Catherine - Teaching English in Italy and Spain
26 August 2010
Where are you teaching at the moment?
I have just returned home, after spending 6 months teaching
business English in Imola, northern Italy. Before Christmas, I
spent 3 months in Segovia, Spain teaching English to children in an
Why did you decide to take
a TEFL course?
Ask me this time
last year if I would have lived in two different countries, learned
foreign languages and travelled around various countries and I
would have said no way, not me. But, after finishing university and
taking a weekend course with TEFL Org UK, this
distant dream quickly became a reality.
After the excitement of finishing university came to an all too
quick end, I didn't feel ready to return to further study or full
time employment at this point in my life and I began researching
what I could do with my free year.
After searching the web and talking to friends who had
spent time abroad, I came across TEFL Org UK and
was immediately keen to sign up for a weekend course. I began the
course in early August of 2009, and due to the fantastic help,
support and encouragement of the staff and my tutor, Alison I found
a job within a matter of weeks and was on a plane by mid
Best experience in the
Choosing just one is so difficult as there have been so
many great moments. In general, starting with a beginner class who
could not even say "hello" and watching them progress is a great
feeling. And even when finishing a course with a class/student and
they can thank you in English really makes you feel what you are
doing is worthwhile.
Worst experience in the
Honestly, I loved my time
teaching abroad and never really had a bad experience in the
classroom. Personally, I found most students really keen on
learning therefore did not have any difficult experiences except
the obvious hiccups. My first day teaching business English to a
group of Intermediate Italian businessmen was pretty daunting. I
was young enough to be their daughter and here I was expected to be
their teacher. But, after the initial nerves calmed down I quickly
connected with the group. Another difficult time was teaching the
kids in Spain. In general this was a fantastic experience but kids
will be kids and I had to deal with one or two fights at break time
and homesickness at night (the school was a camp). But these were
minor complaints and whenever things got tough I took a second to
myself and thought "I live in Spain/Italy"
Can you tell us an interesting fact about the
country you're living in?
In both Spain and Italy, the afternoons are a time of
rest. Good luck trying to find a bank or newsagents open during the
hours of 12 to 4. However, this is not a problem as most
supermarkets remain open, as do most bars and cafes...oh well,
glass of Prosecco anyone?
What are your plans for the next
During my last year of university I made my mind up that I
wanted to teach secondary school. While living in Spain and as soon
as applications opened, I began the process of applying. Whilst
home at Christmas, I had an interview at Glasgow University and was
given the good news that I had been accepted the day before I flew
out to Italy. I begin the course this week and feel my
year TEFL teaching has given me confidence
and experience I can use during my teacher
In addition to working in Europe, I also took the
opportunity to visit various other countries during my holiday
time. In each country I tried local and typical food and drink. In
Poland, I loved traditional dumplings, goulash and potato pancakes.
In Spain, I enjoyed paella, chorizo sausage and of course various
tapas. In Italy the food was amazing. When you think of Italy you
think pasta and pizza, which is true. But food in Italy differs
greatly from region. In my region, Emila-Romanga the local
delicacies were piadinna, a type of bread used for sandwiches and
hot snacks, prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham) and of course spaghetti
bolognese, from Bologna.
What do you do for fun?
One of my passions in life
is travel and with TEFL, this dream can easily
become a reality. As mentioned I visited various European countries
during which time I visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau
concentration camps, the Salt Mines of Wieliczka, attended a Pope's
mass in Prague and visited Bernabeu Stadium, home to Real
Most weekends I would travel to other Spanish or Italian cities
with my friends and flatmates. Bologna has great connection with
the rest of Italy so I was fortunate enough to visit many cities in
the north such as Venice, Florence, Pisa and Milan to name but a
few. I even spent some time touring the beautiful region of Tuscany
with some friends we met on the plane going to Poland for our
Travel aside, I really enjoyed doing normal things such as
having meals with friends, cycling, running and even just relaxing
in the sun with a good book. It is really important to take your
mind away from teaching sometimes!
How would you sum up your experience as
a TEFL teacher?
Fun, emotional, difficult, eye-opening, exciting, new,
never-a-dull-moment...words cannot do justice for the fantastic
experience I have had this past year...try it
The past year has been the best of my life so far. I have
had a fantastic experience which I believe has helped me gain a
place at university. I have made so many new friends from all over
Europe and memories to last a life time.
Do you have any useful pieces of advice to give to
anyone wanting to travel abroad to teach
Expect the unexpected. What you imagine your experience to
be like will more than likely differ greatly to what you think. Be
open minded to new cultures and embrace them. Also, time flies. A
year may seem like a life time but it is not. When on the plane
home it felt like no time at all since I left...most of
Our TEFL Job Centre has positions available in both Spain and Italy, check them out if you are
interested in following in Catherine's footsteps!