This post is written by WRD Student Assistant, Charlene Haparimwi.
Kyla Patterson is a DePaul ‘17 alumna who graduated with dual majors in Public Relations and Advertising and Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse. Last year Patterson became a Fulbright Scholarship recipient and began teaching English to students in the Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, in September 2017. WRD caught up with Kyla in the new year to see how her experience as a full-time teacher abroad has been so far:
“My experience has been equal parts amazing, enlightening, and frustrating,” Kyla explains. “Teaching secondary school students (aged 11-19) is a challenge—especially teaching them a foreign language. But my students are amazing, bright, and dedicated to their studies.”
Kyla’s experience as a tutor in DePaul’s University Center for Writing-based Learning and as an ESL instructor in Humboldt Park gave her the confidence to teach in a foreign country.
“Since I had an understanding of what it took to be an ESL teacher and to work with language on the level that I did at the Writing Center, my transition to teaching in the Czech Republic has been a lot easier than some expected it to be.”
Patterson says her students are always eager to learn more about English and American culture, and they love having the chance to express themselves in English with a native speaker.
“There’s always frustration and confusion associated with being in a foreign country,” Kyla says. “There’s a good amount of culture shock, but as I go into my sixth month here it doesn’t seem as jarring as before.”
A visit to Czechia in 2015 helped solidify Kyla’s determination to go back. A Fulbright gave her the opportunity, and she doesn’t regret choosing Czechia one bit.
“It’s a beautiful country with a complex culture and relationship with the West,” she explains. “I’ve always been interested in learning more about education, culture, and language acquisition.”
When Patterson previously spoke to WRD before starting to teach abroad, her intent was to focus on researching literacy in Czechia. However, she has begun to explore other linguistic interests.
“The longer I’ve been here [in Czechia], the more I’ve found myself gravitating towards understanding how language is used as a way of alienation and as a way of cultural preservation,” Kyla says. “So my research has shifted and I’ve started focusing on the political history of the Czech language. It’s tough. My grasp of Czech leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m really enjoying it thus far.”
Patterson’s love of language and rhetoric began with WRD 378: Teaching English as a Second Language in Chicago, a class taught by her mentor, Professor Jason Schneider.
“I owe a lot to the WRD Department,” Kyla says. “The faculty have been so supportive of me since I began my WRD major when I was 17, and they still continue to help me out well past graduation. It’s nice to know that I can always reach out to faculty like Professor Schneider for support. The department has also been extremely helpful with my graduate school applications.”
Czech Culture and Communication
Czech culture is fascinating to Kyla, and the family that has taken her in has helped make the transition to living in Czechia a lot easier than it could have been.
“They make amazing Czech food and are always willing to explain Czech culture to me. I’m not sure if I’ve fully embraced it—I’m still very American—but I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more. I really enjoy how blunt the Czechs are when communicating; they tell you how it is. I absolutely love it.”