Interview with Bella Foster, Prague Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Bella Foster I am 22 years old (23 next week!) and I’m from Brisbane, Australia.

What is your education level and background?

After school I graduated a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Sociology, Media and Music at the University of Queensland. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do career-wise straight out of school so a Bachelor of Arts was a great choice as I was able to really experience a number of subjects and areas.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I have done some travelling with family and friends over the past few years- Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan various trips around Australia. Not to mention before settling in Prague I travelled for about a month and a half around Europe for the summer with six school friends! We met in London then travelled to Belgium, Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, and through Greece for around a fortnight before heading back to London for a week then finally settling in Prague. Safe to say it was a crazy summer!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I was motivated to teach abroad as I had been wanting to travel to Europe but was too close to the end of my degree to apply for any kind of exchanges through universities so I was open to any and all options. I saw a TEFL heaven article on my university's weekly newsletter and was instantly inspired and sent the initial application that same night. The challenge and the opportunity to earn money whilst also adventuring around Europe was motivation enough to apply.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

For myself, I wanted to not only survive the course, haha, but also push myself to really achieve and excel. Having no prior teaching experience this may have seemed a little ambitious but after a month of holidaying I was ready to settle down and get into a routine again. We were blessed with a great group and some incredible trainers so my four weeks of the course were indeed a great success! I made it through the course and ended on a ‘good pass’, which was a great achievement for me.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied with a friend from home who was in almost an identical position to me, that being a little bored of our daily routines in our hometown. We have been close since school but the best thing about our relationship is that we’re also both extremely independent and interpersonal. So, while it was great to have her support and companionship, we were still able to advance in the course and make great friends as individuals along the way.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

I had seen a few friends on social media who had travelled abroad on exchanges and working and spoke with them all for advice. A few had completed TEFL courses straight out of school and travelled around Asia and really enjoyed the experience and culture. Hearing great stories of their travels and seeing amazing pictures probably cemented the idea of teaching abroad in my mind before I seriously considered it for myself years later. Many friends completed exchanges or just live and work abroad too and constantly seeing their updates on Facebook and Instagram really inspired me to take a chance and make an adventure of my own.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

Before arriving in Prague and even in Europe I did hold a few concerns for what the following months would hold. I was nervous about the course itself as I had limited knowledge or expectation about what was going to be required of me. With no prior teaching experience, I was also praying I would enjoy and understand the content without too much difficulty. Then there was of course the reservations around moving to quite a large foreign city on the other side of the world when I had never lived away from home. While at times this was difficult as I am close with my family and friends from home, the excitement and fun I’ve had over the past 2 months living here has firmly established that I made the right decision. There was also inevitable worry about finances as the first month of training is full-time so it’s difficult, although not impossible, to be earning an income during this time. Plus the visa situation is rarely easy or straightforward and I am still struggling to fully secure mine but remember that if you’re prepared and have some savings ready before your trip you should definitely be comfortable, and there’s always another option so don’t give up.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

As mentioned previously I was lucky enough to see TEFL Heaven on a weekly email from my university but I knew of it from friends who completed the course a couple of years prior. Compared to something like an exchange a TEFL course through TEFL Heaven gives you the opportunity for all the adventure of travelling abroad with the added incentive of gaining a real qualification, experience and income for something as diverse as English teaching. Living and working abroad really offers opportunities and experiences you can’t get anywhere else.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

For me, the onsite TEFL course offered a personal element and environment that wouldn’t have been possible online or through any other platform. It was an intense four weeks but the support of a great group of people, daily lessons and content with structure and social elements meant a great and well-rounded experience and achievement second to none.

Which TEFL program did you do?

I completed the TEFL Prague program in August 2017.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

I enjoyed many things about the course, unequivocally the good friends and hilarious moments made during the initial month of the course. By the end of the first day it felt as though we had all known each other for years and I was so excited about the month to come. Everyday meant various new antics and despite the age difference and various nationalities in the room we all felt as though we’d made some lifelong friends. Another element I must mention is the incredible trainers who guided us through the course daily. Who knew a 3-hour grammar session could be such fun! With each hilarious, experienced and wise trainer came new content and exciting activities to prepare us for the world of teaching ESL. Methodology, Lesson Planning, Language Awareness, Teaching skills and Teaching Practice were our completed modules executed with expertise.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

At the completion of the course I was extremely prepared for a real-life teaching position after hours of observed practice and incredible feedback and growth over the month. I was hyperaware of what was expected of me and my responsibilities as an English teacher. The completion of a detailed learner profile during the course prepared each and every one of us to not only teach but to assess language level and needs as well as a student wants and motivations as an English learner. This element of the course was a surprise for me and something I wasn’t expecting but now having finished the course and reflecting on it as a whole this assignment was an intrinsic building block for our growth into great English teachers.

