Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

Q and A with Ashley (Italy)

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Ashley, I am 28 years old and I am American/ Hispanic.

What is your education level and background?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

Have you traveled abroad previously, and if so where?
I love traveling! Prior to beginning my journey in Italy, I had traveled to Colombia, Costa Rica, and London.

What motivated you to teach abroad?
Meeting like-minded people was a big factor in my decision to move abroad.
I was also feeling very comfortable in my previous job as a teacher at a private elementary school. I had worked at the same school for 8 years and needed a new challenge and change of scenery so I thought, “What better way to shake things up than to move to a new country!”

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you
succeeded?
Moving abroad was exactly the challenge I wanted and needed and I think that I have grown and expanded in so many ways. I really wanted to meet people who also have a passion for traveling, learning outside of their comfort zone, and teaching. I have definitely accomplished that! In my first month abroad I became very close to my fellow TEFL peers and many of us still keep in touch even though we went our separate ways! It is nice to have a community to share this experience with. I have also met many expats with many of the same passions! There are so many awesome people in this world and I’m glad to have the opportunity to call some of them my friends!

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I applied on my own— solo travel! Again, I was seeking a challenge!

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
I knew someone who had taught abroad all over the world “ages ago”. They never talked much about their experience but I was always intrigued.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
One of my biggest fears when I first moved to Italy was the language barrier! To overcome that fear, I started learning the language right away. I practiced before I left the states using a podcast. I have found, however, that I enjoy the immersive approach to learning Italian (aka I throw myself into conversations in order to learn). It also helps that I live with an Italian family who teach me new words and phrases every day! It has taken a lot of training my ear to the new language and letting go of the fear of making mistakes!

Now, I even take dance classes that are instructed in Italian! If that’s not your style, though Italian languages are readily available at language centers in the city. In my TEFL course we were fortunate enough to have a weekly Italian course which helped significantly in the beginning!

Also, I have been known to be quite a shy person at first but having no choice but to speak to people and ask questions (and in a different language!) has really changed that! I feel I am very comfortable with new people now and that is a huge achievement for me.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
I was sitting at a cafe one day thinking about what step I wanted to take next with my career and teaching abroad popped up in a random Google search. I felt my heart skip a beat and I followed that feeling. TEFL Heaven had wonderful reviews so I stuck with them and it was one of the best decisions Ive made!

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
I know many people do the TEFL course on-line but I don’t think anything compares to the face-to-face program! I really prefer to have the personal interaction and ability to ask direct questions with a person in front of me and peers around me.

Which TEFL program did you do?
I took the TEFL course in Italy.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
My teachers!! They were brilliant, professional, and always so willing to answer questions and help out anytime.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
Very. The TEFL program really gives you plenty of hands on experience and made me feel ready and confident to teach as soon as the program ended.

How did you secure your English teaching job?
I teach on-line through a company VIPKID. VIPKID is based in Beijing, China. I teach one-on-one classes to young Chinese students (ages range from 5 years old- 12 years old) through the VIPKID’s on-line portal.

To get this job I just needed a Bachelor’s degree (any subject) and a TEFL certificate! There is an on-line interview through Skype or a recorded teaching demo. The interviewing process only took me about 1.5 weeks and I was fully booked the week after I got the job.

What did a typical working week look like for you?
Since I work on-line, my hours are very flexible but I work a minimum of 35 hours a week. I can choose when to take time off. When I’m not working I am exploring or hanging out with friends.

What age group or range did you teach?
I teach elementary age kids so they are usually between 5-12 years old.

What did you most enjoy about teaching your students?
I love my students! When I first secured this job I was nervous about not being able to build a connection with them like I would in a face-to-face class but I actually have so many students who are regulars and have been able to get to know them and their unique personalities. Seeing my regulars and meeting new students makes me so happy!

COUNTRY INSIGHT

What were your monthly expenses?

Rent: Rent can typically cost anywhere between 715€ and 1,300€ ($800 and $1,500 USD) depending on the area. I’d advise splitting rent with a roommate or two as it greatly helps with the expenses. I paid for housing for the first month of TEFL training through the TEFL program ($845 USD with a $100 deposit which was returned to me as soon as the month ended). My apartment was in a two bedroom apartment which I
shared with another TEFL student in the very heart of Florence and only a 4 minute walk to the TEFL training center each morning! AMAZING.

Currently, I do not pay rent! I live with a host family and their 11 year old daughter. I tutor her in English 4 nights a week in exchange for living with the family. I moved in around October 2018 when my TEFL course ended.

Food: 90€ ($100 USD) depending on if you eat out a lot of cook your own meals

Other bills: 90€ ($100 USD)

Transportation: I walk pretty much everywhere! Taking a bus or train is very cheap too!

Phone: 30€ ($35 USD) a month

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

Yes!

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and
would you recommend teaching English in Italy?
Do it! Push your limits and jump out of your comfort zone! I was pretty nervous before I left but the thing I kept repeating to myself was, “If I don’t like living abroad I can always return home and at the very least I can say I tried!” I’m so glad I did.

Go go go!!

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