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"Going Beyond Nasa" With Tiffani Claiborne

Episode #59
English Level: upper-intermediate
Accent: United States (Maryland)

Tiffani Clairborne - Into the Story episode 59 - Going Beyond NASA

About Tiffani Claiborne

Tiffani leaves her job at NASA to explore a new path, leading her to the most difficult thing she’s ever done.

If you’re here, it means you’re already listening to our podcast Into the Story, and you’re ready to take your English to the next level. On this page, you’ll discover incredibly valuable learning materials and other goodies, to make the most of the episode. 

Quote of the episode

"You can do more than you realize".

Transcript

[00:00:00] Bree: Hello everyone. It’s Bree your host. Now, if I were to ask you, what do you do? Then you would probably tell me your job title. And if I asked you, how do you do it? You could likely explain step-by-step. But what if I asked you ‘why’ — why do you do what you do? Now that’s not only a more interesting question, it’s also a lot more difficult to answer. 

Today, we’re going into the story of Tiffani Claiborne. Tiffani is from Maryland on the east coast of the United States, close to Washington, DC. She grew up in a loving family that believed in working hard and following their Christian faith. Eventually, Tiffani got an opportunity to work at NASA.

[00:01:24] Tiffani: I remember very clearly like it was yesterday like, okay, I’m doing great work here. I have great coworkers, a great boss. But I feel like I could do more.

[00:01:37] Bree: Today, Tiffani shares her journey of leaving a career at NASA in search of her “why”. A journey that would eventually bring her to one of the most challenging things she’s ever done in her life.

[00:01:53] Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:03] Now it’s time to look at five words and expressions that Tiffani uses.

[00:02:10] The first one is to be glued to your seat. Or to be glued to your screen. So glue of course is a sticky substance that sticks things together. So if you are glued to your seat or your screen, It means that you’re unable to move from your seat, or you’re unable to stop watching something. For example, I was glued to my seat during the movie. Or she is glued to her screen playing video games all day. To be glued to your seat or screen.

[00:02:53] Next to be dialed in. So, if you are dialed in. It means that you’re very concentrated and you’re paying close attention.

[00:03:08] You’re working hard and focusing. For example, she’s dialed in during class, always listening to the teacher. Or being dialed in means you’re focused and not distracted. To be dialed in. 

Next to push through. So to push through means to keep going, even when things get difficult. For example, even though he was tired, he pushed through and finished the marathon.

[00:03:41] Or she had to go through five interviews at the company, but she was happy that she pushed through because she got the job. To push through.

[00:03:54] The next one to have your confidence struck. So if you have your confidence struck, it means that you feel less sure of yourself. It means that something has happened to hurt your confidence.

[00:04:12] For example, after the test, his confidence was struck.

[00:04:17] Or her confidence was struck After she received difficult feedback on her presentation. To have your confidence struck.

[00:04:27] And the last one is To click. So of course to click is a noise. For example, when you put on your seatbelt, it makes a click sound, but in today’s story, Tiffani uses it to mean to understand something suddenly.

[00:04:46] For example, after studying for a while, it clicked. And I understood the math problem, or it clicked in my mind how to solve the puzzle. To click.

[00:04:59] Now, there is so much fantastic vocabulary in Tiffani’s story. So head on over to, into the story podcast.com. To get the extended vocabulary list. You also have the transcript and a listening comprehension quiz. Okay, it’s that time, let’s get into the story.

[00:05:22] Tiffani was born in Arizona in the Southwestern United States, known for its desert landscapes and the Grand Canyon. She is the youngest of two girls and was born into a Christian family. She was raised with two very strong values. The first was that her relationship with God would be the foundation of her life. And the second.

[00:05:49] Tiffani: if you’re a Claiborne, my last name is Claiborne, you are going to give 110 percent.

[00:05:56] Bree: At a young age, both Tiffani and her sister were talented artists. She was especially good at drawing.

[00:06:04] And then when she was six, the family moved from Arizona to Maryland. About 4,000 kilometers away. It was a big transition for a six-year-old. And she remembers the first day at her new school.

[00:06:21] Tiffani: It’s very clear in my mind. I was sitting at my desk and the teacher was talking, and we were all just sitting and I just started drawing, which was my habit. I remember all of my classmates were saying, wow, Hey, the new girl, Tiffani, she can draw really well. So I became the artist of the class. Um, so yeah, art was my thing. And I’ve also been an athlete my entire life.

[00:06:42] Bree: Apart from being an artist and an athlete, Tiffani was also at the top of her class. Getting the highest grades among her peers.

[00:06:53] Tiffani: So when I got to high school, this was in the late nineties. When I was in high school, I was trying to figure out, okay, when I go to college, what do I want to study and what do I want to become? And I knew I was good at art. I knew I enjoyed learning. I was smart. And my father worked at IBM with computers. And at that time, computers were just starting to get really mainstream, right? Some people had computers at home. Some people didn’t. Um, so I thought to myself, okay, I can combine computers and art. And what is that? Web design.

[00:07:30] Bree: Tiffani studied computer science and commercial art. And then she got an internship at NASA. She impressed them with her skills and was hired as a web designer.

