indulging my travel bug for a little bit,” she said. “While I had taught college-level writing at Tulsa with my graduate assistantship, I hadn’t yet explored ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching and was ready for something new.”
Over the course of her time in Georgia, she taught “bare bones” English to children in grades 1-6. She would start with the alphabet and phonetics and then continue on until they were comfortable talking in simple English.
“To see them come from the alphabet to competent dialogue was pretty encouraging,” she said.
While in Georgia, Newton lived with a host family who did not speak English. Communication was a challenge, even when she became proficient in speaking Georgian, but she did have one saving grace in the family’s daughter.
“My host-sister, who was in 10th grade, was pretty good with English, and it was very fun to speak to her about Georgia, America and other countries I've visited, and the differences between them,” she said.
Before pursuing her interests abroad, Newton interned for a book publishing agency called FinePrint Literary Agency in New York City. After completing that internship, she worked remotely as a book content editor for American Book Publishing. She pursued graduate work following that position, studying transatlantic modernism with an emphasis on humor and visual media in modernist magazines. Her master’s project was published in an issue of The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies.
“Reading and writing have always been strong skills of mine. It really was an obvious choice (as a major), as I'm good at it and love it so,” she said. “I believe it’s important to do what you love or find a way to integrate what you love into what you do, and there are several occupational fields that integrate an English degree.”
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