Mary’s Marvelous Italy Adventure
Introduce yourself, and tell us about your journey to teaching English abroad!
Hi everybody, my name is Mary, and I’m currently teaching English in Como, Italy. I’m 22 years old and from a small village in Co. Galway. I studied Computer Science, Linguistics, and French at university and finished in 2022. I knew I wanted to do something linguistics related after university, so while I was looking around for things to do once I had finished, I found this internship and signed up asap!
What was your path to a teaching internship in Italy? Why did you decide on this particular internship? Was the interview process hard?
I started doing my 120-hour TEFL course in January 2021 as I’m interested in language learning. My favourite part of my course was linguistics, so I enjoyed doing the different methods in my spare time. I decided on this internship in my final year of university. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do after college, but I wanted to do something with linguistics. Then I saw this internship advertised, and everything about it suited me down to the ground (even if people questioned why I moved to Italy when I studied French). I wanted something that started in September to give me one last summer at home and to recover after finishing my degree. I also wanted to stay in Europe. So the Italy internship was perfect for me. I didn’t find the interview process difficult at all. We were given a list of schools in Italy hiring, and we could choose which one we wanted to apply to. I chose Como. I had my interview on a Friday and found out the following Friday that I got the job!
Do you think your TEFL course prepared you to teach English in Italy?
The TEFL courses I did (included with the internship, but I had them finished before I signed up), along with studying and having a passion for linguistics, really helped me teach here. There is so much helpful information in them, and they’re interesting. I enjoyed doing them in my spare time.
How much to budget for accommodation? Was it hard to find a place to live? Any tips for future interns who will be moving to Italy?
I think accommodation was the most significant difficulty for me. Since Como is in the north, it is more expensive than in the south. I was placed in Como with another teacher, so we stayed in an Airbnb together for the first month and a half while we searched for accommodation. We moved into an apartment together at the beginning of November. We’re paying around €1000 a month together, so it comes out to about €500 each, which isn’t all that bad (especially when you compare it to Dublin). Airbnb was more expensive than that, coming to around €800 each a month. Start looking for accommodation as soon as you get placed in a city, as finding accommodation can be pretty challenging. Make sure you have savings for the first two months since we get paid monthly.
Describe to us your day in the life of a teacher in Italy. How many hours a week have you been teaching? How big are your classes? What’s your favourite style to teach?
Every day is different in some way or another. You could work in the morning, from 9:00 until 13:00, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., or both (or anything in between)! I teach around 25 hours a week and spend about 10 hours preparing my lessons every week. Prepping lessons gets easier as time goes on, and it gets less and less time-consuming. The most significant class size you can teach is seven people. However, the more extensive classes don’t happen that frequently, I’d say the average discourse would be 4 or 5 students, but it’s not uncommon to teach only two or even one student! I love teaching all the students; they’re all so amazing. I think I prefer teaching the higher levels a lot of the time because,e you can chat with them quickly, and it’s pretty fun to share some Irish slang with them too.
How much to budget towards this internship? How much would you recommend bringing for the first weeks of living in Italy?
So depending on where you live in Italy, you need to budget differently. If you’re in the south, it’s not as expensive. But you need to budget a bit more if you’re in the north like me. I’d recommend having at least €1000-€1500 to prepare yourself for the first month in Italy. That should cover your basic needs.
Would you recommend learning a bit of Italian before coming over?
Knowing some Italian before arriving would be helpful. However, I went over three months of Duolingo Italian, and it was fine. Since teaching is entirely in English, so you don’t need Italian for work. The Italians working in the school helped me with anything necessary (like finding accommodation) when I needed Italian. I’m now taking Italian lessons for 3 hours every week, which I’m enjoying.
Were you able to travel around Italy? If yes, where to?
Yes! I’ve had a great time travelling around Italy. If I finish early on a Friday and start late on a Monday, it makes it even easier, but that’s not necessary. I live an hour away from Milan, so I’ve gone on many day trips to Milan. I’ve gone to a few villages around Lake Como (including where Star Wars was shot) by taking a ferry from Como. I was able to go to Venice for a weekend, which was spectacular. I could also travel to Naples and Rome for a few days, which was fantastic. The train service in Italy is excellent (even if they’re always delayed or cancelled) and connects everywhere together. I’ve even been able to go to Switzerland because Como is right on the border!
Tell us what’s your favourite thing about Italy. What do you like doing on your days off?
I love the Italian culture and the people. Everybody is lovely, and the pizza and pasta are excellent. On my days off, I enjoy travelling or simply relaxing.
What were three things about your experience in Italy that you did not anticipate?
I don’t know what I did or didn’t expect from this experience. One thing I didn’t expect was that smoothies aren’t a thing in Italy. They don’t seem to have them at all. Other things that Irish people might find strange, away from Ireland, is the lack of crisps and tea that isn’t herbal tea (all the Italians are shocked when I tell them we add milk to our tea). Another shock was the lack of bars in the area. There may be more in different regions of Italy, but Como doesn’t have the same kind of nightlife that we may be used to in Ireland. The drinking culture is also completely different.
Do you think a welcome orientation helped you? Did it prepare you for your first teaching lesson?
The welcome orientation helped me. It was great to meet other teachers starting to teach in Italy at the same time as me. We have stayed in contact and have been able to talk about our different experiences together. It’s nice to know other people are experiencing what you’re also experiencing. The explanation about how the schools work at the orientation was great, and I found it prepared me for work.
What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach in Italy or not?
My advice would be to do it! I’ve enjoyed my experience here so far. I don’t think I would have gotten it anywhere else. If I hadn’t started working here, I don’t know what I’d be doing with my life. It’s been a rewarding experience, and I hope it will only improve as I improve my teaching skills.
Are you planning any other TEFL adventures?
I would love to teach English as a foreign language again after this experience. Whether I continue in Italy or somewhere else in the world, I’m not picky. I love travelling, and TEFL has helped me with that this year!