How I Taught and Worked Abroad

By kwiechert

Getting aboard the plane.

Dr. Marvee Marr is the program chair for the BA in International Business in the Forbes School of Business & Technology™ and rightly so. Her years of international business experience and education have seen her travel the world, teaching and consulting (“some of the best memories of my life”). Here, Dr. Marr shares how she used resources and made connections to work abroad.

Working Abroad After College

In 1997, I was a national recruiter for a US retail company. I was living in Chicago, enjoying the city lifestyle and all the domestic travel my job provided. As a child of a military father, I had acquired the travel bug early in life, and the wanderlust continues to this day. One day, my boss called me into her office and told me I was being laid off. I was shocked. My whole world started spinning. The job that allowed for the travel I loved was being taken away from me, not to mention my income. I took a few days to reflect on the situation, and then I realized the situation actually offered me freedom and opportunity. With a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Teaching of Writing from Columbia College Chicago under my belt, I began a journey to discover the world.

Using My MFA in Writing to Teach ESL

In the Spring of 1997, I hit the road with four suitcases, five boxes, and a brand new laptop. My first stop was Puerto Rico. As a US territory, I did not need a visa to live or work there. Thus, I (incorrectly) assumed that getting work would be easy. As I pounded the pavement looking for work for months, I finally found a part-time opportunity teaching English as a second language at a small private language school. Thanks to my master’s degree, I was able to earn $10.00 compared to the standard rate of $7.00 an hour. With time on my hands, I decided to enroll in the Accelerated English MBA program at Interamerican University in Puerto Rico. While attending Interamerican, I was contacted by a US college and asked to teach English composition and literature on various military bases on the island. Within nine months of moving to Puerto Rico, networking and struggling to make my new endeavor work out, I had two part-time jobs and was working on my MBA. This experience would become the start of my now 20-year teaching career.

Lessons in Working & Teaching Abroad

I learned many lessons about working abroad in Puerto Rico. I left the island with an additional degree, an MBA with emphasis in Human Resources, and a better understanding of how to live and work abroad. From this point forward, I only moved to countries in which I already had a job lined up and a place to lay my weary head for at least 30 days as I searched for more adequate housing. I learned to do research online in regards to job opportunities abroad, cost of living, visa requirements, etc.

My MBA Led to Teaching HR Abroad

From Puerto Rico I went to Brazil, where I lived and worked for a variety of ESL schools for about a year. From Brazil, I worked in Mexico with a prominent private university. During my two years there, I also moved from teaching general education courses in the English, English Literature, and composition areas to designing and teaching human resources curriculum and other business courses. I was finally using my MBA, and it felt grand.

Finding “Home” While Working Abroad

After five years working and living in Latin America, I found myself wanting to be back “home,” and thus returned to Chicago in 2002. After five years in the Windy City, the desire to see the world returned with a passion as traveling and living abroad I realized had become my new home. However, having started my Doctorate of Business Administration in 2006, I felt tied to Chicago for at least the next three years. Thankfully, a solution was quickly conjured that allowed me to take some doctorate courses online and others back in Chicago and thus, I was back on the road.

Teaching & Working Abroad Allowed for Travel Opportunities

My more or less on-campus status achieved for my DBA, I accepted a position in Ecuador in 2007 to help design a new MBA program for a private regional university. Once again, my education and skill level was sought by a university in a foreign land. Six months into teaching there, as the university was not prepared at this time to move forward with the MBA, I decided I needed to move elsewhere to better utilize my skills and new business degree. While still in Ecuador, I was offered a job by a US university in Slovakia to teach executive MBA courses in five countries across Europe. Off I went to Eastern Europe, sight unseen, local language skills at zero.

Slovakia was my last stop on the moving and living abroad train (thus far). In Slovakia, I taught a plethora of Executive MBA courses in five cities in a mostly hybrid model. The experience allowed me to travel for work and fun, see a great deal of Europe, and to finish my DBA while working and living outside of the US. (I was even allowed to defend my doctorate dissertation via Skype, the first student to do so at that university.) This job fit me like a glove. After five years in the position, I returned to the US in 2012 and took a job with University of Wisconsin, but Platteville, WI did not suit me as a home, so an offer to work in San Diego for Ashford University brought me to the west coast where I am now.

I still have my eye on the road and find that occasionally consulting abroad still fuels my fire for travel. Cultural experiences have opened my eyes to new knowledge and understanding, and I bring that to my international business courses every day.



Written by Dr. Marvee Marr, DBA, program chair for the BA in International Business in the Forbes School of Business & Technology.


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