Andrea La Touche is a recent graduate of the MA TESOL at UL. She has been elected Postgraduate Student Union President for the period 2020/21. She describes how the MA TESOL helped her develop both personally and professionally.
What made you study at UL?
I had made a decision to change my career and was uncertain of what to do. I wanted something different and I also wanted to be in a career that was centred on meeting and engaging with different cultures. I had played around with the idea of doing a TEFL course and I found it questionable that I could do a very short course and then go and teach. As part of my research, I met the Course Director Dr Angela Farrell, it was a really positive experience. I obtained an understanding of the complexities of TESOL and the career opportunities that lay ahead of me from this meeting. We discussed the programme and I felt that my prior education and skills could be blended with the course very effectively. I hold an MA in Social Science where I had awareness and knowledge of cultural integration, attitudes towards different cultures from both a positive and negative discrimination perspective.
Can you take us through a typical week on the MA programme?
From the moment I started my course in the MA in TESOL, I was happy, I just loved every single part of my week and my modules. The course is structured very well, from a timetable perspective, in the sense that I was able to plan my study outside of the lectures, remain on campus and use the facilities there. This was very different from my experiences in the two previous colleges I had attended. Everything that I needed was on site, including support services. The lectures were very interesting, I learned about the various pedagogical methods and how these have evolved over time, to a student centred approach with communicative language teaching. I often asked my lecturers how can people do a TEFL course and know how to teach effectively in such a short space of time. The depth of my learning and in particular language systems was phenomenal. I learned about the phonetic alphabet and how to teach pronunciation and how this can be challenging for other mother tongues with very good research explaining the difference in grammar rules of different languages. We had renowned leaders and experts in the field of linguistics invited by the college to do workshops. I felt I was learning from leading research who were engaged in cutting edge research in the linguistics field.
From the moment I started my course in the MA Tesol, I was happy, I just loved every single part of my week and my modules.
What was your favourite topic or subject that you studied on the programme?
Without question Teaching Practice (TP) was my favourite subject, the other modules feed into TP. It can be daunting at the start and it is time consuming as it requires the application of theory to practice and a deep level of preparation and reflective practice. Students are observed by lecturers and afterwards meet for supervision to discuss the lesson. The feedback process is very well thought out, we as student are prepared for hearing both our strengths and areas of where we can improve in teaching practice. This feedback is delivered from a position of kindness, support and encouragement from the supervising lectures.
Can you describe your experience of the programme and how it enhanced your own teaching skills?
I can say that my experience of the programme was life changing. I have career options that I never expected to have. I was surrounded by wonderful lecturers that certainly had the best interest of the students at heart. They all wanted us to do well. The students in my class were superb, we helped each other in times of need and are definitely friends for life, that was an unexpected bonus from doing the programme. I now have friends from China, Italy, Norway, and so many different cultures. I got to experience many different cultures through my TP and within the college that it has enhanced my view of all cultures. This was my first time teaching, so I got the opportunity to understand the standard that is required globally and I am very clear about my areas of competency and the areas that I need to improve in my practice, as a novice English teacher.
I can say that my experience of the programme was life changing. I have career options that I never expected to have. I was surrounded by wonderful lecturers that certainly had the best interest of the students at heart. They all wanted us to do well.
What are the benefits and challenges of completing the MA TESOL?
The benefits for me were being opened up to the opportunities that exist by becoming a student in the University of Limerick. I have successfully changed career, this can be quite a challenge for any person to do. I loved my course and I am on a new professional pathway. I have always been very interested in the integration and social inclusion of refugees and asylums seekers in Ireland and I was given the opportunity to complete my practicum teaching this cohort of students in the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board. My biggest challenge was language systems, I am not a native English speaker so there was a lot to learn. It is achievable if you work hard. Any student doing the MA TESOL must make that commitment for the year to study and the time does fly by. There were times when I questioned my ability, that said, during those times I had my lecturers to turn to for complete support and that is what sustained me in college. I am very excited for my new career.
Would you recommend the MA to others?
The MA in TESOL has a superb learning environment and outstanding lecturers. Without doubt, I am 100% recommending the MA TESOL at the University of Limerick. I cannot speak highly enough about the course.
What have you done post-graduation?
I have been elected the President of the Post Graduate Student union in the University of Limerick. I was initially elected the class representative at the beginning of the academic year for MA TESOL. I then became involved in supporting events for international students in conjunction with the student union during my time studying the MA programme. I take up my new post in September 2020/21. It is my intention to use this opportunity to support and be the voice for post graduate and PhD students. From a career perspective I am very much looking forward to getting to know the variety of different cultures in UL to help me when I am teaching foreign students. I feel very privileged to be elected to this post.
For further information on the MA Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and to apply, click here.