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Making The Most of My Time Teaching English in Prague During COVID-19
Written by: Kristen Doberer
Last Updated: December 22, 2020
My expat journey began in September 2019 when I flew to Florence, Italy for my ITA in-person TEFL course. My month in Florence was jam-packed with savoring Italian food, studying grammar, exploring the Medici's art collection, meeting new friends from all over the world, and sipping Chianti along the Arno River. After a short visit to Rome, I flew to Prague and began the next phase of my TEFL experience. I chose Prague for many of the reasons most people do- living in central Europe allows for easy travel, the cost of living is low, Prague is a lesser-travelled city, and the history and culture of this city is unparalleled. The first month or so of any expat experience is tough- finding a job, a flat, making friends, learning how to use the public transport and essential phrases in the language. I finally felt I was getting out of this beginning phase just after getting back to Prague after visiting home for Christmas. So far I've been able to explore a few towns in Czech Republic, Germany, and Spain. I was gearing up for some bigger trips in March and April to Budapest, Hungary, Salzburg, Austria, and Morocco when major restrictions began.
The last week in February was a ski holiday for schools in Prague 6. I went on a trip to visit a friend from my TEFL course who lived and taught English in Madrid, not realizing it would be my last traveling adventure for the unforeseeable future. Most people were not very worried about an outbreak. Many Czech families went ahead with their ski holidays to Austria and northern Italy, their version of a “spring break”. Within two weeks, the Czech Republic government declared a state of emergency over the Coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately, the Czech government was swift with restrictions and by March 15th a “quarantine” was issued. I use quotation marks because the quarantine is not as restrictive as those in China and Italy, as we are allowed to go in parks and nature for our health, and out for necessary travel. These strict measures felt excessive at first, but as the days went on, the effects of these measures became clear while surrounding countries without these measures continued to escalate. With this quick reaction, the number of cases and deaths related to the coronavirus is significantly lower than other European countries. In fact, the Czech Republic has become a model for other countries in handling the pandemic. The government declared that anyone on my type of visa, nicknamed the Zivno visa, does not have to pay health insurance or social security payments through the summer months (saving me about $190 per month).
Although I did consider going back to the US, I decided to stay in Prague. Part of me was afraid that I would unknowingly bring the virus back to my hometown, or be part of spreading it in another way through my traveling. I also saw that as the Czech government was quick to respond, I would be better off staying put. Thankfully, I have been able to transition all but two of my classes and lessons online. Although video and Google classroom lessons are a lot of work to organize and implement, I'm glad I've been able to carry on financially almost like normal. I had been teaching with VIPKID for a couple months prior to the lockdown and even experienced a spike in bookings which I assume is related to Chinese students still being in quarantine at the time. I have great health insurance, grocery stores have continually been stocked, and the community has come together to get by. Many people have volunteered to make cloth face masks and there's no feeling of panic. The Czech government has communicated very well and it seems clear to me a plan of action is in place.
Moving to another country can get lonely, so in some ways I was better prepared mentally to stay home than friends and family back home. Fortunately, I've been able to meet a couple friends in parks to get out in nature for an afternoon once in a while. Under the restrictions here, you can be out in parks as long as you wear a mask and stay in groups of two or less (unless you are a family living together). My personal goal is to only leave my flat once every three days. Other than normal lesson planning and teaching, I have been enjoying cooking new recipes, getting back into yoga (found an app called Down Dog which is amazing!), at-home spa treatments, and finding new Netflix shows (Ru Paul's Drag Race is on Netflix here!).
There is no word yet on when restrictions will start being lifted, but my friends and I have been keeping track of the numbers slowly lowering and have hope for our futures in Prague. I have been dreaming of teaching abroad for years now and it is disappointing to not be able to live that dream at the moment. However, it is imperative to remember the positive things. I've accomplished so much in this time and I'm proud of how much I've persevered and learned in my six months in Europe. This experience has been the most challenging yet thrilling opportunity of my life thus far. I'm optimistic for the future and have faith I'll get to experience a Prague beer garden in the summertime very soon!
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me on Instagram (@kristendoberer) and I'll gladly give advice where I can! I would definitely encourage anyone who thinks teaching abroad is something they want to do. Take the plunge and you won't regret it! Stay healthy!
For more comprehensive information regarding your TEFL options during COVID-19, please read Coronavirus FAQs: TEFL & Teaching English Abroad or Online - What Are My Options?
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Kristen is originally from Kansas, USA and has been living in Europe for six months. She was teaching elementary in the US after college when she decided to make the leap into teaching English abroad. She took her TEFL course in Florence, Italy and is currently teaching English in a small language school for school-aged kids in Prague, Czech Republic. She has enjoyed traveling in Europe and learning about the history and culture of the Czech Republic and plans to continue living in Europe through the current health crisis.
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