[00:07:44] Tiffani: And I have only fond memories of the people I worked with. The environment was very, it was relaxed. We worked hard, um, but we also enjoyed spending time together. So my boss, everyone was calm. And I think it was because you had people that were the best Now, there were moments when you had to just be glued to your seat and glued to your screen to get the job done. So it was a very it was an environment filled with diligent people who were also very kindhearted. It was a really amazing experience.

[00:08:21] Bree: And then at a certain point, something changes inside of you. And you say, um, Is this my future? Am I going to work at NASA, have a really bright, wonderful career? Or is there something else?

[00:08:38] Tiffani: So I mentioned earlier that I am a Christian and one aspect of Christianity is trying to live your life like Jesus Christ. And Jesus came to the earth for the main purpose of saving human beings. He came to serve. And I remember very clearly like it was yesterday like, okay, I’m doing great work here.

[00:09:00] I have great coworkers, a great boss. But I feel like I could do more. I feel like there are more people I could help.

[00:09:08] I came back to Maryland because I was in Huntsville, Alabama working. I came back to Maryland and I actually, uh, was an artist full-time for about a year and a half. Um, again, I, I could paint, I could draw.

[00:09:20] So I was trying to find the way that I could give back more. Uh, so I started actually spending time with homeless people, downtown in DC, learning about their lives and what was going on. So I did that, sold pieces, paintings, and it was going okay, but I still felt like this is not exactly. What I need to be doing. So some friends of mine had actually served as missionaries in South Korea right after college. And they were missionary English teachers. So they taught English, and they also taught the Bible in South Korea. And they had told me that it was a great experience. So I said, one day, I put it kind of in the back of my mind, one day I would like to do that.

[00:10:03] So in the middle of me doing art full time, that popped into my head. Oh, okay. Okay. Maybe I should try missionary work again. I was searching for a way to serve. That’s been my, the, the word that has been the focus for years serve. How can I serve more?

[00:10:19] Bree: Tiffani moved to Seoul and South Korea and started teaching English. And she realizes that she has a talent for teaching, and she really enjoys it. Alongside teaching she’s also studying Korean, and then she starts a master’s program, in oriental painting.

[00:10:41] Tiffani: I was painting almost every day, excluding the weekends. We were learning a lot about Chinese art history, Japanese art history, Korean art history. So it basically by the end of that, you’d either be a full-time artist or you could become a professor. The idea I had was, Hey, when I go back to America, I’ll probably become an art professor, and then I’ll train students, you know, in art.

[00:11:04] Bree: And then there’s a big test. So explain what the stakes are. What are the stakes of this exam?

[00:11:12] So, um, this exam, which I initially thought was going to be easy because I was in an art program and depending on the art program you’re in, you can either have a portfolio be your final project where you have to paint a lot, but you Or you can have an exam along with the portfolio. Initially I thought it was just a portfolio, but when I got to my last year, they’re like, Oh no, no, you have an exam too. And the exam is only offered once every six months. So if you don’t pass the exam, you have to wait six months to take it again. And if you don’t pass the exam, you can’t graduate. So, there was a lot at stake. Um, so It was a man. There were so many things involved in this because, I had experienced a loss while I was living in Korea. My nephew passed away, but I went back to Korea after he passed away. And so I’m away from my family. There’s a lot going on at home. 

[00:12:13] Bree: So you’re far, you’re far away from your family, huge thing going on. Now take us to exam day.

[00:12:15] Tiffani: Uh, So, this is the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life. So the exam included Hanja, which is Chinese, Chinese characters, uh, Korean art history, Japanese art history, Chinese art history. And everything that I was studying, I was studying in Korean. And honestly thought I was going to pass the first time until I walked into the room and there were about maybe 200 students. We all walked in. We only had an hour. I was a very strict time period. He sat down and then the ding, like the bell, went off, and we turned our papers over, and I said, okay. There was a moment of. I’m not sure. I know what this says. 

Bree: Tiffani had always been an exceptionally good student. So sitting in the exam room and not even understanding the questions was a strange experience. Not surprisingly, she didn’t pass the exam. So she decided to start studying even harder to write it again in six months.

[00:13:25] Tiffani: So at this time, my master’s degree studies had ended because I was preparing for the second test. So I was teaching during the day and every break I had, I was studying every break And I’m an early bird. I would get up at 4. 00 AM, take a shower, have worship. And I would be at Starbucks. All day from 5 a. m. to about 11 p. m. depending on if I was tired, maybe around seven or eight depending on the day. But I only studied So much so that my friend said, Tiff, you don’t spend time with us. Like, let’s go out to karaoke. I have to pass this test. So for six months I was dialed in. I was focused. I wanted to pass the test. 

Bree: So then you go into the exam feeling good, right? You’re feeling like I have put in the work. It’s going to go well.

[00:14:17] Tiffani: I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. I was a bit nervous. But I said, I know I’ve studied hard. I know I’ve given it all my all. So I said, let’s just go in here with the positive, like being optimistic, but I was nervous. Um, yeah, I’m out. So I get into the, the room for the second test, and I was more confident for the second test. When I actually finished writing the test, I said, okay. Tiff, you put the time in, you understood the questions on the test. Okay. You’re going to be good this time. So I did feel like, okay, the second time I thought I was going to pass.

