1. Tell us about yourself. We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to teaching abroad? Have you always known you would end up in Italy?
Hello! My name is Jessica and I’m from Cork. I graduated in Business Information Systems and worked in the industry for over a year until I was bitten by the travel bug! I took a leap of faith decided to move to Thailand to teach English. This is when I discovered my passion for teaching and travelling. Living in Asia was an amazing experience but I wanted to see more of Europe and always dreamt of living in Italy. I did my research and thought the TEFL.ie program suited me perfectly.
2. What is it like to be teaching in Italy? Have you had any time to travel around Italy?
Italy’s beauty has lived up to my expectations I sometimes have to pinch myself I can’t quite believe I live here. During my time off I have been able to explore different parts of the north and I plan to do more. It is so easy to travel here the trains are so cheap and efficient. It’s great knowing that at the weekend I can nip down to Venice for the day.
3. How do you feel now in Italy with the outbreak of Covid-19? What do you do to stay safe at this time?
It has certainly been a challenging time here in northern Italy with the outbreak but it has made me realise how sad I would be to leave my life here behind so with the continued support of my family and friends I have decided to stay in Italy during the quarantine period. I am optimistic that the Italian government is making the right decisions and the people of Italy are taking correct precautions at this time. I am staying safe by taking the recommended precautions and practising social distancing.
4. Tell us more about your teaching. How big are your classes & how many hours a week have you been teaching? What does your week look like?
On average I work 25 hours a week. I work Monday to Saturday but my schedule changes every week I could be working in the afternoon or the evening. My schedule allows for plenty of free time to meet friends or prepare for lessons. The method of teaching at the school is really fun and interactive. The classrooms are open rooms with TVs and comfortable couches. The number of students depends on the activity but the maximum number is seven which allows for all students to have a chance to practise and easier class management for new teachers. From day one you are provided with lots of in-house training and observations until you feel completely comfortable to teach on your own.
5. What is your favourite class to teach & why?
I’ve enjoyed teaching all classes and levels but my favourite classes have been individuals and writing classes. One-to-one classes allow you to pack in a lot of learning and focus on their specific learning needs. Writing classes have been great fun and really creative.
6. What was the orientation in Florence like? Did it prepare you for your first class teaching?
Having the orientation to look forward to really helped me have a structured start when I arrived in Italy. It was comforting to meet other Irish people when you have just moved to a new country on your own. It was very useful to learn about the school’s strategy and structure. There were no surprises when we started teaching. After training, we went sightseeing and had dinner together in Florence city centre which was a very exciting and memorable time.
7. What were three things about your experience in Italy that you did not anticipate?
Budget – Save as much as you can for the first month or two and take into account your rent and bills. You will want to enjoy yourself in the first month and embrace the ‘dolce vita’ without worrying about your bank balance.
Language – Before you take off to Italy try learning some of the language at home. I was surprised to find a lot of Italians have little to no English. Having at least a few phrases will make the transition a bit easier. Learning a new language will also help you improve as a teacher you will understand the struggle of learning a new language and be able to connect with your students better.
Routine – I thought the Italian lifestyle would be more or less the same as the Irish lifestyle but I was wrong. The Italians have a much slower pace of life with different meal times you may find yourself going out for dinner with friends at 9 pm at night! My working hours are no longer 9-5 either so that took some time to get used to but now I really enjoy the flexible lifestyle.
8. What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher abroad?
I can’t tie it down to one specific experience because it was just a sudden feeling of accomplishment when I started to get the hang of my new life abroad and especially when I started improving as a teacher. Seeing your students engaged in their lesson and having the ability to enhance their learning experience is very rewarding.
9. Do you think now to stay safe you will consider a career teaching English online?
Luckily the school I am working for has already set up online lessons for our students so I am still working just from the comfort of my home. At times like these, I am glad to be an EFL teacher because I have the option to work from home many people do not have that option.
10. What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach abroad or not?
If you have ever had any temptation to teach abroad I would tell you to just do it! It has changed my life and my perspective on different cultures. The great thing about teaching abroad is it can be very short term or you can make a career out of it. There are so many different types of students you can teach and so many ways to teach English you’ll never be bored. Not only is teaching a transferable skill to have under your belt it is one of the very few careers that is so rewarding but also allows you to travel the world at the same time!