'How my professional life changed after winning an IATEFL scholarship' by Vicky Saumell

19th July 2021

Back in 2009, I was starting to feel restless as a teacher and, following the advice of a friend and colleague, who said I should be doing more than teaching, I decided to send a proposal to speak at a conference. That same year I had become aware of IATEFL through Twitter, and I decided to send an application for the Latin American Scholarship. I was hesitant at first because I thought there would be lots of applicants and what were the chances I would get it? 

“Someone must get it…What if it’s me?” I told myself.

So, I took great care in writing and rewriting my application and sent it. Then came the waiting… And finally, one day I received an email saying I was the winner. The winner!!!! Me!!! And so, I would be attending IATEFL Harrogate 2010.

April 2010 came and I arrived in Harrogate on my own. I think I only knew two people who were attending…However, it was the time of the Twitter mania and I had been very active there and had connected to many people who were attending but had never met face to face before. As I settled down in my B&B room the day before the event started, I checked my phone and saw that a few of my Twitter mates were already at a pub near the conference venue. I went down, asked where that pub was and headed there. To my surprise, as soon as I got in, a now close friend saw me and shouted “Vicky Saumell!”, and that was it! I joined the table with teachers from the UK, Turkey and US and felt like I had known them all along!

Vicky Saumell in front of the Harrogate 2010 conference venue

The rest is history. I have been attending IATEFL ever since, I only missed Brighton 2011. But it has not been just attending, it has meant creating professional connections and forging friendships. In 2013, I offered my collaboration to the Learning Technologies SIG committee and became a volunteer as Community Manager, I then shifted to Treasurer and I am now LTSIG Coordinator, in my last term of service. I also served in the Publications Executive Committee from 2015 to 2020. 

IATEFL has allowed me to grow so much in my profession! In all these positions I have developed new skills, learnt how to truly work collaboratively in teams, and worked with incredible people. I have made friends that have made me feel at home in many places outside my own home.

But it was not just me. I have witnessed many cases of scholarship winners who then saw their careers lift off. A recurrent pathway after winning a scholarship has been to get more involved with IATEFL and then become a volunteer for one of IATEFL’s SIG committees. The common thread among them all is the initial feeling that they had few chances of winning a scholarship, but they applied anyway.

So don’t delay! It’s IATEFL scholarship applications season and who knows what the future holds? For me, it all started with applying for an IATEFL scholarship!

About  Vicky Saumell

Vicky Saumell is a teacher, trainer, materials writer and presenter. She currently teaches at primary and secondary level schools in Buenos Aires. She is also a freelance author and has worked as a writer and trainer for Pearson, CUP, Macmillan and Santillana. She is the Coordinator for IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG. She has a professional website at www.vickysaumell.com.

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