[00:14:52] Bree: And then do you remember getting the results? Do you, how did you get results? Did you look them up online? Was there like a piece of paper on a door? Okay.

[00:14:59] Tiffani: They gave us the results online. And when I found out that I had failed, I was kind of in a daze But one of my coworkers, we’re extremely close. She’s Korean. She’s a teacher. She walked into the office. I remember like it was yesterday. I didn’t realize how much failing that exam had affected me until she walked into the office. And she said, Hey Tiff, her name is Catherine. I said, Hey Catherine. She said, how did the test go? Okay. And I literally broke down. We were in the teacher’s lounge and it was like waterworks. My, I was crying. I was bawling

[00:15:38] I’ve given all that I have. I’ve given everything I have. I’ve studied so hard and I failed again. At that moment I just wanted to give up and I’m not a person who gives up. So we talked and at that moment I decided, okay, I’m going to try one more time. And in order for me to pass this test, I can’t work at the same time. So I actually decided to fly back to America and spend six months here in preparation for the test the third time.

[00:16:08] Bree: Okay. So you fly back to the States, you’re with your family, you’re studying probably similar study schedule, but this time just focused on the studying.

[00:16:18] Tiffani: Was even more intense. 14-hour days, literally at my desk. And I had never done that in my entire six months is a long time. And it’s not easy to go back to school as an adult, right?

[00:16:32] And then to do it when you’re doing it in another language, there’s just so many different things added on top of just being an adult and going back and doing it in a different language. So I remember I was six. My parents were standing in the kitchen. My mom was cooking. My dad was talking to her. And I walked into the kitchen. I think this might’ve been the third month out of the six months. And I got real quiet and my parents were like, what’s going on? And I broke down again. So I had two breakdowns as far as like, just crying. And I said, this is too hard. This is too hard. And so my parents just listened. I really appreciate, they listened and they said, here’s the deal. You have a choice. You can decide not to take the test and that’s totally okay. Or you can decide to push yourself and try again. And again, I mentioned earlier that like my family we’re high achievers. We’re also not quitters. And I thought back to growing up when I was, like, maybe nine or 10. My mom went back to school to become a respiratory therapist.

[00:17:32] And I remember clearly waking up at midnight, walking down the steps and seeing my mom sitting at the dining table studying. And so all of these things started coming back to my mind. Like, wait a minute. I watched my sister fail exams, trying to become a doctor. It didn’t work out. So she kept going, didn’t give up.

[00:17:51] And she became a lawyer. I thought about all these things, like my family pushed through, pushed through, So after that moment, I went back up and it gave me enough energy for the next three months to keep pushing through. Um, I was very nervous about the third exam.

[00:18:08] Bree: Sometimes this can happen to people, to all of us, I think — that when you fail at something. You literally fail an exam or you have, you know, a business failure or, uh, you know, something happens in your life, then having to go back and do it again, your confidence is kind of struck, or you feel sometimes you can almost overthink things. Did you worry that you were going to overthink it and, and cause a third failure. Or you were nervous, but under control?

[00:18:41] Tiffani: No, I was all the way nervous. I was…

[00:18:44] Bree: Yes!

[00:18:45] Tiffani: I was all the way nervous. There was no, it was. I was trying to give myself a pep talk, like every day, every step I was making, like, as I walked towards the, the room where we were taking the exam. No, it was the least confident I had been in my life think.

[00:19:01] Bree: You walk into the room

[00:19:05] Tiffani: Yes.

[00:19:05] Bree: The third time. What happens?

[00:19:08] Tiffani: It’s kind of like deja vu, but of a nightmare. Like I walked into the room I sit down and I felt myself start to shake a little bit They put the test paper in front of me, they had it face down, and I heard the ding, which basically let us know that we, that the hour had started. And I turned it over, and I read the question, and I had no idea. What the question was asking, I had no clue and my entire body started to shake.

[00:19:53] If anyone had been watching me, it would have been very clear. Something’s not right. I was shaking. I read, there were two questions. I read both of them. And I immediately said, God, help me, help me. I don’t, I don’t, it was like my brain shut down. I couldn’t even understand the Korean words.

[00:20:10] I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t understand anything. And for about five minutes, I sat there and I said, I failed again. I put my hands, I said, I failed again. I failed again. I was praying and God said, look at the test again, look at the test again. and all of a sudden something clicked and I said, okay, I think I understand this question. And my hand just started moving.

[00:20:36] I wrote for the next 50 minutes, like my life depended on it. And then I handed in the test

[00:20:45] Bree: And tell us about the day that you got the results.

[00:20:53] Tiffani: The day I got the results, I was teaching a class. I had a 6am class, I think. I got a phone call from the university. So already, I’m nervous. Like, why are they calling me? Something’s wrong. And they just let me know, like, Hey, the system has been updated.

