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Samantha, From the U.S., Teaching in the Dominican Republic

English teacher in the Dominican Republic

By joining a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, Bridge grad and Crown College student Samantha Stepp has been able to participate in an internship and get her feet wet in the English teaching field. Below, she talks about the programs she’s participating in as an intern abroad and how her TEFL course, which she took through the Bridge/Crown College Pathway Program, has helped her build skills as an EFL teacher.

Hi, Samantha! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m 19 years old, and I’m studying online at Crown College. I’ve been doing an internship in the Dominican Republic with a group in the Christian & Missionary Alliance called Envision. I’m currently living in Santo Domingo, the capital, but I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio.

Why did you choose to do your internship in the Dominican Republic?

I actually came on a short-term trip when I was 12, and I just loved it. I loved the ministry that the Christian & Missionary Alliance was doing here and all the people I met. I knew I had to come back, but I didn’t know how I would do that; I always thought I’d do a kind of summer internship, but my leader, Bethany, introduced me to the idea of being able to do a full year here and get a fuller picture of what missions looks like in the Dominican if I came for the full year. I signed up, went through the interview process, and got here in August 2020. Then, I went home for four months last August, and I’m now back for my second year.

What are some of the activities you’re involved in through your internship abroad?

I’m involved in a couple of different ministries:

  • We have an English center right outside the university here, where we have English classes and English conversation groups. It’s also just like a coffee shop, so students are welcome to come in and spend time, hang out, do homework, or use the free Wi-Fi.
  • We also work with a child sponsorship program called One Child Matters, and I teach Bible classes there once a week.
  • We’re also involved with a private school called Aula Hope, and one of the other interns and I teach there as well. It’s mostly English practice with native speakers. We’re actually reading Narnia with the students right now, and then we’ll ask comprehension questions afterward.
Samantha in the Dominican Republic

What are you currently studying at Crown College? How did you decide to pursue this degree?

I’m in the psychology program right now, with the hopes to eventually pursue a Master’s in Counseling.

I have been going to see a counselor for the past two years and it’s been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It pushed me to grow and to be a better intern, a better friend, and a better daughter. I found it very rewarding and thought that everybody needs a therapist. I wondered if I could do this abroad and if this is needed overseas, and if there’s a way for me to use it in ministry.

How have your studies at Crown College been so far?

They’ve been really great. You have to be very disciplined with studying online. It’s a real challenge, but it’s definitely worth it! There are some days when I say that this is the most rewarding thing ever. I get to choose my schedule and work through it as I see fit. I can also prioritize other things a little bit more, even though I am a full-time student. But in the end, when it is time to do school, I have to be really disciplined.

Can you tell us more about the mission trips that Crown College organizes?

Crown College has another partnership with Students International, and that’s who they usually do the mission trips through.

I’ve only been on a missions trip here in the Dominican Republic, but they do have other partnerships. I think there are 12 interns here in the Dominican Republic, but they’re in a different part of the country.

How was your experience teaching English for the first time in the Dominican Republic?

It was really, really rewarding and fun. Surprisingly, it came with a bit more ease than I thought it would. I was really nervous to be alone with my own class and to have the responsibility and the authority. As I’m 19, the idea of teaching adults who are way older than I am and being in a different culture could be a scary thing. But in the end, my students were really respectful, awesome, and eager to learn.

You took the 120-Hour Master Certificate course. Why did you choose to take this online TEFL course?

It was offered to me through Crown College. I originally was thinking about pursuing a degree in ESL. I was looking mostly just to see what I could use overseas and in ministry here, so I was thinking that that’s kind of the direction that I wanted to go. When I talked about it with my advisor, they offered the course. I thought it would be a challenge but would probably be beneficial to have the certification now rather than later.

How was your experience with this course?

I had a really good experience. I thought that the material was very interactive and engaging. I remember watching videos and examples. I felt the course did a really good job of keeping the student engaged. There’s a lot of information to digest and to take in in a short period of time. I wasn’t keeping a journal during the first couple of classes, and I wish that I had. Nevertheless, I started a journal later on so I could take in information that quickly.

What were some of the concepts you learned from this course that you have been able to apply to your English classes?

I definitely started applying them in real-time. As I had started teaching classes before I started the program, the TEFL/TESOL course showed me things I was doing okay but could be better or things that I was doing well but could be excellent if I just changed them a bit. For instance, I was surprised by the effect of small changes like the seating arrangements and things like that. I arranged the tables in an L format just so everyone could look at each other. I never would have thought of things like that on my own, and it kept things fresh for the students too!

Get more classroom management strategies.

What’s next for you?

I have at least another year here in the Dominican Republic, and then after that, I’m probably going to spend a year trying to focus and decide whether or not I want to be overseas long-term and if that’s something that God wants me to pursue. If it is, then that’s something that I would totally be willing to do. If it’s not, I think I could definitely still use the certificate regardless. We have an English center here already, and even my church at home has an ESL program right now for Nepali refugees. So, I think regardless of where I am, that is something that I could definitely use outside of my career path if I choose to pursue counseling.

What’s your advice for students who would like to participate in the program you’re in?

Keep a journal or a notebook because there’s a lot of information to take in in a really short time. Also, be diligent and work hard because it’s worth it.

Interested in going on a mission trip, like Samantha? Take the Bridge Micro-credential course in Teaching English as a Christian Service, which is offered in partnership with Crown College.

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.