I like to think my TEFL journey began somewhere in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. It was 2014 and it was my first proper solo trip. I was volunteering in Ecuador, helping in schools and local villages when I learnt just how much travelling can enrich your life. The people I met I still call my friends today. The trip definitely reinforced the motto – Collect moments, not things.
After having this massive adventure, I returned home to the more mundane life of a university student. I realised how much wanderlust I still had, and I knew I had to do something about it. As an ambitious teenager, a 9-5 job just wasn’t for me, so I started to think about other options. It was then that I learnt about TEFL.
‘Travel the world AND get paid for it? Sign me up!’ I thought.
In March 2017 I finished the 120-Hour TEFL course. The course consisted of 100 hours online, detailing the grammatical side of English as well as the methodology behind teaching. As someone who has spent most of her life with her nose in a book, writing fiction and studying English at University, I thought there was nothing I wouldn’t know. However, I was pleasantly surprised at some of the grammatical terms I picked up while completing the course. The best experience of the whole course was the 20-hour weekend course, which took place in the Royal Hotel in Hull. The teacher was very experienced and made the weekend so fun and memorable while also being extremely helpful.
The opportunity to talk to other people who wanted to go down a similar path as me was brilliant and it was so nice to see the range of people wanting to teach English. There were many students but also a few older individuals looking for adventure. After getting my certificate, I then needed to decide where I wanted to go. South Korea, Vietnam, China, Italy, Spain, Peru – there were so many options! After a few weeks of looking I applied for a job in Southern Poland and after a successful interview I got on the plane and I haven’t looked back since!
I currently teach in the small city of Bielsko-Biała, known as ‘Little Vienna’, about an hour away from the bustling city of Krakow. Poland has taken me completely by surprise. I had previously visited Poland as a teenager but had no idea about the beauty that could be found in its cities and landscapes. I couldn’t have asked to live in a better location. Krakow, Wrocław, Warsaw as well as Prague and Vienna are just some of the nearby cities that are so easy and quick to travel to. The architecture and history of the cities is fascinating, and the charming coloured buildings look as if they have been built by LEGO. There are beautiful market squares, museums and lakes all around which means I always find something to do at the weekend. Having the opportunity to spend Christmas in Poland was so exciting and to be able to visit the markets, smell the food cooking and the music echoing through the streets was magical. I have loved learning about the culture in Poland, from its history of communism and war right down to more fun cultural lessons like food. Pierogi, oscypek, żurek, and amazing potato pancakes are just some of the comfort food you can find in this area of the world and each of these are delicious. I can definitely recommend them if you ever find yourself in Poland. I have also had the great experience of travelling to the famous Tatra Mountains, again just a short journey from my city. The views are stunning and while visiting in winter is not advised, it was a lot of fun and one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had while living here (although if you are going to visit in winter, I strongly recommend a good thick coat!) Living in Poland is very cheap so it’s easy to eat out (I once got a huge pizza for the equivalent of £3.00!) and very easy to travel the country and still have a nice amount of money in your back pocket.
I am so lucky to teach a wide variety of people. In a normal week, I teach children, adults, groups, one-to-ones and in companies. Each student has their own stories and I love getting to know them. Each person has a different level of English, which is great and it feels so rewarding when you teach new language to people. Living abroad can also lead to some funny conversations when things get lost in translation (I once asked for an apple cider in the pub and was presented with a very tasty apple pie and cream!)
Teaching English has given me so much confidence, not only living independently in a different culture to my own but talking with different people and making new friends. It’s made me more aware of just how much I’m capable of and for that, I’ll always be grateful. There is truly no other job that allows you to realise your limitations, recognise your strengths and genuinely make you a much more rounded and knowledgeable person. Travelling turns us into the very best storytellers and TEFL has allowed me to collect many new stories. I have a long list of countries I want to visit in the future and a huge bucket list of activities I want to do. I can see myself travelling the world and teaching English for many years to come.
Next stop – everywhere!
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One thought on “TEFL in Poland: Katie’s Story”
Wow, amazing read! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw your article! I completed my TEFL Premier in July 2017 and I am thinking of joining one of the language schools in Bielsko-Biala in 4-5 years; family constraints at the moment. At the moment these are plans, plans nothing but plans!
I was an interpreter/ translator for an agency near the Zameczek in the ‘90s before returning to the UK in 2001. (Not being drawn into teaching at the time). I recommend visiting the Beskids National Park, which is about 40km away. My parents were from one of the villages here. An area of outstanding beauty. I am fluent in Polish (but born in the UK) and visit Poland sually twice a year, we pop down to Bielsko usually for some shopping, sometimes a meal.
Congratulations and all the best with your career!