[00:21:11] You can check now for your test. That was the message. I was like, okay. So, I remember sitting on my bed shaking. Because I had put literally, at this time, a year and a half in preparation for this one test. And I was shaking on my bed. I closed my door. I had two roommates, but I closed my door. So I sat on my bed, I opened my computer and I logged in. It was the longest login of my life. I logged in and it seemed like it took forever for that little spinning wheel. And so I found my department. Then I went to my name. And I went to the test and I clicked it. And when I saw you passed, it was like, it was a bit unbelievable because it had been so long and I kind of just sat back and I was like, man. And I, I burst into tears and I immediately called my parents and I was like, I passed. And of course they’re screaming, they’re excited. 

[00:22:10] And I think it’s when you go through something, you realize who you are as a person, right? Like, what do you do when things get super difficult?

[00:22:20] What do you do when it gets hard and you feel like you don’t have enough energy to push forward? Are you going to quit? Are you going to give up? Or are you going to pick yourself up and just keep moving forward? Even if it’s one step at a time, slowly, you can do more than you realize.

[00:22:41] Bree: While living in Seoul, Tiffani had started sharing English-learning videos on YouTube. Over time, these videos began to get more and more popular. And when she saw just how many people she was serving, which was her mission. She decided to focus entirely on helping others learn English. 

Today she is the founder of the Speak English with Tiffani Academy, and her YouTube channel has nearly 3 million subscribers. Tiffani has definitely found her ‘why’. But her ultimate goal is to help one billion English speakers speak English confidently all over the world. To find out more about Tiffani I will leave you a link in the show notes.

[00:23:34] Okay folks, if you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers, then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into the story podcast.com. And click subscribe. It’s totally free.

[00:23:55] Okay. That’s all for today. And until the next episode, I hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to tell.

[00:00:00] Bree: Hello everyone. It’s Bree your host. Now, if I were to ask you, what do you do? Then you would probably tell me your job title. And if I asked you, how do you do it? You could likely explain step-by-step. But what if I asked you ‘why’ — why do you do what you do? Now that’s not only a more interesting question, it’s also a lot more difficult to answer. 

Today, we’re going into the story of Tiffani Claiborne. Tiffani is from Maryland on the east coast of the United States, close to Washington, DC. She grew up in a loving family that believed in working hard and following their Christian faith. Eventually, Tiffani got an opportunity to work at NASA.

[00:01:24] Tiffani: I remember very clearly like it was yesterday like, okay, I’m doing great work here. I have great coworkers, a great boss. But I feel like I could do more.

[00:01:37] Bree: Today, Tiffani shares her journey of leaving a career at NASA in search of her “why”. A journey that would eventually bring her to one of the most challenging things she’s ever done in her life.

[00:01:53] Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:03] Now it’s time to look at five words and expressions that Tiffani uses.

[00:02:10] The first one is to be glued to your seat. Or to be glued to your screen. So glue of course is a sticky substance that sticks things together. So if you are glued to your seat or your screen, It means that you’re unable to move from your seat, or you’re unable to stop watching something. For example, I was glued to my seat during the movie. Or she is glued to her screen playing video games all day. To be glued to your seat or screen.

[00:02:53] Next to be dialed in. So, if you are dialed in. It means that you’re very concentrated and you’re paying close attention.

[00:03:08] You’re working hard and focusing. For example, she’s dialed in during class, always listening to the teacher. Or being dialed in means you’re focused and not distracted. To be dialed in. 

Next to push through. So to push through means to keep going, even when things get difficult. For example, even though he was tired, he pushed through and finished the marathon.

[00:03:41] Or she had to go through five interviews at the company, but she was happy that she pushed through because she got the job. To push through.

[00:03:54] The next one to have your confidence struck. So if you have your confidence struck, it means that you feel less sure of yourself. It means that something has happened to hurt your confidence.

[00:04:12] For example, after the test, his confidence was struck.

[00:04:17] Or her confidence was struck After she received difficult feedback on her presentation. To have your confidence struck.

[00:04:27] And the last one is To click. So of course to click is a noise. For example, when you put on your seatbelt, it makes a click sound, but in today’s story, Tiffani uses it to mean to understand something suddenly.

[00:04:46] For example, after studying for a while, it clicked. And I understood the math problem, or it clicked in my mind how to solve the puzzle. To click.

[00:04:59] Now, there is so much fantastic vocabulary in Tiffani’s story. So head on over to, into the story podcast.com. To get the extended vocabulary list. You also have the transcript and a listening comprehension quiz. Okay, it’s that time, let’s get into the story.

[00:05:22] Tiffani was born in Arizona in the Southwestern United States, known for its desert landscapes and the Grand Canyon. She is the youngest of two girls and was born into a Christian family. She was raised with two very strong values. The first was that her relationship with God would be the foundation of her life. And the second.

[00:05:49] Tiffani: if you’re a Claiborne, my last name is Claiborne, you are going to give 110 percent.

[00:05:56] Bree: At a young age, both Tiffani and her sister were talented artists. She was especially good at drawing.

[00:06:04] And then when she was six, the family moved from Arizona to Maryland. About 4,000 kilometers away. It was a big transition for a six-year-old. And she remembers the first day at her new school.

