This is the second installment of the Teaching Abroad Series. Find out why these four people loved their experiences teaching English in Europe — with stories from Italy, Prague, Spain, and France!
To have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, make some money while travelling, and have a positive impact on the lives of the children you teach: these certainly seem like great reasons to teach English abroad. In fact, it’s something I definitely want to do after I graduate.
If you are a native English speaker or are fluent in English, teaching English abroad is a great option that allows you to work and travel at the same time. English is the dominant language of international business and communication and so English language teachers are highly sought after. Requirements vary from country to country, but most require that you complete a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification: a course that provides training to teach English as a foreign language. While a TEFL certification is not required in some countries, it is still highly recommended to take because it helps you to develop the skills and tools to become an effective teacher.
I’ve decided to bring to you a collaborative series about teaching English abroad, where others who have taught abroad share their teaching tales with you! Without further ado, here is the second part of the Teaching Abroad Series: Teaching English in Europe. Read stories about teaching and living in Italy, Prague, Spain, and France!
ITALY — Sarah from Expat of the World
As an introduction to TEFL in Italy, I spent three months as a summer camp tutor. Summer camps are fantastic if you’re looking for short-term positions or eager to gain more experience. I had an incredible opportunity to live with host families and get into the core of Italian culture. At camp, we incorporated sports, arts and crafts, games, music, and drama. On the weekends, host families kindly took me to many places such as lovely quaint beaches, exploring Cinque Terre, hiking in the beautiful mountains — even a visit to Pisa and flying over Tuscany in a small plane!
I then taught for six months in Naples. I lived in a tiny town called Somma Vesuviana (within Naples region) where not very much went on. My school was also a little disorganised: I was interviewed to teach young learners but I taught all ages and levels. Working Monday to Saturday, I was seriously stretching myself, but I also gained so much valuable teaching experience. On my days off, I visited the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompei, hiked Mount Vesuvius and Mount Somma, explored the Amalfi Coast, stayed overnight in Positano, and so much more!
Finally, I taught for four months in Sicily. There, my school was extremely well organised and I taught young children. Again, this was Monday to Saturday and I was often too tired on Sundays to really get out and do much. I also found travel in Sicily a little harder as public transport isn’t the most reliable.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend teaching English in Italy. In general, I found my community very welcoming, though do try and learn a bit of Italian so you can integrate even more into la bella vita Italiana. There are also delicious pizzas for 3 euros, fresh buffalo mozzarella for 2 euros, and vino and espresso for 1 euro — definite pluses. I would suggest you research the school thoroughly though and try and get that Saturday off — it makes a huge difference, believe me!
PRAGUE — Aimee from 24 and Travelling
I spent one year in Prague, Czech Republic teaching English as a foreign language at primary school level.
I taught at a private school in a wealthy area of Prague 6. The classes had eleven students at the most. Some were already bilingual so I had to find the right balance when teaching. I developed a great bond with most of my classes, although there were a couple that made me want to tear my hair out. My last class with a Grade 4 class of six boys was particularly special. I taught them what a soap opera was and then, within our 45-minute lesson, we rehearsed, performed, and filmed our soap opera (which was about three couples who were all in love with each other!). They all loved getting into character and having a significant and funny part to play.
I was also lucky to go on a school trip to the countryside with my Grade 1 class and the older Grade 6 class for a week. We stayed in a huge house and only a couple of the teachers spoke some English. We spent the trip hiking and going on scavenger hunts. From this, I was able to gain a real insight into Czech lifestyle: their love of the outdoors, their love of poppy seeds, and their love of beer (adults only!).
SPAIN — Sonja from Migrating Miss
I’m currently part of the Auxiliar de Conversación program in Spain. I work in both a primary and secondary school with bilingual programs and help teachers in various subjects. Rather than teaching English classes, I can teach everything from science to art and help with the English pronunciation and reading and speaking skills of the students.
All of the teachers I work with speak English, although many of the other teachers don’t. Because I’m not full-time in the same classroom, the kids are usually really good when I’m in the class as it’s a change for them. Sometimes they can be shy about trying out their English but once they realise it’s ok to make mistakes, they’re very willing to participate.
Living in Southern Spain is living the dream: warm weather, friendly people, tapas and beautiful landscapes. I live in a flatshare right in the centre of Almeria and can walk everywhere I want to. Almeria is in the southeast of Spain and isn’t as overrun with tourists as some other areas nearby. This makes it a great place for anyone wanting to improve their Spanish. The program is only twelve hours a week and I have every Friday off — there’s plenty of time to explore the city and further afield! There are also several long weekends and holidays which means I can plan longer trips to other European countries as well. Teaching English in Spain is the perfect combination of working and travelling!
FRANCE — Livia from Chamelle Photography
I applied for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). The online form for American/Canadian applicants is here but the 2016-2017 programme is already closed. I actually applied from Australia but the process is more or less the same.
You are asked to write a letter in French explaining your reasons for wanting to live in France and to teach there, and to choose a region. I chose the area around Lyon hoping to be placed there, but instead I was placed in a small town in the mountains of about 20 000 people called Bellegarde.
I taught kids aged between fifteen and twenty and it was definitely an interesting experience. Sometimes I worked alone; sometimes I worked alongside another teacher. I enjoyed having the freedom to plan my own lessons as I was given a great deal of flexibility and creativity there. Most of the kids, especially the older ones, were fascinated about my life in Australia. I’d brought along currency, souvenirs, food, and catalogues to show them what sort of (different) things we have back home.
The school I taught at was very large and was like three schools in one. It also had a large dormitory where I stayed and had my own room, along with other out-of-town teachers. My favourite part of the school was the canteen. I was fascinated with what French schoolchildren were served every day. I also happened to be in a hospitality school where I got to watch kids making fine French cuisine and serve it to guests who came to eat in the “restaurant”.
The hardest thing for me was going from living in a large city of almost 5 million people (Sydney) and to the middle of nowhere. It was very hard to make friends because almost none of the teachers I worked with actually lived in that city and most had families to go home to. However, my French improved a lot because I was forced to use it. Nobody in the town apart from a few fellow English teachers spoke English!
Even though I was in a small town, I was lucky to be located where there was a big Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) station which took me all over the country that year. I was lucky to explore many parts of France and stayed with French friends I had made online prior to moving from Australia. Coming from a pretty warm place, I was also fascinated by the snow. It was the most magical thing to see it falling out of the sky for days and weeks on end — I felt like I was dreaming! Overall, I would definitely recommend teaching English in France!
If anyone of you have read this or this post, you may remember that I have a thing for the French language. I would love to become more fluent in the language but with no one to speak it with, that’s pretty hard. I had never considered teaching English in France before but after reading Livia’s piece, it seems like such an amazing opportunity! Oh, the options…