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Alumni Stories – Tom

We spoke with one of our graduates, Tom, 9 months after completing the TEFL course. He talks about his experience since graduating. 

Why did you choose Prague? What did you know about Prague before coming here?

I come from the UK and made some Czech friends from university, so I had a connection with Prague before I arrived. Having friends here certainly pulled me here, but there were also many other reasons which were important factors. The culture was something which I liked, and it felt equal parts different and similar to the UK which felt just right for me personally. The quality and price of the beer is a stereotype but it cannot be ignored, plus the easy access to nature inside and outside of the city was a big attraction for me as well. Most of all, I’d always wanted to live in a foreign country, and having passed up the opportunity to live in Germany in my early twenties, I knew that I couldn’t let the opportunity slip again. The time felt right, and given how much I’d enjoyed Prague when visiting the city, it felt like a place in which I could feel at home.

What made you want to change your life and take a TEFL program in a foreign country?

I’d spent six years working in the public-sector in the UK, primarily training IT systems, and while it wasn’t a job I entirely disliked, it also wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. The pause of covid pandemic gave everyone a lot of time to think, and this really is when I decided that living in a foreign country was something I wanted to do. I’ve studied German at different times during my life, and language is something which has always interested me. Even more so, I liked the idea of teaching English in a country because it would give me the chance to meet local people and to get to know the culture better – this has definitely been the case.

Why did you choose TEFL Worldwide when you were choosing a TEFL school?

It only takes a quick online search to realise that there are a number of different TEFL programmes around the city, but the job guarantee was the thing which sold TEFL worldwide for me. For a school to be so confident in the quality of the teachers they produce that they give a guarantee really made me feel convinced that this programme would be a quality one. Aside from that, the opportunity to actually practice teaching with real students during the course, and the positive reviews online, gave me a good feeling. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be true.

Were you afraid to take a step into the unknown and move to a different country/start a new career? Did you have any doubts? What helped you overcome your fears?

It was certainly scary to leave my job and life back home, one that had been comfortable and easy for me for a number of years, to upsticks and start over again. The doubts really came when I acknowledged how little I would see my friends. What really helped me was knowing that I was doing something I’d always wanted to do. I can say for sure that moving to a new country to teach English is something that I would regret not doing if I had chosen to stay at home. That’s what it came down to for me.

 Did your expectations from the course differ from the actual reality of it? Did you think it would be easier/harder? 

The course is challenging, there’s no doubt, but I was fortunate to be studying alongside a great group of likeminded people. We were all very different but we had a lot in common at the same time. When the course became too much, or when we each needed help, we helped one another. Despite the difficulties, the course was also incredibly interesting and rewarding; the teaching methodology modules certainly made me reflect on my practice training IT systems back home. I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be easy, but I also expected to enjoy it, and both of these points were true. I’d recommend reflecting on why you chose to take the course when going through any difficult patches, and certainly to support the others you’re studying with, just as they will support you.

How was your first couple of months in Prague? What was positive? What was challenging?

Simple things were naturally more difficult on arriving in Prague. The language barrier is an obvious obstacle, though it now feels like an enjoyable challenge. You quickly learn where English is well spoken and where it is less well spoken. When you want a challenge, it’s fun to push yourself out of your comfort zone in that way. Navigating new city streets and new transport systems can be difficult, but I also found this a lot of fun. When you have time, it’s great to try taking a new route somewhere (without the help of a maps app!) and to see what you stumble upon. Overall, I’m glad I didn’t let the thought of challenges dissuade me from enjoying the difficult moments. Like any experience in life, I found there were a lot of people who were happy to help me.

Was it difficult for you to find a job after you’d finished the course?

Not at all, finding a job was fortunately very easy. The language school associated with TEFL Worldwide, Spěváček, offered me a job after observing one of my teaching practice lessons. I was also put in touch with an organisation where I now teach several hours a week, and a friend put me in touch with some individuals who wanted private lessons. While I know I was fortunate in some ways, I think that as long as you get to know people, it’s often very easy to find work teaching English here, either through contacts or at a language school.

How did you start offering your services and looking for jobs?

Again, I spoke to friends and people I knew who kindly pointed me in the right direction. Though I haven’t used them yet, I know many people who’ve used a number of online websites including Facebook groups to find students. The TEFL alumni who came to speak to us during our course also offered some pointers which were definitely worth following.

What do you like the most about life in Prague/the Czech Republic/Europe?

Prague is a major European city but without the hustle and bustle of London, Paris or Rome. You can quickly escape the busy areas and old town and feel as though you’re in a different country, and this is something I really enjoy. The easy access to nature has been a highlight for me too. The UK has some great national parks and nature reserves, but in the Czech Republic you can take a morning run and find yourself in a village in the middle of nowhere. The city is also incredibly safe and has a community feel in most places – you often see children going to and from school on foot or on by public transport without needing an adult to take them. One of the most enjoyable things has been the opportunity to learn the language while living in the country. There’s something great about learning a new word or phrase, and then being able to practice it in a restaurant straight after class.

What is the main difference you found between life in the Czech Republic and life in your home country?

I mentioned that the Czech Republic is very safe, and that’s a big difference I’ve noticed when compared to the UK and the cities I’m familiar with. The normality of using public transport is a big difference here too, whereas I think London is the only city back home where public transport is predominant. Most notable for me was that people here can take a while to get to know, whereas in the UK you can strike up a conversation and become friends with someone in a supermarket queue. It’s definitely a collection of the differences and the similarities between my home country and the Czech Republic which have made the experience so enjoyable.

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