[00:06:21] Tiffani: It’s very clear in my mind. I was sitting at my desk and the teacher was talking, and we were all just sitting and I just started drawing, which was my habit. I remember all of my classmates were saying, wow, Hey, the new girl, Tiffani, she can draw really well. So I became the artist of the class. Um, so yeah, art was my thing. And I’ve also been an athlete my entire life.

[00:06:42] Bree: Apart from being an artist and an athlete, Tiffani was also at the top of her class. Getting the highest grades among her peers.

[00:06:53] Tiffani: So when I got to high school, this was in the late nineties. When I was in high school, I was trying to figure out, okay, when I go to college, what do I want to study and what do I want to become? And I knew I was good at art. I knew I enjoyed learning. I was smart. And my father worked at IBM with computers. And at that time, computers were just starting to get really mainstream, right? Some people had computers at home. Some people didn’t. Um, so I thought to myself, okay, I can combine computers and art. And what is that? Web design.

[00:07:30] Bree: Tiffani studied computer science and commercial art. And then she got an internship at NASA. She impressed them with her skills and was hired as a web designer.

[00:07:44] Tiffani: And I have only fond memories of the people I worked with. The environment was very, it was relaxed. We worked hard, um, but we also enjoyed spending time together. So my boss, everyone was calm. And I think it was because you had people that were the best Now, there were moments when you had to just be glued to your seat and glued to your screen to get the job done. So it was a very it was an environment filled with diligent people who were also very kindhearted. It was a really amazing experience.

[00:08:21] Bree: And then at a certain point, something changes inside of you. And you say, um, Is this my future? Am I going to work at NASA, have a really bright, wonderful career? Or is there something else?

[00:08:38] Tiffani: So I mentioned earlier that I am a Christian and one aspect of Christianity is trying to live your life like Jesus Christ. And Jesus came to the earth for the main purpose of saving human beings. He came to serve. And I remember very clearly like it was yesterday like, okay, I’m doing great work here.

[00:09:00] I have great coworkers, a great boss. But I feel like I could do more. I feel like there are more people I could help.

[00:09:08] I came back to Maryland because I was in Huntsville, Alabama working. I came back to Maryland and I actually, uh, was an artist full-time for about a year and a half. Um, again, I, I could paint, I could draw.

[00:09:20] So I was trying to find the way that I could give back more. Uh, so I started actually spending time with homeless people, downtown in DC, learning about their lives and what was going on. So I did that, sold pieces, paintings, and it was going okay, but I still felt like this is not exactly. What I need to be doing. So some friends of mine had actually served as missionaries in South Korea right after college. And they were missionary English teachers. So they taught English, and they also taught the Bible in South Korea. And they had told me that it was a great experience. So I said, one day, I put it kind of in the back of my mind, one day I would like to do that.

[00:10:03] So in the middle of me doing art full time, that popped into my head. Oh, okay. Okay. Maybe I should try missionary work again. I was searching for a way to serve. That’s been my, the, the word that has been the focus for years serve. How can I serve more?

[00:10:19] Bree: Tiffani moved to Seoul and South Korea and started teaching English. And she realizes that she has a talent for teaching, and she really enjoys it. Alongside teaching she’s also studying Korean, and then she starts a master’s program, in oriental painting.

[00:10:41] Tiffani: I was painting almost every day, excluding the weekends. We were learning a lot about Chinese art history, Japanese art history, Korean art history. So it basically by the end of that, you’d either be a full-time artist or you could become a professor. The idea I had was, Hey, when I go back to America, I’ll probably become an art professor, and then I’ll train students, you know, in art.

[00:11:04] Bree: And then there’s a big test. So explain what the stakes are. What are the stakes of this exam?

[00:11:12] So, um, this exam, which I initially thought was going to be easy because I was in an art program and depending on the art program you’re in, you can either have a portfolio be your final project where you have to paint a lot, but you Or you can have an exam along with the portfolio. Initially I thought it was just a portfolio, but when I got to my last year, they’re like, Oh no, no, you have an exam too. And the exam is only offered once every six months. So if you don’t pass the exam, you have to wait six months to take it again. And if you don’t pass the exam, you can’t graduate. So, there was a lot at stake. Um, so It was a man. There were so many things involved in this because, I had experienced a loss while I was living in Korea. My nephew passed away, but I went back to Korea after he passed away. And so I’m away from my family. There’s a lot going on at home. 

[00:12:13] Bree: So you’re far, you’re far away from your family, huge thing going on. Now take us to exam day.

[00:12:15] Tiffani: Uh, So, this is the hardest thing I’ve done in my entire life. So the exam included Hanja, which is Chinese, Chinese characters, uh, Korean art history, Japanese art history, Chinese art history. And everything that I was studying, I was studying in Korean. And honestly thought I was going to pass the first time until I walked into the room and there were about maybe 200 students. We all walked in. We only had an hour. I was a very strict time period. He sat down and then the ding, like the bell, went off, and we turned our papers over, and I said, okay. There was a moment of. I’m not sure. I know what this says. 

Bree: Tiffani had always been an exceptionally good student. So sitting in the exam room and not even understanding the questions was a strange experience. Not surprisingly, she didn’t pass the exam. So she decided to start studying even harder to write it again in six months.