How long have you been teaching in Prague and how long do you plan to stay?

I have been in Prague, Czech Republic for just over 2 months now and loving every moment. I plan to stay until at least February next year (another 5 months) before the new university year starts again in Australia and I must return. Alas, this will be a very sad time for me and I’m exploring possible avenues to extend my travels.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I secured my teaching job upon completion of my TEFL course as I was lucky enough to be offered a position with the training school where I had completed the course.

What does a typical working week look like for you?

A typical working week for me is around 18 hours Mon-Thurs with two or three lessons a day. Some lessons are shorter at 45mins – 90mis and then there are the hilarious and fun 3 hour courses for post-secondary students and I have two of these a week.

What age group or range to you teach?

The age range of my students is made up of various language levels and class types ranging from hilarious teenagers (14/15yos) preparing for a Cambridge English Exam to lovely workers learning Business English. In between these two I have the 19-year-old post-secondary students who have just finished high-school. I really enjoy this age group as they are the closest to my own and we have made real connections and advanced together as class week-by-week.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

What I have enjoyed most about teaching my students has been the great relationships and achievements that have manifested over just the short month I’ve been working. In most cases the students genuinely want to be there and have a real drive to learn English and make progress in themselves. This distinction means the students enjoy getting involved and I enjoy holding the lessons and making them fun!

How did you get your work visa?

My work visa has been a process I’ve taken up through the recommended visa company. Whilst it is still in its processing this is only because the procedure for an Australian is a little more tedious. I needed a valid police check from the Australian Federal Police and a few other various documents which have proven a little more time consuming than originally thought. As long as you’re prepared and aware of the process for your nationality you should be fine!

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?

We were lucky enough to find somewhere to live through an Erasmus student accommodation site online. It’s super modern and central and although it’s not the largest apartment our bedrooms are generous and we all have comfortable beds which was the biggest thing for me, haha! There were 5 of us from the course who got along well and decided to move in together so once this was arranged we were all super excited! The past month has been incredible and we all take turns cooking dinners and cleaning and drinking together.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

Prague is incredible!!!!!!! And possibly the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It is extremely full of life and there is constantly something to do and so much culture to explore. The history is astonishing and endlessly interesting and two months in we have barley scraped the surface of exploring the city. Food and drink is considerably cheaper than my home country and the rest of Europe which is a massive plus. Whilst fast food is a little expensive the option of traditional meals for a fraction of the price is too good to turn down- and it’s delicious! I don’t like beer unfortunately but all my friends have been enjoying the “beer-cheaper-than-water” lifestyle. The nightlife is incredible and so varied so no matter what you’re into you can find it here, any night of the week! Being quite a small country surrounded by other incredible countries it is extremely easy and quick to travel around and see all the sights within a few hours.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: 12,000 czks = $170 aud p/w (which is a little steep but I’m extremely central)

Food: 2,500 czks = $150 aud

Other bills: all utilities are included in the rent!

Social life: 2,500 czks = $150 aud

Transportation: I have a 3month transportation ticket which cost around 2000 czks = $120 aud

Phone: And my phone bill is 650czks p/m = $37 p/m

Other costs: I don’t have many other costs – but the second-hand shopping is amazing and I’ve spent some money there but it’s very affordable! Travelling would be an added expense but it is very affordable and just up to the individual. Buses and trains are a really affordable option and super viable for Prague as you’re so central.

Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

I am definitely living comfortably on my monthly salary!

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Prague?

I definitely recommend looking into teaching abroad especially in Prague. If you want a challenge and some amazing experiences start saving up some cash and take a look at the website and all the options available to you- because there are many! Prague is super central and cheap for living not to mention drop dead gorgeous. If you’re ready for an adventure and a new and exciting living/ working lifestyle, take the leap!

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