TEFL and teaching English abroad (during COVID-19)

My name is Catherine and I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Worcester. I’ve just recently graduated, and decided to make a questionable decision by moving to Sicily whilst in a global pandemic. Originally, I had planned to go to the University of Warwick and pursue a Writing MA. However, after the stresses of my final year as an undergrad working on my dissertation, I needed a break from academia.

So, I decided to do an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). The TEFL was challenging, albeit fun. It required me to analyse the complexity of language and re-evaluate English as a whole. I especially enjoyed learning about intonation, diphthongs, pronunciation and how it varies from language to language. Italian students, for example, have difficulty making the infamous ‘th’ sound, whereas native English speakers struggle grammatically with masculine and feminine nouns.

However, the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is what I’d recommend, as it’s more highly sought after by employers. Although this is more expensive than an online qualification, it is run by Cambridge and opens more doors in the field. I was very lucky in the regards that I already had a friend at my current place of work, and it was through her recommendation I landed the job.

This is why networking is incredibly important! Through having my degree and establishing strong links with professionals, I was able to chance a unique opportunity. So far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching English, seeing the students gain a grasp over our language is wonderful to watch. I’m also learning too! Through them I’m earning insights into communication and linguistics.

This is a life changing experience, not only for the students, but for me as well. All of this, from the TEFL to sporadically uprooting and moving, has happened ridiculously quickly. Naturally I miss home, but, I do not regret taking the plunge for one second. Sicily is beautiful and waking up to see Mount Etna everyday reminds me why I’m here. Going to Italy meant I was exposed to a rich pool of culture that I’d only ever read about back in England.

When I was deliberating between a masters and this job, a friend said to me: “Your masters will wait, you can do that at any age. But to experience life so freely? That’s a gift for the young.” If it weren’t for those words, I doubt I would have come here. Perhaps moving during COVID-19 wasn’t my greatest idea, but in a way, it was. Sicily is usually filled with tourists, life bursting from the seams. But, with travel restrictions, I have been able to experience local life, here in Acireale. I’ve already grown so much, despite only being here a short time. From swimming in the Mediterranean, to paying more for digestive biscuits than wine, to butchering Italian, I’ve already made so many memories, which I know will stick with me for a lifetime.

Words and pictures by Catherine Darwen @cathtails

You can study and be awarded your TEFL and CELTA qualifications through the University of Worcester. More information HERE

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