[00:13:25] Tiffani: So at this time, my master’s degree studies had ended because I was preparing for the second test. So I was teaching during the day and every break I had, I was studying every break And I’m an early bird. I would get up at 4. 00 AM, take a shower, have worship. And I would be at Starbucks. All day from 5 a. m. to about 11 p. m. depending on if I was tired, maybe around seven or eight depending on the day. But I only studied So much so that my friend said, Tiff, you don’t spend time with us. Like, let’s go out to karaoke. I have to pass this test. So for six months I was dialed in. I was focused. I wanted to pass the test. 

Bree: So then you go into the exam feeling good, right? You’re feeling like I have put in the work. It’s going to go well.

[00:14:17] Tiffani: I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. I was a bit nervous. But I said, I know I’ve studied hard. I know I’ve given it all my all. So I said, let’s just go in here with the positive, like being optimistic, but I was nervous. Um, yeah, I’m out. So I get into the, the room for the second test, and I was more confident for the second test. When I actually finished writing the test, I said, okay. Tiff, you put the time in, you understood the questions on the test. Okay. You’re going to be good this time. So I did feel like, okay, the second time I thought I was going to pass.

[00:14:52] Bree: And then do you remember getting the results? Do you, how did you get results? Did you look them up online? Was there like a piece of paper on a door? Okay.

[00:14:59] Tiffani: They gave us the results online. And when I found out that I had failed, I was kind of in a daze But one of my coworkers, we’re extremely close. She’s Korean. She’s a teacher. She walked into the office. I remember like it was yesterday. I didn’t realize how much failing that exam had affected me until she walked into the office. And she said, Hey Tiff, her name is Catherine. I said, Hey Catherine. She said, how did the test go? Okay. And I literally broke down. We were in the teacher’s lounge and it was like waterworks. My, I was crying. I was bawling

[00:15:38] I’ve given all that I have. I’ve given everything I have. I’ve studied so hard and I failed again. At that moment I just wanted to give up and I’m not a person who gives up. So we talked and at that moment I decided, okay, I’m going to try one more time. And in order for me to pass this test, I can’t work at the same time. So I actually decided to fly back to America and spend six months here in preparation for the test the third time.

[00:16:08] Bree: Okay. So you fly back to the States, you’re with your family, you’re studying probably similar study schedule, but this time just focused on the studying.

[00:16:18] Tiffani: Was even more intense. 14-hour days, literally at my desk. And I had never done that in my entire six months is a long time. And it’s not easy to go back to school as an adult, right?

[00:16:32] And then to do it when you’re doing it in another language, there’s just so many different things added on top of just being an adult and going back and doing it in a different language. So I remember I was six. My parents were standing in the kitchen. My mom was cooking. My dad was talking to her. And I walked into the kitchen. I think this might’ve been the third month out of the six months. And I got real quiet and my parents were like, what’s going on? And I broke down again. So I had two breakdowns as far as like, just crying. And I said, this is too hard. This is too hard. And so my parents just listened. I really appreciate, they listened and they said, here’s the deal. You have a choice. You can decide not to take the test and that’s totally okay. Or you can decide to push yourself and try again. And again, I mentioned earlier that like my family we’re high achievers. We’re also not quitters. And I thought back to growing up when I was, like, maybe nine or 10. My mom went back to school to become a respiratory therapist.

[00:17:32] And I remember clearly waking up at midnight, walking down the steps and seeing my mom sitting at the dining table studying. And so all of these things started coming back to my mind. Like, wait a minute. I watched my sister fail exams, trying to become a doctor. It didn’t work out. So she kept going, didn’t give up.

[00:17:51] And she became a lawyer. I thought about all these things, like my family pushed through, pushed through, So after that moment, I went back up and it gave me enough energy for the next three months to keep pushing through. Um, I was very nervous about the third exam.

[00:18:08] Bree: Sometimes this can happen to people, to all of us, I think — that when you fail at something. You literally fail an exam or you have, you know, a business failure or, uh, you know, something happens in your life, then having to go back and do it again, your confidence is kind of struck, or you feel sometimes you can almost overthink things. Did you worry that you were going to overthink it and, and cause a third failure. Or you were nervous, but under control?

[00:18:41] Tiffani: No, I was all the way nervous. I was…

[00:18:44] Bree: Yes!

[00:18:45] Tiffani: I was all the way nervous. There was no, it was. I was trying to give myself a pep talk, like every day, every step I was making, like, as I walked towards the, the room where we were taking the exam. No, it was the least confident I had been in my life think.

[00:19:01] Bree: You walk into the room

[00:19:05] Tiffani: Yes.

[00:19:05] Bree: The third time. What happens?

[00:19:08] Tiffani: It’s kind of like deja vu, but of a nightmare. Like I walked into the room I sit down and I felt myself start to shake a little bit They put the test paper in front of me, they had it face down, and I heard the ding, which basically let us know that we, that the hour had started. And I turned it over, and I read the question, and I had no idea. What the question was asking, I had no clue and my entire body started to shake.

