Guest poster Charlotte Jones taught English in England, and had the best 6 months of her life!
In search of a bit of a career break, some adventure and the chance to enjoy some out of character spontaneity, I decided to spend six months working, living and travelling in England. Some of my friends lovingly dubbed my decision to head to the UK on a whim a quarter-life-crisis. But we’ll ignore that and call it simply an adventure, which it certainly was!
I never experienced a gap year after college or time spent living or studying abroad. I had plenty of friends in college who studied abroad, so I decided that it was finally my turn to go for it! I looked into some teaching English overseas jobs dove in head first with a teaching job in England!
Why Teach Abroad in England?
England never screamed exotic beaches, tan lines or breathtaking scenery to me; in fact, it didn’t scream much at all. Rather, it was a feeble mumble of grey skies, rain and bad teeth. I may not have been proven totally incorrect, although orthodontia has come on a long way in recent years in the UK. The weather may not be perfect, but I did have six of the best months of my life living there!
I found an agency that placed native English speaker into schools, language centers and colleges to give conversation classes to students whose first language wasn’t English. [Editor's note: Typically, you must be from The UK, EU or a Commonwealth country to teach English in England] I have friends who had taught English abroad before and they all seemed to have the time of their lives, so when I decided to live and work abroad, teaching English seemed like a natural choice. I took a four-week intensive TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and, once qualified, I could start looking for work as an English teacher abroad.
Okay, but WHY England? I hear you ask. I knew I could have gone to virtually any country and found work as an English teacher (that’s the beauty of having a TEFL certificate in your back pocket!), but, not being able to speak another language, I was dubious about heading to a non-English speaking country. I know working and living in a foreign speaking country is a great way to learn a new language, so perhaps I should have been a bit more adventurous, but I figured, why go somewhere completely foreign when there is so much to explore and learn about just across the pond? It might be the coward’s way out to head to an English speaking country, but England is one of the most fascinating places I have ever been and I would urge you all not to overlook little old England just because it speaks the same language as we do.
What Does Teaching in England Involve?
My job was to work across several colleges and high schools with students whose first language wasn’t English. I had never taught English in my life, except for the practice sessions during my TEFL course, so to say that I was nervous on my first day would be the biggest understatement of the millennium. I was terrified. However, it did get better! After a while I became confident and really enjoyed the work. The vast majority of the young people I worked with were energetic, engaged, eager and exceptionally friendly! I was there mainly to provide support to their full-time English teachers, so I wasn’t expected to stand in front of a class of thirty and teach them alone, but rather work with small groups on conversation practice, vocabulary building and to help them with any little issues they had. The work was so rewarding, it’s difficult to put into words.
Spending Time Outside the Classroom
Outside of the classroom, I tried to make the most of my free time. Being based about 20 minutes by train outside of London and only working 25 hours per week, I had quite a few opportunities to keep myself entertained. It’s easy to visit the city for the day, but if you want to stay overnight, it’s easy to find a good deal for an overnight stay in a nice hotel in London. The school holidays (English students seem to enjoy many) also allowed me to travel slightly further afield, taking trips to Scotland, Wales and the North of England, a really beautiful part of the world.
So was it all worth it?
Was my time in England worth it? The upheaval? The culture shock? The six months spent out of the “real” world? Without a shadow of a doubt, yes! I had wanted to travel and do something different and I found a great way to do that by teaching English overseas. Sure, I could have gone backpacking in South America, trekking in East Asia or worked in a tequila bar in Mexico, but I wanted something different than the typical traveler experience. I gained firsthand knowledge of a different culture (yes, England’s culture is different from our own!), learned a lot about myself, and built up a whole host of new skills for my résumé. Plus I do a jolly good English accent now.
If you want more information about teaching English abroad, you can learn more from the International Tefl Academy.
By: Charlotte Jones
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