By: Adam Gray
It has been over 3 years since I graduated from TEFL Worldwide Prague and what an adventure it has been. I look back on my time in Prague with incredibly fond memories. The four-week course was one of the most intense periods I have experienced but I loved every minute. Making the decision to leave England to do this course has hands down been the best decision I have made. In three years I have taught in Prague, Spain, Japan, the Ukraine, Chile and soon to be China. In this post, I hope to give a quick snapshot of my travels. In the future I will post more detailed accounts of my adventures.
After the course finished I set about finding a job in Prague. I had had such a good time in the Czech Republic and made some great friends, the decision to leave never really crossed my mind. I managed to get a job working as a freelance teacher for two schools (Jipka and Threshold), which allowed me to put together my own timetable. Now, I would be lying if I said teaching in Prague is a gold mine. In fact, I was counting the pennies at the end of every month. At times it was tough, and there were points when I was wondering if I had made the right call but as an overall experience I am so glad I stayed. Prague was fantastic city to get my first teaching experience and my first real experience of living abroad.
After 6 months of teaching in Prague I decided it was time to seek pastures new. I headed back to England for the summer to work in a summer-school for teenagers. I also had to make the decision of where next. During these months at home, I think I applied for over twenty jobs in about 10 different countries. I really had no idea where I wanted to go and I was willing to try anywhere. The whole idea excited me. In the end after turning down jobs in Vietnam, Taiwan and Turkey I settled on Murcia, a small city in the South-East of Spain. Situated less than hour away from the more well-know Alicante and the infamous Benidorm, you may expect Murcia to be full of drunk sunburnt Brits on a long weekend from London Luton Airport. Nope! Murcia feels like real Spain; lots of beautiful little plazas, a majestic cathedral and a warren of narrow streets. I started working for a small English academy along with 9 other new members of staff. This perhaps should have been a warning. There were no returning teachers for a reason. The school was going through a change of management and this meant that the organization was poor at the best of times. That being said, it gave me my first experience of teaching a wide range of ages and levels.
After completing one year there, I moved to another academy, Chatterbox English School. Although similar in size to my first job, Chatterbox was in another league in every other category. I loved working there and still really miss my colleagues as well as the kids I taught. I made some great friends in Spain and met my girlfriend Rachel. Leaving Spain was a tough decision but the right one at that time. I’m sure that I’ll be back one day!
After spending the summer back in England, Rach and I got wind of a company called Westgate who place teachers in Japanese Universities in Tokyo and Nagoya for 3 months contracts. Prior to hearing about this job, neither of us had really ever though about teaching in Japan but we felt this short-term contract was too good to turn down. Living in Japan was an amazing experience. Tokyo is a crazy city, the size alone is daunting, but there is so much to see and do. In the 3 months we spent there we crammed in so many great adventures including trips away to Kyoto and Okinawa. The job itself wasn’t the best. Long days spent repeating the same lesson six or seven time isn’t exactly ideal. However the money you get paid allows you to do so much in a fascinating so it is definitely worth. I would recommend Westgate to anyone who fancies experiencing Japanese culture without committing long term.
In the current political climate you would think that working in the Ukraine may not be advisable. However we spent a freezing cold month tucked away in the mountains in Western Ukraine teaching at a Winter Camp. This goes down as the weirdest teaching experience I have ever had. Spending 24 hours a day in a tiny hotel surrounded by ill staff and 100 kids sounds more like something out of the Shining. The journey to Slavske was strange enough, a 12 hour overnight train from Kiev may sound like fun but when you’re already tired from a early flight the previous morning the cramped carriages are not where you want to be spending your time. Teaching two separate courses with limited resources and terrible internet was challenging to say the least. Furthermore not eating anything green (apart from over boiled cabbage) provided it’s own unique set of problems. Whenever I get asked about our time in the Ukraine I find it hard to describe. It really was bizarre but an adventure nonetheless.
Since I was in my teens, South America has always been top of my list of places to visit. Luckily Rach had the same dream too. When we left Spain our plan was to save up some money to eventually travel in South America. Up to this point our quest for funds had taken us to Japan and the Ukraine. I had heard and read that a good TEFL job in South America is hard to find especially if you are looking on line. I had always kept an eye out but nothing had ever caught my eye. That was until we say a job for The Language Company in Santiago, Chile. Without hesitation we applied for jobs there and in February 2015 we flew out to Santiago ready to begin our South American adventure. Unfortunately it only lasted two months. A mixture of our keenness to get to South America and lack of information from the company meant that we were unable to stay. The job was essentially freelance and involved lots of unpaid travel around the city to teach one on one in people’s houses or businesses. The way the classes fell meant that we were out the house for long hours to only be paid for three or four hours work. All of this on top of the fact that Santiago is by no means a cheap city, in fact the prices are more comparable to a city in Western Europe. Due to upcoming high visa costs we were forces into a decision. Spend a year working our fingers to the bone just to survive or seek pastures new where we had the chance of saving some money to return one day. We chose the latter.
If I you had asked me one year ago, as I was preparing to leave Spain after two fun years, where do you think you will be next June, I can say that China would have been fairly low down on my list. Yet here we are. After three weeks back in England, we interviewed for and accepted jobs in Fuzhou in South East China. We have now been here for two weeks and everything is going well. We have a massive flat (paid for by the school) and are starting our first full weeks of teaching today. York English have several branches around the city and me and Rach work at the two largest. The company have an impressive methodology and really push their teachers to improve. It is the main reason we decided on taking the job. Fuzhou seems like a cool city too, although we haven’t done much exploring due to the extreme humidity at the moment. It looks like it will be a while before it cools down too! It feels good to know that we’ll be here for at least a year working for a company that really values experience and their staff. We’re both very excited for the next year.
So there we have it, my brief (or perhaps not so brief) account of my life of TEFL. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t spent those four weeks in Prague back in 2011. Long may the adventures continue!