Interview with TEFL Org student Catherine
Where are you teaching at the moment?
I have just returned home, after spending 6 months teaching business English in Imola, northern Italy. Before Christmas, I spent 3 months in Segovia, Spain teaching English to children in an autumn camp.
Why did you decide to take a TEFL course?
Ask me this time last year if I would have lived in two different countries, learned foreign languages and travelled around various countries and I would have said no way, not me. But, after finishing university and taking a weekend course with TEFL Org, this distant dream quickly became a reality.
After the excitement of finishing university came to an all too quick end, I didn’t feel ready to return to further study or full-time employment at this point in my life and I began researching what I could do with my free year.
After searching the web and talking to friends who had spent time abroad, I came across TEFL Org and was immediately keen to sign up for a weekend course. I began the course in early August of 2009, and due to the fantastic help, support and encouragement of the staff and my tutor, Alison I found a job within a matter of weeks and was on a plane by mid-September.
Best experience in the classroom?
Choosing just one is so difficult as there have been so many great moments. In general, starting with a beginner class who could not even say “hello” and watching them progress is a great feeling. And even when finishing a course with a class/student and they can thank you in English really makes you feel what you are doing is worthwhile.
Worst experience in the classroom?
Honestly, I loved my time teaching abroad and never really had a bad experience in the classroom. Personally, I found most students really keen on learning, therefore, did not have any difficult experiences except the obvious hiccups. My first-day teaching business English to a group of Intermediate Italian businessmen was pretty daunting. I was young enough to be their daughter and here I was expected to be their teacher. But, after the initial nerves calmed down I quickly connected with the group. Another difficult time was teaching the kids in Spain. In general, this was a fantastic experience but kids will be kids and I had to deal with one or two fights at break time and homesickness at night (the school was a camp). But these were minor complaints and whenever things got tough I took a second to myself and thought “I live in Spain/Italy”
Can you tell us an interesting fact about the country you’re living in?
In both Spain and Italy, the afternoons are a time of rest. Good luck trying to find a bank or newsagents open during the hours of 12 to 4. However, this is not a problem as most supermarkets remain open, as do most bars and cafes…oh well, a glass of Prosecco anyone?
What are your plans for the next year?
During my last year of university, I made my mind up that I wanted to teach secondary school. While living in Spain and as soon as applications opened, I began the process of applying. Whilst home at Christmas, I had an interview at Glasgow University and was given the good news that I had been accepted the day before I flew out to Italy. I begin the course this week and feel my year TEFL teaching has given me confidence and experience I can use during my teacher training.
In addition to working in Europe, I also took the opportunity to visit various other countries during my holiday time. In each country, I tried local and typical food and drink. In Poland, I loved traditional dumplings, goulash and potato pancakes. In Spain, I enjoyed paella, chorizo sausage and of course various tapas. In Italy the food was amazing. When you think of Italy you think pasta and pizza, which is true. But food in Italy differs greatly between regions. In my region, Emila-Romanga the local delicacies were piadinna, a type of bread used for sandwiches and hot snacks, prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and of course spaghetti bolognese, from Bologna.
What do you do for fun?
One of my passions in life is travel and with TEFL, this dream can easily become a reality. As mentioned I visited various European countries during which time I visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, attended a Pope’s mass in Prague and visited Bernabeu Stadium, home to Real Madrid.
Most weekends I would travel to other Spanish or Italian cities with my friends and flatmates. Bologna has a great connection with the rest of Italy so I was fortunate enough to visit many cities in the north such as Venice, Florence, Pisa and Milan to name but a few. I even spent some time touring the beautiful region of Tuscany with some friends we met on the plane going to Poland for our Easter holiday.
Travel aside, I really enjoyed doing normal things such as having meals with friends, cycling, running and even just relaxing in the sun with a good book. It is really important to take your mind away from teaching sometimes!
How would you sum up your experience as a TEFL teacher?
Fun, emotional, difficult, eye-opening, exciting, new, never-a-dull-moment…words cannot do justice for the fantastic experience I have had this past year…try it yourself!
The past year has been the best in my life so far. I have had a fantastic experience which I believe has helped me gain a place at university. I have made so many new friends from all over Europe and memories to last a lifetime.
Do you have any useful pieces of advice to give to anyone wanting to travel abroad to teach English?
Expect the unexpected. What you imagine your experience to be like will more than likely differ greatly to what you think. Be open-minded to new cultures and embrace them. Also, time flies. A year may seem like a lifetime but it is not. When on the plane home it felt like no time at all since I left…most of all…enjoy!