TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I was vaguely interested in the possibility of teaching English abroad while studying for my undergrad degree in English. After I graduated college in December 2012, I had a hard time finding gainful employment for a few months. My then-girlfriend was planning on studying abroad in Spain in the Fall of 2013, so I figured then was as good a time as any to take the leap.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was worried about getting homesick; I felt bad leaving my cat, and I didn't really know the steps I'd have to take to get a job abroad (or which TEFL/ESL certification I should pursue).
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends were excited for me, and my mom was just happy I was going to be making some money!
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I had a limited window of time before I was planning on being in Europe, so I had to find something I could complete quickly. It was very difficult assessing the various programs and certifications out there, especially which ones were internationally respected. I ended up choosing ITA because the program worked best with my schedule and location (since I was able to complete it 100% online).
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I was actually surprised by how much I was able to learn in the online course. I had taken online courses in college and knew they largely depend on self-discipline, since there's no one nearby to hold you accountable. My instructors were friendly, responsive to my questions and needs, and good at explaining requirements. I benefited the most from self-study sessions, homework, and reviewing course materials on my own time.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I am no longer teaching abroad, but if I hadn't pursued training beforehand, I would have felt completely unprepared for the needs of the classroom. I still struggled quite a bit in the early stages -- there is truly no substitute for actual classroom experience -- but ITA equipped me with some tools to fall back on when I was uncertain.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Portugal in the city of Aveiro. Of all the schools I contacted, I felt most welcome and appreciated in Aveiro. The director of the school invited me to meet in person, bought me lunch, and talked to me informally, like a friend. Many of my other interviews were via Skype and felt much more clinical. The people in Portugal were just wonderful to be around.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I completed one semester of teaching in Aveiro, Portugal. I was there for just over 3 months. Unfortunately, in the haste of my decision-making leading up to traveling to Europe, I neglected to properly secure a work visa. I had naively hoped I could sort it out after finding employment, but I was unable to do so. I eventually was forced to leave because my tourist visa had expired. If there's anything I would stress to hopeful teachers, it would be this: Secure employment and a visa before leaving the U.S. Don't rush!
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I worked for the Royal School of Languages
During which months does your school typically hire?
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I entered Portugal on a tourist visa and was unable to gain sponsorship for a work visa, despite the best efforts of the Royal School of Languages.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Please include any application resources (website, email, etc.) or other information here:
Website contact form: http://www.royalschool.pt/en/contacts/
RSL Aveiro email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/royalschooloflanguages/
Tell us about your English teaching job!
HOURS: I spent about 8 hours each week in the classroom and significantly more time preparing, practicing, etc. outside the classroom. In total, I spent an average of 25 hours per week working. The school was very accommodating. They allowed me to determine my schedule before the semester began.
SALARY: I was paid €250 per month. It was enough to pay for my basic needs (housing, food, etc.), with a little leftover for luxuries like travel, dining out, and regional travel.
SCHOOL: The Royal School of Languages ran the gamut of English education. I spent most of my time at the main school in Aveiro, teaching students ranging in age from 8-16 years old. The school also had a smaller location in Guarda, PT, where I spent evenings for about a month, teaching an intensive corporate course to factory workers who were mostly in their 30s or 40s.
VACATION: I can't speak to vacation time because I was only there for one semester, but the school was very accommodating of my schedule preferences.
OTHER: The Royal School of Languages was a wonderful place to work. I was set up with a mentor (a more experienced teacher) and a cell phone pre-loaded with school contacts. They threw me in the deep end and expected me to swim, which was a little intimidating at first, but I ended up rising to the challenge. It resulted in much greater confidence in my teaching skills. My only regret is that I had to leave, which was completely my own fault.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I got extremely lucky with housing. I was staying in the Aveiro Rossio Hostel while looking for work, and I became pretty well acquainted with one of the staff members there. When I told him I got the job and was looking for longer-term housing, he went above and beyond on my behalf. He and his roommates, after getting permission from their landlord, converted their apartment's living room into a bedroom for me. The rent was cheap, and I had three awesome roommates who opened up their lives to me. I saw their home towns, met their families, and shared my free time with them. When I first thought about teaching abroad, Portugal wasn't even in the top 10 countries where I wanted to teach. Now I can't recommend it enough. The people were some of the kindest I've ever met.
On a scale of 1 - 10 please rate your experience with this school.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
CULTURE: Portugal is kind of a sleepy country during the day. It's very laid back, low pretense, and friendly. Aveiro is a coastal college town with incredible beaches, so there's a bit of a beach bum culture there as well. Most of the young people and service industry workers I encountered spoke enough English for me to get around.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The public transportation is excellent. It's quite easy to get around larger cities (Porto and Lisbon) by bus, and there are trains running throughout the country for intercity travel.
NIGHT LIFE: The night life is wonderful. Lisbon is like any other major city in that regard -- there are clubs, bars, restaurants, and a ton of activity after dark. Aveiro is similarly lively at night, which was initially surprising. It's a college town and a surprisingly popular tourist destination, so there are a lot of young people and tourists, and amenities to serve them. My favorite thing is that there are no open container laws in Portugal, so rather than an American-style "bar culture," it's far more common for people to take their drinks out into the street and mingle. It makes every night feel like a block party.
SOCIAL ACTIVITIES: For social activities, you can drop into any coffee shop at any time of day and find people hanging out, talking to each other, watching soccer, or working on their laptops. Coffee shops are definitely the main social hubs. In Aveiro, during the warmer months, the place to be is the beach!
FOOD: Aside from the exceptional patisseries, I wouldn't recommend dining out in Portugal. Instead, it's better to cook at home with local friends and their families. The wine is phenomenally good and inexpensive.
EXPATS: I have met one other American in Portugal, and she was just passing through. There's not much of an expat presence, in my experience.
DATING SCENE: I've never attempted dating in Portugal, but there's a very flirtatious vibe in the clubs, bars, etc.
TRAVEL: It's very easy to travel from Portugal to other parts of Europe. Flights via RyanAir and similar companies are shockingly cheap (compared to what Americans are used to paying), and it's easy to get to neighboring countries by train. Portugal has some beautiful national parks, mountains, and beaches. Lagos is a very popular destination where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent/utilities: €80/mo ($91.50 USD)
Food: €60/mo ($68 USD)
Social: €40/mo ($46 USD)
Transportation: €10/mo ($11 USD)
How would you describe your standard of living?
For someone just out of college, I was living well. The situation was very similar to college housing -- inexpensive, understated, humble.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
€600/mo ($685 USD) is enough to be fairly comfortable if you're willing to live with roommates.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Absolutely research visa requirements and be certain you can secure a visa before leaving the Unites States! I absolutely recommend teaching English in Portugal. It is a wonderful, under-appreciated country.