[00:19:53] If anyone had been watching me, it would have been very clear. Something’s not right. I was shaking. I read, there were two questions. I read both of them. And I immediately said, God, help me, help me. I don’t, I don’t, it was like my brain shut down. I couldn’t even understand the Korean words.

[00:20:10] I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t understand anything. And for about five minutes, I sat there and I said, I failed again. I put my hands, I said, I failed again. I failed again. I was praying and God said, look at the test again, look at the test again. and all of a sudden something clicked and I said, okay, I think I understand this question. And my hand just started moving.

[00:20:36] I wrote for the next 50 minutes, like my life depended on it. And then I handed in the test

[00:20:45] Bree: And tell us about the day that you got the results.

[00:20:53] Tiffani: The day I got the results, I was teaching a class. I had a 6am class, I think. I got a phone call from the university. So already, I’m nervous. Like, why are they calling me? Something’s wrong. And they just let me know, like, Hey, the system has been updated.

[00:21:11] You can check now for your test. That was the message. I was like, okay. So, I remember sitting on my bed shaking. Because I had put literally, at this time, a year and a half in preparation for this one test. And I was shaking on my bed. I closed my door. I had two roommates, but I closed my door. So I sat on my bed, I opened my computer and I logged in. It was the longest login of my life. I logged in and it seemed like it took forever for that little spinning wheel. And so I found my department. Then I went to my name. And I went to the test and I clicked it. And when I saw you passed, it was like, it was a bit unbelievable because it had been so long and I kind of just sat back and I was like, man. And I, I burst into tears and I immediately called my parents and I was like, I passed. And of course they’re screaming, they’re excited. 

[00:22:10] And I think it’s when you go through something, you realize who you are as a person, right? Like, what do you do when things get super difficult?

[00:22:20] What do you do when it gets hard and you feel like you don’t have enough energy to push forward? Are you going to quit? Are you going to give up? Or are you going to pick yourself up and just keep moving forward? Even if it’s one step at a time, slowly, you can do more than you realize.

[00:22:41] Bree: While living in Seoul, Tiffani had started sharing English-learning videos on YouTube. Over time, these videos began to get more and more popular. And when she saw just how many people she was serving, which was her mission. She decided to focus entirely on helping others learn English. 

Today she is the founder of the Speak English with Tiffani Academy, and her YouTube channel has nearly 3 million subscribers. Tiffani has definitely found her ‘why’. But her ultimate goal is to help one billion English speakers speak English confidently all over the world. To find out more about Tiffani I will leave you a link in the show notes.

[00:23:34] Okay folks, if you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers, then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into the story podcast.com. And click subscribe. It’s totally free.

[00:23:55] Okay. That’s all for today. And until the next episode, I hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to tell.

Episode's vocabulary List

*vocabulary featured in podcast

TO GIVE 110% / YOUR BEST: To try your hardest.
Examples: “She always gives her best at work.” or “He gives 110% in every game.”

TO BE MAINSTREAM: To be popular or common.
Examples: “That music is mainstream; everyone listens to it.” or “Being mainstream means many people like it.”

*TO BE GLUED TO YOUR SEAT / SCREEN: To be unable to move from your seat or stop watching something.
Examples: “I was glued to my seat during the movie.” or “He’s glued to his screen, playing video games all day.”

TO BE DILIGENT: To work hard and carefully.
Examples: “She’s very diligent in her studies.” or “Being diligent means you do your work well.”

HOMELESSNESS: When someone doesn’t have a home.
Examples: “The city helps people who are homeless find places to stay.” or “Homelessness is a big problem that we need to help solve.”

TO POP INTO YOUR MIND: To suddenly think of something.
Examples: “The idea popped into my mind out of nowhere.” or “It popped into my mind that I forgot to lock the door.”

STAKES: The important things that can happen because of a situation.
Examples: “Winning the game means a lot; the stakes are high.” or “He knew the stakes of the test were important, so he studied hard.”

TO BE SETTLED: To feel calm and peaceful.
Examples: “After a long day, I feel settled at home.” or “Being settled means you’re not worried or anxious.”

EARLY BIRD: Someone who wakes up early.
Examples: “He’s an early bird; he wakes up at 5 a.m. every day.” or “Being an early bird means waking up before most people.”

WORSHIP: To show love and respect to a god or gods.
Examples: “People go to church to worship.” or “Worship means praying and singing songs to show you love God.”

*TO BE DIALED IN (FOCUSED): To concentrate or pay close attention.
Examples: “She’s dialed in during class, always listening to the teacher.” or “Being dialed in means you’re focused and not distracted.”

TO BREAK DOWN / WATERWORKS / BALLING: To cry a lot.
Examples: “When he heard the sad news, he broke down and cried.” or “There were waterworks after the breakup.”

HERE’S THE DEAL (EXPRESSION): Here is the important information or truth.
Examples: “Here’s the deal: you have to finish your homework before you can play.” or “Here’s the deal: we need to save money for our trip.”

*TO PUSH THROUGH: To keep going even when it’s difficult.
Examples: “Even though he was tired, he pushed through and finished the race.” or “Pushing through means not giving up, even when things are hard.”

