If you would have told graphic design/English double major Jennie Gold of rural Orrville, Ohio, that she would be teaching English as a second language to middle schoolers in South Korea during a global health pandemic, she would have looked at you like you were crazy.
But that’s exactly what happened.
As she told the story of her unexpected postgraduate journey, it became clear that Gold’s Grace education was so much more than a degree. It was preparation for the path ahead, ridden with twists and turns. Because of Grace, she was able to walk the unexpected path with peculiar confidence that the way God is leading her is always the best way.
Gold decided to come to Grace College at a faculty fair the moment she met Dr. Jackie Schramm. Schramm was manning the foreign languages table which Gold stopped by to learn more about the option of minoring in French. She had no clue that her conversation with Schramm would make such an impression.
Although Grace was almost four hours away from home, it was during that interaction that Gold felt like she found a place where she would fit. And when she learned of the scholarship she received from the Presidential Scholarship Days, the decision was abundantly clear.
And so, Gold attended Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana.
Gold remembers feeling like a prized and valued addition to the learning community from the get-go.
Sought out by student involvement director Kearstin Criswell early on, Gold became the editor-in-chief for Roots magazine, the campus yearbook publication. Gold remembers feeling a true sense of ownership of the publication — the same type of ownership she felt every time she stepped foot into a classroom.
“Class was always fun and exciting,” said Gold, harkening back to her Christian Classics course which Professor Benyousky hosted in his living room. “It’s so rare to have those experiences where you feel so appreciated and valued as a person. I really got that from my professors at Grace,” she said.
It was also at Grace that Gold grew in her love for other cultures.
As a French minor, Gold was required to study abroad in France for a semester of her college experience. Her time in France opened her eyes to a world of different cultures, languages, and people. Looking back now after living in another country, Gold reflected, “I think my transition to Korea would have been really tough if I hadn’t studied abroad.”
Grace shaped Gold in many ways, but perhaps most importantly, her college years were proof that none of our experiences in life are wasted.
Senior year, Gold really struggled with the question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”
“The thing I was most worried about was making the wrong choice and wasting my time doing something that I don’t enjoy or that I’m not supposed to be doing,” she recounted.
She shared this struggle with the director of the summer camp she worked at several summers throughout college. Her director encouraged her with the truth that God really guides us. “Even if we do something initially that we decide we don’t want to do; it’s not wasted time,” he said. “We learn, and we grow, and we say, ‘This was a great experience, but now I’m going to do something else.’ Even if you can’t quite tell at the time, every experience gets used to point us in a new direction,” he said.
This advice came to life for Gold.
In May of 2017, Gold walked across the Grace College stage, shook the hand of President Katip, and received a diploma officially declaring that she had a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and English.
Soon after, she stepped into her first full-time job as a graphic designer. But the year of email marketing only proved to Gold one thing — she was not cut-out for a desk job. “I did the same thing every single day,” she said. “It was a really great experience, but it’s just not for me,” Gold concluded. But she did not count the job as a failure. Taking the advice of her campus director, Gold started exploring what she could do with her English degree. Teaching English as a foreign language, also commonly known as teaching English as a second language (TESL), came up.
Gold started taking steps in that direction; she began working on a certification course and found that she actually really enjoyed the course. And so, she started applying for jobs teaching English as a second language abroad. Her nights were spent eagerly checking her email for application updates which typically came through at 2 or 3 in the morning her time.
She couldn’t quite explain it, but as soon as she started down the path of teaching English as a second language, she just knew it was the right one. “Once I saw the initial information about TESL, everything just fell into place as it was supposed to,” recalled Gold. And when she received an offer to teach in Daegu, Korea, a town one-and-a-half hours south of Seoul by train, she felt peace that this was the path God had for her. “I felt really good and comfortable with my decision, even considering the fact that I was going to a country where I don’t even speak the language,” she said.
Gold started teaching middle schoolers (grades 7-9) in January of 2019, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through the experience, she has found teaching to be one of her greatest passions.
“The kids are really energetic,” said Gold. “They are so curious to learn new things, and that has sparked my own curiosity as well! They’ve helped me understand that there is so much more outside of my own personal experiences.”
Gold has also enjoyed playing a nontraditional role within the Korean school system. While some of the teachers in Korea tend to be strict and authoritarian, Gold has enjoyed being more of an easy-going teacher (something she can get away with as a foreigner). “The Korean education system is really tough for kids,” said Gold. “Working with my students every day, I’ve realized that they are just kids. They need to be nurtured and loved,” she said.
Gold’s time teaching English as a second language in Korea certainly hasn’t come without difficulty. After all, who could have predicted that a global health pandemic would shift education on its head and leave her unable to attend her own brother’s wedding in the states?
But despite the challenges, Gold is growing and thriving. She is currently working toward an online master’s in teaching English as a second language at the University of Texas. And while there are many things about the future that feel unsure, this she knows for certain: “I do want to continue teaching,” she said. “When it’s the right thing, you just know it’s the right thing.”
According to Gold, if there is one thing that has come from her time in Korea, it’s a renewed sense that God really does have a plan — and that nothing, no, nothing, is wasted. — from grace.edu