Out there in some alternate universe, EIU alumna Laura Keating says there is a version of herself who is living in the Midwest, teaching at a public school, coaching youth soccer, and making money — but still missing something.
This alternate universe is one where she never decided to accept an international teaching position and move to Köln, Germany.
Keating says she never would have jetted to Germany to her fulfilling situation there if it wasn't for the positive experience she had through the Office of Study Abroad at EIU.
While the prospect of starting out her teaching career thousands of miles away from her family would be daunting to some, Keating warmed to the idea largely because she already had experience teaching in a foreign country through the Office of Study Abroad.
Keating completed her student teaching in Ireland through the Consortium of Overseas Student Teaching program while enrolled at EIU. In Ireland, she taught Irish History and World History at St. Brendan’s College in Killarney to 10-year-old Irish students. During her six-month stint abroad, Keating said she realized she could assimilate into a new culture “without any sort of mental breakdown.”
After graduating Eastern in 2007 with an education degree, Laura Keating found herself in the same position of many recent graduates—looking unsuccessfully around the state to find work.
At this time, Patricia Poulter, who is now the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, told Keating about the German-run Teacher Acquisition Programme (TAP), which employs native speakers to teach language in Germany.
Her positive study abroad experience in mind, Keating accepted the offer by TAP to teach at the Gesamtschule Niederzier-Merzenich, a public school for fifth- through 13th-year students.
During the week, Keating carpools on the famed Autobahn with her colleagues. She said her life as a teacher is similar to what American teachers do, except she has more time for herself because there are no after-school activities.
She said her students are shocked to have an American teacher at first and have asked her some funny questions about Americans.
“’Is it true in the USA all people eat are cheeseburgers?’ or ‘Have you been to South Park? Is it a real place?’” recalled Keating.
Keating says she made friends quickly in Köln, which she describes as a welcoming, international city where there is always something fun to do on the weekends.
“Our international group of friends is always meeting to spend time together at different events in Köln and taking weekend getaways,” said Keating.
Keating says her life in Köln is fulfilling in many ways.
“I am living the life that I knew I wanted but was tentative to reach out for,” said Keating. “My lifestyle combines all of the things that I enjoy the most: travel, culture, education, new experiences, sports and relaxation. I feel that I have much more time in Germany to appreciate life and explore my hobbies.”
Keating’s message to students who are considering study abroad is to go for it.
“You have the chance to see the world and meet some of the most amazing and interesting people you will ever have the privilege of getting to know,” said Keating. “Through studying and traveling, I have met lifelong friends, story tellers, gypsies, hippies, artists, political activists, musicians, company and my current boyfriend. The adventure is in the surprise and every day is a new and exciting experience.”