How did you find out about the CCE in Slovakia? What made you want to come here?
Tyler: I first heard about the CCE in Slovakia our friends, Blythe and Tony, who were already living here. Initially, Lauren and I were planning on backpacking around Europe. When we reached out to Blythe to see if we could come visit her, she told us about CCE and the work they were doing in Slovakia. I was immediately drawn to the mission of CCE and it is the reason I decided to come here.
Lauren: I had always wanted to travel abroad. Tyler and I had found that international teaching was a worthwhile and substantial way to not only travel, but to live abroad. I learned about CCE through my university, and soccer teammate, Blythe! What started as simply an inquiry to come visit Slovakia turned into a once in a lifetime opportunity to work at CCE and live in Slovakia. My connections, the hunger for cultural immersion, and a desire to influence change- in not only the lives of students, by my own- has led me here.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and go to school?
Tyler: I grew up in Wauconda, Illinois, a small town in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I grew up on the farm which was operated by my grandfather, and afterwards by my father. Although the farm is no longer operational, it played a significant role in shaping my background. I went to school at Concordia University Chicago where I studied secondary chemistry education.
Lauren: I am from southern California and attended Lutheran school from age 4 to 22. Then, I trekked into the world of public university for graduate school. I attended the Lutheran High School of Orange County in California, followed by Concordia University Chicago in Illinois, then returned to California to attend the California State University, Fullerton. Although I have experience teaching and have a certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) my background is actually as in Psychotherapy. In the states, I am a counseling associate in the state of California.
You are from the United States, but you taught in South Korea last year. How does Slovakia compare to Korea?
Tyler: Slovakia and South Korea, like most places, have their similarities and differences. The first similarity I noticed was the natural beauty in both countries. Both Slovakia and South Korea have vast expanses of beautiful mountainous regions.
Besides the obvious language and cultural differences, another major difference between the two countries is the population density. Korea is about twice the size of Slovakia, but has ten times the population. I lived in a city of 500,000 people in Korea and was a one-hour train ride from Seoul, one of the largest, most densely populated cities in the world.
Lauren: There are obvious differences between Slovakia and South Korea: location, landscape, culture, history, current political trends, etc. CCE reminds us more of home than Korea ever did, possibly due to the Lutheran background. Whereas we found a lovely church family in Korea, we taught in public schools and were not consistently surrounded by people who actively sought a relationship with God. Noticing and exploring the differences between Korean, Slovak and American culture is intriguing and helps me to expand my scope of humanity.
What classes are you teaching at the Lutheran Academy?
Tyler: I am currently teaching chemistry, biology and physics at the Lutheran Academy. I teach second, third and some fourth-year students all at the high school level.
Lauren: I teach first year (high school) culture class about English speaking countries. This class is always a blast. The first year students are so eager and engaging in class- I always leave with a smile on my face.
I also teach second and third year (high school) English class where I focus on reading, writing and speaking. Sometimes I forget that they aren’t native English speakers- some of them are fluent in two, three or even four different languages! That is amazing.