Small town Wisconsinites trend toward cozying up in our preferred regions and soaking in the Midwest nice. Travel, too, is relatively rare besides the typical American vacation breaks. Despite being raised on National Geographic and crazy for adventure, the snowy state has always had a reason to keep me near. That is, until 2017, when I decided I’d be moving to Prague.
The pre-Prague story:
I opted to attend college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Theoretically, I’d stick close to home during the collegiate initiation before fleeing U.S. soil for international adventures.
After graduation, I proudly talked my way into a position relevant to Anthropology (take that, Social Science haters). Working with the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program was a great way to interact with leaders in a variety of fields, while having the chance to show off my home state.
I fell in love with the Catholic Worker Movement and became a live-in volunteer at Casa Maria—an intentional community devoted to providing emergency housing for mothers and children. Yet, the world continued to knock as we provided hospitality for newly-arrived refugees and asylum-seekers (for whom English is a critical tool for navigating the challenges of transition).
The travel bug lived on…
In 2015 I ditched the salaried work to travel for 3 months through Southeast Asia. One thing stood out: pure tourism no longer appealed. Moving quickly from one city to the next, snapping pics of sites, and achieving minimal connection left me missing the familiarity and knowledge that comes with calling a place “home.”
Moving to Prague: The Decision
After living within proximity of a single city for 26 years, it became increasingly clear that it was time for a new hometown. New home requirements included four seasons, great possibility for travel, and work facilitating cultural connection. On days when I wasn’t trying to negotiate the messed-up world of welfare and “affordable” apartments, I’d dive deep into the internet. Scanning over Google maps, I hit upon the Czech Republic.
The Vltava! Fried cheese! Amazing public transportation! Dark humour and hiking trails throughout. Not to mention Prague is a reasonable bus ride away from many other cities. All that was missing was an excuse to get employment.
Maybe Teaching English Would be Cool!
Having worked with, for, and alongside so many individuals for whom English was an extraordinarily useful second language, I found myself looking at teaching professions in ways I hadn’t before considered. Especially since, the English language has long been a tool for cross-cultural communication, despite its colonial implications.
Besides, English language teachers report having a high job satisfaction rate and a TEFL certificate is usable throughout the globe. Who doesn’t want a little workplace happiness?
The Language House captured my attention with their intensive month-long training course for future teachers of English. In particular, I liked the idea of learning to teach Czech residents on location and to develop a better understanding of students’ cultural backgrounds.
I was nervous as all get-out about moving to Prague (as in lost 20lbs and stopped sleeping nervous). Scared about leaving behind the people and places that have been my home. I took the leap. Not knowing how successful I’d be, I hoped only to find enough freelance work for economic stability and maybe even the chance to barter lessons for home-cooked meals. Besides, if things didn’t work out after moving to Prague, with TEFL certificate in hand, I could try living and working in almost any country. Fail all that and I could just head back home…
One year after moving to Prague:
Well, here we are, nearing the one year anniversary of the big move! That course was tough and efficient. The trainers at The Language House really know how to produce their product (which is you, the teacher) and will cram your head full of teaching methodology in no time.
If you’re looking for a course that focuses on grammar, head elsewhere. However, you’ll get lots of teaching practice and nothing in the real world of TEFL Prague will be nearly as stressful. Plus, you’ll have continued access to the printers and textbooks at The Language House—crucial for freelance tutors. (If you go, mention Caitlin O’Brien as your reference!)
At the peak, I had 10-12 students with whom I’d meet once or t
wice a week for 60-minute private lessons. Other than one super sharp 10-year old, most of my students are adults with an advanced level of English ability. We focus on conversational English through reading articles that I select according to each student’s interests.
And the work…?
The gig is pretty sweet, won’t lie. We often end up discussing controversial subjects, such as welfare, discrimination against Roma, and medical marijuana. Sometimes, we practice idioms, collocations, or just see where the conversation takes us. You learn to hear grammar mistakes, dropped articles, or when a student misuses a word. Many lessons take place in coffee shops, though a number moved to the beautiful Prague parks when the weather got warmer.
Frankly, teaching English isn’t my passion. However, it does allow me to live outside the USA for a time and financially support the kind of personal development that I sought achieve outside certain Midwestern cultural values.
Was Moving to Prague “Worth it?”
Fortunately, each one of the students I’ve met continued to make class worthwhile with their great personalities and passion for learning. Had I never taught English, I wouldn’t have learned so much about the Czech Republic from such wonderful and insightful people.
Ultimately, I’m perfectly contented with my decision to fly off to the Czech Republic. Stay tuned for what happened after moving to Prague…
P.S. If you decide to sign up for either International TEFL Academy or The Language House, mention me, Caitlin O’Brien, as your referrer. Much appreciated!