TO HAVE YOUR CONFIDENCE STRUCK: To feel less sure of yourself.
Examples: “After failing the test, his confidence was struck.” or “Having your confidence struck means feeling unsure or not believing in yourself.”

TO GIVE A PEP TALK: To encourage someone.
Examples: “The coach gave the team a pep talk before the game.” or “Giving a pep talk means saying positive things to motivate someone.”

TO HAVE NO CLUE: To not know or understand something.
Examples: “When they asked him about the new policy, he had no clue what they were talking about.” or “I have no clue how to fix the car; we’ll need to call a mechanic.”

DEJA VU: Feeling like you’ve experienced something before.
Examples: “I had deja vu when I visited the new city; it felt familiar.” or “Deja vu is when something feels like it’s happened before.”

*TO CLICK (UNDERSTANDING): To understand something suddenly.
Examples: “After studying for a while, it clicked and I understood the math problem.” or “It clicked in my mind how to solve the puzzle.”

THE HOLY SPIRIT: A religious belief in God’s presence.
Examples: “Christians believe in the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity.” or “The Holy Spirit guides and comforts believers.”

*vocabulary featured in podcast

TO GIVE 110% / YOUR BEST: To try your hardest.
Examples: “She always gives her best at work.” or “He gives 110% in every game.”

TO BE MAINSTREAM: To be popular or common.
Examples: “That music is mainstream; everyone listens to it.” or “Being mainstream means many people like it.”

*TO BE GLUED TO YOUR SEAT / SCREEN: To be unable to move from your seat or stop watching something.
Examples: “I was glued to my seat during the movie.” or “He’s glued to his screen, playing video games all day.”

TO BE DILIGENT: To work hard and carefully.
Examples: “She’s very diligent in her studies.” or “Being diligent means you do your work well.”

HOMELESSNESS: When someone doesn’t have a home.
Examples: “The city helps people who are homeless find places to stay.” or “Homelessness is a big problem that we need to help solve.”

TO POP INTO YOUR MIND: To suddenly think of something.
Examples: “The idea popped into my mind out of nowhere.” or “It popped into my mind that I forgot to lock the door.”

STAKES: The important things that can happen because of a situation.
Examples: “Winning the game means a lot; the stakes are high.” or “He knew the stakes of the test were important, so he studied hard.”

TO BE SETTLED: To feel calm and peaceful.
Examples: “After a long day, I feel settled at home.” or “Being settled means you’re not worried or anxious.”

EARLY BIRD: Someone who wakes up early.
Examples: “He’s an early bird; he wakes up at 5 a.m. every day.” or “Being an early bird means waking up before most people.”

WORSHIP: To show love and respect to a god or gods.
Examples: “People go to church to worship.” or “Worship means praying and singing songs to show you love God.”

*TO BE DIALED IN (FOCUSED): To concentrate or pay close attention.
Examples: “She’s dialed in during class, always listening to the teacher.” or “Being dialed in means you’re focused and not distracted.”

TO BREAK DOWN / WATERWORKS / BALLING: To cry a lot.
Examples: “When he heard the sad news, he broke down and cried.” or “There were waterworks after the breakup.”

HERE’S THE DEAL (EXPRESSION): Here is the important information or truth.
Examples: “Here’s the deal: you have to finish your homework before you can play.” or “Here’s the deal: we need to save money for our trip.”

*TO PUSH THROUGH: To keep going even when it’s difficult.
Examples: “Even though he was tired, he pushed through and finished the race.” or “Pushing through means not giving up, even when things are hard.”

TO HAVE YOUR CONFIDENCE STRUCK: To feel less sure of yourself.
Examples: “After failing the test, his confidence was struck.” or “Having your confidence struck means feeling unsure or not believing in yourself.”

TO GIVE A PEP TALK: To encourage someone.
Examples: “The coach gave the team a pep talk before the game.” or “Giving a pep talk means saying positive things to motivate someone.”

TO HAVE NO CLUE: To not know or understand something.
Examples: “When they asked him about the new policy, he had no clue what they were talking about.” or “I have no clue how to fix the car; we’ll need to call a mechanic.”

DEJA VU: Feeling like you’ve experienced something before.
Examples: “I had deja vu when I visited the new city; it felt familiar.” or “Deja vu is when something feels like it’s happened before.”

*TO CLICK (UNDERSTANDING): To understand something suddenly.
Examples: “After studying for a while, it clicked and I understood the math problem.” or “It clicked in my mind how to solve the puzzle.”

THE HOLY SPIRIT: A religious belief in God’s presence.
Examples: “Christians believe in the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity.” or “The Holy Spirit guides and comforts believers.”

Listening Comprehension Test

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More about Tiffani Claiborne

Tiffani Claiborne - Into the Story podcast guest episode 59.

Tiffani  

Tiffani Claiborne, the founder of Speak English With Tiffani Academy, is dedicated to helping English learners around the world speak English with confidence. Her YouTube channel, “Speak English With Tiffani”, has nearly 3 million subscribers and her ultimate goal is to help 1 billion English learners speak English confidently.

Visit Tiffani’s academy and her YouTube Channel.

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