As the first month of 2017 comes to a close, I have found myself continually reflecting on where I was this time last year in 2016. I also have found myself extremely proud of all I accomplished last year and pondering all I hope to accomplish this year.
One thing that I find myself talking with a lot of other TEFL teachers about is how we are constantly told how “lucky we are” to be able to do what we do. While I absolutely do not deny that I am very privileged to be in a position where I could move to Europe to teach English, I also believe that this is very much possible for anyone who has this dream too.
In this blog post on my personal reflection on 2016, I would also like to outline my path to teaching English abroad, and show others that they can also live and teach English abroad.
While I had initially researched International TEFL Academy (ITA) and even was in contact with them during my senior year of college, January of last year was when I had my first real talk with an advisor from ITA. I spoke with Michael Kunik about my dreams of traveling and working in a job where I felt like could make a difference. I received incredibly helpful advice from him and ITA.
Before my follow-up call with Michael the next week, I had already enrolled in my online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course.
Just around Valentine’s day last year I began my online TEFL course through International TEFL Academy (click here to see current tuition prices and dates). My instructor, Gosia Mroz, was amazing. She was always there for any questions I had and always provided me with helpful feedback on my coursework. I also began researching what countries most interested me for teaching English, and with the help of country profiles from ITA as well as from the Student Affairs Department I became closer to making my decision for Hungary.
After researching which countries most interested me for teaching English abroad, I decided on Hungary. With the option of applying for the Central European Teaching Program (CETP) and teaching in a country less traveled (see “Why You Should Consider Teaching English Abroad in a Less Traveled Country” from GoAbroad.com), Hungary seemed like the perfect fit for me. In March I sent in my application to CETP and heard back from them mid March (on my 23rd birthday!) about my options for teaching English in Hungary. After a Skype session with the program director, we decided that Kecskemét, Hungary would be the best fit for me.
With my online TEFL course well underway it was time for me to begin my practicum. ITA requires 20 hours of practicum in order to receive your TEFL certification, as well as 20 hours were required by CETP. ITA provided a list of schools in my area (Dallas) that alumni had worked with in the past and I began my practicum training at North Dallas Shared Ministries and Excel English Institute.
Through observation, tutoring, and student teaching I completed my practicum required for my TEFL certificate and for my placement through CETP. Additionally, my online course ended but I decided to participate in the optional (free!) extension for teaching young learners and business English.
Everything was complete with my TEFL certification and I began gathering my remaining paperwork for CETP while also preparing for my big move abroad.
In mid-July I officially left the USA for a month long vacation in Europe before heading to Hungary. I spend the last couple of weeks of July and first few weeks of August in beautiful western Greece!
I arrived in Budapest on August 22nd for CETP’s orientation. A week long experience of learning Hungarian, teaching methods used in Hungary, Hungarian history, and more. Most of all, orientation consisted of meeting like-minded teachers excited for their year of teaching English in Hungary! After orientation I made my official move to my new home in Kecskemét.
September 1st marked the first day of school. I was very nervous but also very excited about teaching but more than anything proud of how far I had come.
September also proved to be a very exciting travel month for me! With most of my weekends spent in Budapest, I got to explore a lot of Hungary’s capital. I also spent a weekend in Etyek at their autumn picnic festival. My big international trip in September was to Oktoberfest in Germany! I had such a fun experience at Oktoberfest and also exploring Munich.
Although I had a month of teaching under my belt, there was so much still to learn! I loved going to school everyday to work with my students on improving their English skills. Additionally, as they learned more English, I learned more about each class and what works well for some classes and what might not work as well.
October traveling began with a weekend trip to the famous red wine region of Hungary, Eger. The end of October began our fall break from school and we traveled to Prague, one of the most beautiful cities I had ever experienced.
November began with fall break, I was still in Prague but excited to get back to my students. I loved being able to share some of my American culture with them, especially when I taught my kids about American Thanksgiving!
Later in November I was able to visit the quaint town of Szentendre, just outside of Budapest. Known as the “town of artists”, this little community was perfect for an afternoon away from the big city.
The excitement of Christmas was contagious in all my classes, especially since Kecskemét’s own Christmas market was just outside of the school! Most of our lessons included discussions about Christmas, which made the month of December especially fun!
In the beginning of December I was able to take a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia (my 10th country to have visited!) which was absolutely beautiful. The weekend before my return to the states I visited Szeged, Hungary, Hungary’s 4th largest city. Known for its beauty and universities, Szeged was a great trip to end 2016.
In just one year I went from just beginning the process of getting my TEFL certificate to a full-fledged high school English teacher in Europe. YOU CAN DO IT TOO! I promise. Cheers to 2017 and all the adventures it holds for teachers and travelers alike.
Article by Megan K. Lethbridge
January 31, 2017