Teaching English in Florence & Rome, Italy - Q&A with Laura Tressel

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What is your citizenship?
United States

What city and state are you from?
Concord, California, USA

How old are you?

What is your education level and background?
Bachelor's Degree.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
I studied abroad on Florence and Rome, Italy, and have been to Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I loved being in a different country and I felt that I would gain so much from spending more time with people outside my own nationality.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
One concern was about finding work, because Italy is a very competitive EFL country. I was also worried about making sure I had all the right documents to stay there, but in the end it all worked out.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My parents were a little hesitant, because they thought I should work for a while first (I moved right after graduation), and save up before going. Now It's been 3 years, and they are happy that I've made a career for myself. And of course, my friends were jealous...I was going to live in Italy!

Teach English in Italy

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I looked at different job possibilities for Americans in Italy, and decided that teaching English was the best, and would give me good, transferable skills. I chose to do my course online with ITA, because it gave me flexibility to work during the day, and do my course at night. I also had a look of guidance from an ITA representative, who was there to answer my questions and make me feel completely at ease.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
I took the Online TEFL class.

How did you like the course?
The tasks were very hands on, and really made me get into the mindset of an English teacher, and the instructors, even though we never met face-to-face, made themselves available and were always there if I had questions. My favorite part of the course was the practicum. I assisted an ESL teacher at a local adult night school, and I realized then that I loved teaching adults. Now, I've been working with adults only for 2.5 years.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
One thing that TEFL training gave me, that I still use today, is the ability to define my students' learning types, and adjust my lessons to fit their needs.

How long have you been in Italy and how long do you plan to stay?
I moved to Italy in 2016 and have been here now for three years. I didn't come here with a set amount of time in mind, and so far I'm loving it, so I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon!

Why did you decide to teach English in this location?
I fell in love with the culture and the people in Italy. I love that the working environment is so much less competitive that in the US, and people really focus on living their lives outside of work, and there is a real focus on enjoying things like food, nature, and the company of your friends and family.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
I'm working for The Language Grid, a company that focuses on business English. 

During which months does your school typically hire?
They only hire based on need.

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
No, since I've been working in Italy for 3 years, this is not my first job. (in Italy, it is pretty hard to secure a job before moving)

How did you interview for this position?

What kind of Visa did you enter on?
I entered Italy on a student visa, and then converted it to a work visa, which I have now.

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I found an Italian language school in Florence where I enrolled in a year long 20-hour-a-week course. I was then able to apply for a study visa, which I did in California. When I got to Italy, I found a job that allowed me to change my study permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay) to a work one, and I did the conversion while in Italy.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's Degree, TEFL Certification, and you must be a Native English Speaker.

What is the best way to apply?
Online here

TEFL Italy

Tell us about your English teaching job!
At The Language Grid, a full-time teacher works 38 hours, from 9am-6pm 4 days a week, with the option to start 2 hours later or finish 2 hours earlier once a week. Pay depends on your role within the company, but as a trainer, your starting salary would be around 1,500 euros (~ $1,660 USD) a month, which is plenty to live on and save around 500 and month (depending on your rent and how often you go out to eat).

The trainers at TLG work both in the clients' offices and at home, doing online video lessons. The clients are all working professionals, and the material, which is pre-planned, focuses on using English appropriately in an international business context.

We get 25 days of paid holiday, plus paid maternity and marriage leave, and the company has a bonus scheme in place. It's an innovative, exciting company to work for, especially if someone wants to work with adults, and have opportunities for personal growth within an English teaching company.

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...  
A lot of aspects related to life outside work in Italy depend on how badly you want to meet others, either Italian or expats. There are plenty of expats in Rome and Florence, and if you aren't able to make friends at work, you can find lots of expat groups to join online and in person. Befriending Italians might be a little trickier, but it helps if you speak the language and if you know someone - like a roommate or Italian from work - who can introduce you to other people.

When it comes to food, I could write a novel! Obviously Italian food is famous worldwide, and you will have so many chances to go out to eat and try the famous dishes of each city and region. Food is a lot cheaper in Italy that the States, as long as you avoid touristy restaurants.

Trains are also pretty cheap, and well-connected, which makes taking a day or weekend trip to another region easy. So far I've visited Tuscany, Lazio, Trentino Alto-Adige, Puglia, Campania, Veneto, Liguria and Umbria.

What are your monthly expenses?
Rent and utilities - $650 ($1300 split 2-ways)
Food and going out - $300. This includes groceries and eating out/going for drinks. It could be a lot less than this, and it depends on the season.
Transportation - $38 for monthly metro card. Plus ~$60 for a weekend train trip.
Phone - $15 a month.

In general, I probably spend around $800-950 a month when I'm not trying to save. If I'm saving, I could spend closer to $750-800.

How did you find somewhere to live?
I live in an apartment in the center of Rome with my fiance. We were lucky to find the apartment through a Facebook group, and it is a rare find with a dishwasher and washer/dryer. Most apartments in Rome are pretty old and you'll most likely be without a dryer and possible a dishwasher. But washing dishes by hand builds character, and it's all worth it if you're near a metro line and can get to the best parts of the city in just 20 min!

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How would you describe your standard of living?
I think that you can have a high standard of living in Italy if you find a decent apartment, and if your neighborhood has lots of shops, bars, and restaurants as well as public transportation. You may have to work harder to find a job with a high paying salary, or pad your income with private lessons, but since food is so much cheaper, it evens out. I would say that I am usually very happy living here, and only get frustrated when dealing with bureaucratic things like visa renewal. Luckily that's only once a year!

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
You could live comfortably on $1300-1500. If you earn around $1000, you'll be fine, you will probably just need to look for a cheaper apartment or one with more roommates.

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Firstly, make sure you do research into the country, try to reach out to other expats living there, and get a feel for it. Make sure it's a place you could see yourself being happy in. Italy is a great place to teach, especially if you find the right company, but it can also be difficult at times, especially if you don't speak Italian. I always suggest making a list of personal pros and cons before making any big decision, and that's what I did before moving here.


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