Where modern architecture meets ancient neighborhoods, Master of Arts in Technical Communication alumna Chelsea Wunneburger witnessed the passage of time on her tour of Beijing. Wandering the city’s streets, she passed intricately ornamented doors and buildings painted in the lively red color that for the Chinese means luck. Later, she hiked the Great Wall of China, which was so steep at times that she had no choice but to hold on to a pole to continue climbing. The Forbidden City, formerly a palace complex barred to common people that now serves as a museum, was filled with beautiful buildings and lavish gardens. Many people dream of traveling the world, but Wunneburger took her dream of traveling to heights she never imagined for herself before she graduated from Texas State. Now she continues a years-long exploration of foreign cultures as she teaches English as a Second Language abroad.
In addition to her MATC degree, Ms. Wunneburger earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State. While in graduate school, Wunneburger took her first trip outside the U.S. with the English Department’s Texas State in Ireland study abroad program. One place that struck her as particularly beautiful in Ireland was the town of Killarney, in Kerry County: “Hiking out there, being on the beach, the fresh sea air and the Atlantic Ocean meeting you, it was just so gorgeous.” On top of the beauty of Ireland’s terrain, Wunneburger discovered the connection between literature and place as she read the works of authors like James Joyce and then saw the reflection of the texts in contemporary Ireland. Her experiences on this trip were enough to convince her that she needed to continue traveling, but a love of travel isn’t the only thing Wunneburger gained while at Texas State University.
Wunneburger’s degrees lend themselves well to the teaching of English, especially since she teaches writing in the majority of her classes and her Technical Communication classes focused mainly on different types of writing. “The main reason why I studied technical writing was because it’s like an umbrella of different types of professions.” As a student in the Technical Communication Masters program, Wunneburger had the opportunity to learn about grant writing, medical writing, technical writing in multiculturalism, and writing centers – all of which played a role in preparing her to teach writing. With the variety of writing classes she took and the different perspectives on writing that she explored, Wunneburger felt prepared to teach writing, even without any previous teaching experience. In fact, even now Wunneburger works to improve and maintain her writing skills, as she is constantly refreshing herself and furthering her own understanding of English communication to better educate her students.
In August 2014, when Wunneburger was on her flight to Spain to begin living and teaching abroad, she was terrified and filled with anticipation all at once. Like any person might be, she was worried about how well she would be able to integrate into and navigate a new culture, but she also was excited to learn. Because she didn’t have any previous experience teaching, her first classroom was co-taught with a native Spanish teacher, and she originally intended to work in Spain for only one year. She instead co-taught for two years before moving to an English classroom of her own. While teaching in Spain, Wunneburger did her best to engage students through interesting activities, like speaking games and charades, and cultural exchange. Among her cultural exchange activities was one in which students were asked to cook a simple dish of their choosing, filming and describing the process in English for a grade. Among the dishes the students produced were paella and tortillas, traditional Spanish dishes, and one of Wunneburger’s students even brought tamales wrapped in banana leaves (as opposed to the corn husk tamales Wunneburger was familiar with in Texas). The ability of students to participate in an engaging activity and share the fruits of their labors was important to Wunneburger because it connected with the students more personally than typical book-based work. She answered their efforts by sharing foods from her own culture, including the Texas staple, Dr. Pepper, as well as English slang words that brought more life to the English language for her upper-level students.
As much as Wunneburger loved her job in Spain, after four years there she realized that she was becoming too settled. “I knew that I thrived in situations where I was uncomfortable.” With this in mind, Wunneburger moved to South Korea, where she continues to share her culture with her students. To celebrate the end of the most-recent term, they brought in traditional Korean dishes to eat while they did their lessons. Cultural exchange has been an important part of Wunneburger’s experience abroad, and so she strives to make it a part of her student’s experience in her English classrooms. On top of wanting to make the language accessible to students, she always wants to help them succeed by exposing them to one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. “Living overseas constantly reminds me that I am lucky to be a native English speaker.” Wunneburger is preparing students for the global arena that she has spent so much time exploring, confident that the English skills she teaches them will serve them well in the future.
When she completes her assignment in South Korea, Wunneburger hopes to return to the U.S. to visit her family for the first time since 2016. Despite the physical distance, she and her family remain emotionally close, even closer than when she was still living in the U.S. “Because of living abroad I’m more frequently in contact with my family.” Unable to see her family whenever she wants to, she has grown to appreciate the time that they do get to spend together even more and values their time talking over WhatsApp and Skype. She and her father remain particularly close, and he occasionally contacts her across multiple different messaging platforms just to say hi or tell her that he loves her. Though Wunneburger doesn’t intend to move back to the U.S anytime soon, she looks forward to seeing her family in person again and sharing with them the many remarkable moments she has enjoyed abroad since she departed Texas State all those years ago.
– Claryssa Luera, English major