An Australian in Italy: my first TEFL experience
When I thought of teaching English as a second language in Italy, I couldn’t help but picture sunny, blue skies, colossal pizzas, Aperol spritzers and the clear blue Adriatic coastline. I know there’s no perfect country, but there’s a reason why Italy is always a top holiday destination – why wouldn’t you want to live there if given the chance?
I’d been living and working in London for the past three years as a corporate finance lawyer, rarely seeing the light of day working well into the night most nights. I found no joy in what I was doing and I was looking for an escape, so I began brainstorming: how could I use my current skill-set to do something that made me happy? I’m not religious but I do believe in signs, and when I came across an advertisement for a TEFL 120-hour online course that week, I knew straight away that was my ticket out of London. I enrolled the next day and started the course.
Half way through, I began my job search; I knew that I wanted to be in Europe, but I had no particular destination in mind – just somewhere sunny. A few Google searches later I came across a website called OzItaly: a business connecting young Australians who want to teach and immerse themselves in Italian culture with Italian families who want to learn English. It sounded perfect. As a first timer, I didn’t want to take on a big class of young, screaming kids in a foreign country, so when I was offered to teach a family with two girls, aged 11 and 14, in the Prosecco hills I couldn’t say no.
The founder of OzItaly, Francesca Breda, is a teacher herself who spends her time between Australia and Italy. As the business manager, she personally selects and pairs Italian families with Australian tutors in the hope of providing each with a useful, memorable cultural exchange. I applied on her website and after a call with Francesca, she knew just the family for me – I was headed to the Veneto region in Italy, near the Prosecco hills in Treviso, and I would be staying for 1 to 2 months with the family. My task was to encourage English speaking in the house and improve the girls’ grammar for maximum 8 hours a week – the rest of my time could be spent however I chose.
The family was the perfect, stereotypical Italian family: family meals at the table everyday, they cooked the best Lasagna and Bolognese I’ve ever had, they introduced me to the local prosecco and vino – they really took me in like a part of their family. And with the expectation of 8 hours per week, I also had plenty of time to explore the area and work on my own projects. I couldn’t recommend it enough, and it’s perfect for those on a budget, because all meals and accommodation are covered in return for your teaching.
I’ve been able to see parts of Italy that you’d never see as a tourist, and I’ve met so many locals – each of them welcoming yet intrigued to see an English speaker (it is very rare for them to see native English speakers in the small towns surrounding Treviso). There’s an extreme shortage of English teachers in Northern Italy and with English being a compulsory subject at school, Italians are having to teach English, so the level of English teaching is not necessarily preparing students to speak “real” English.
So if you’re interested in an experience like mine, I urge you to do it.