Six Years of TEFL and Counting: Billie’s Story

From a very young age, I’ve had the travel bug; the passion to explore different cultures, learn new languages, and to live a nomadic lifestyle. I was able to make this dream come true when I took my TEFL course back in 2011; a 2 day weekend in Southampton and a 100-hour online course, including grammar, task planning for lessons and finding solutions to difficulties that may arise in the classroom. I found my TEFL course an invaluable tool, particularly in the beginning of my venture into teaching, where I remembered activities we had done on the weekend course and how it felt to not understand anything. We were taught an hour of Korean language, which allowed us to be in the shoes of how it would feel to be lost in a world of language learning, and out of our depth with no basic knowledge. This has always been a constant reminder in the back of my head in every classroom situation I have been in since.

My TEFL journey has taken me to 6 different countries and all the way back again, to the UK. I started the adventure in Italy, where I worked in a young learner summer camp and lived with an Italian family in Inzago; a small village just outside of Milan in the north of the country. My days were spent teaching English through songs, games, and teaching basic vocabulary; a perfect introduction into dealing with various classroom situations and an unforgettable experience gaining a second family who I have since been back to visit.

My next TEFL job took me across the other side of the world, to China, where I began working for a company I had found on the TEFL Org UK Jobs Centre, Buckland International Education Group. It was a spontaneous decision which became the best thing I ever did. Not only did it make me a more confident and open-minded person, but standing up in front of 20 classes of 70 students per week certainly helped me learn teaching techniques and activities that have been indispensable. I will never forget my first day when the principal asked me to give a motivational speech to the school. Little did I know that the school was going to end up being 8000 people! My time in China was spent in both a public school and private school environment, where the levels of English differed immensely. I was lucky enough to have time to travel around the main cities; hiking the Great Wall, taking in the moreish aromas of Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter & relaxing on the bright white beaches of Hainan Island, to name a few.

Being in China allowed me to travel through South East Asia, through the rice paddies of Vietnam, the historical temple-filled Cambodia, the crystal clear waters of Thailand and all the way down to the melting pot that is Singapore. The eclectic mix of cultures and languages combined with the warm welcome from every individual I came across will be memories to share for a lifetime. After one year in China of being a local celebrity, it was time to move on. Fortunately, I left as a better and more independent version of myself, rich in the knowledge of the customs and traditions of the spectacular country I was leaving behind, and also enough Mandarin to impress people on my future endeavours.

The next chapter brought me a little closer to home, to Spain. By this point, I felt as though I had gathered enough knowledge of teaching various ages and class sizes to venture out on my own and to start teaching privately. I landed in Valencia, on the east coast of mainland Spain, and began renting a room in a house full of Spaniards- what better way to learn the language?! I joined a tutoring website, and the requests began flooding in- I couldn’t believe it! I suddenly had enough classes to clone myself 3 times and still not be able to be in so many places at so many different times.

After a few months, I met my now partner, James, who had also been working abroad teaching TEFL. Together, we set up a home-classroom to tutor and began to focus on Cambridge Exam preparation, teaching English to help the unemployed in finding work, and EFL content creation.

Life in Spain was busy, yet utterly relaxing at the same time. Spanish people love to live the good life, so it was always the right time to sit and relax in the sunshine; particularly easy with the beach right at the end of your street. Wandering the city streets of Valencia every day, I couldn’t have been more content. Valencia has a mixture of ultra-modern, futuristic style buildings, but historical architecture reigns the skylines. It is a stunning sight to see. However, the difficult thing potential teachers should be aware of when moving to Spain is the daily siesta.

Many of the shops and restaurants close from midday until around 3pm; the same for the majority of language schools. There aren’t any students that want to study at this particular time. This means your day could start from 8am, break for a 3-hour nap, and then run right through until 10pm.

After just over 2 years in Valencia, the time had come to move on. I returned to the UK and was lucky enough to get a teaching job at the internationally renowned EF, Education First, in Cambridge. The EFL market in the UK is a lot tougher than abroad, as the numbers of schools are limited and teachers tend to stay for a longer period of time, meaning fewer vacancies can be found. I have loved my time back in the UK so far, and being in a city away from my hometown still allows me to spend weekends exploring the scenery that England has to offer.

Each leg of my teaching experiences has been longer than the previous, leading me to wonder where my next position will take me, and which part of the world I will get a sudden urge to see. From living in a tiny Chinese village where I was the only Westerner for miles, to teaching English to those it means the most to see a smiling face; I have felt as though I have contributed towards making a small difference to others’ happiness in my short life, and for this, I feel accomplished.

Without my TEFL knowledge and course experience, I would never have found where my passion and talents lie, and I wouldn’t have visited so many extraordinary places around the globe. I have a deep-running passion for TEFL teaching, and throughout the past 7 years, my wanderlust has thrust me into situations beyond my imagination.

I didn’t just make the choice to have a distinctive life by becoming an English Teacher, but also made a choice to aim to have a remarkable day, every single day. For all of my adult life, I have been an adventure chaser. Deciding on the spur of the moment that my feet are itching for new experiences, unknown lands, new discoveries and awe-inspiring visions.  Becoming a TEFL teacher has opened doors I never expected and from here, the only way is… more teaching!

Make sure you check out Billie’s website, which is full of great TEFL information and travel tips! You can also follow Billie on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook