I was just 19 years old and finished my first year at the University of Florida when I decided to teach English abroad.
I’m attending a competitive university, and while most of my friends were looking for internships and perfecting their LinkedIn profile, I was looking for affordable ways to travel around the world.
After a short trip to Colombia in the fall I got the travel mistake. The only problem: I was a full-time unemployed person. I could not afford to do study trips abroad or summer adventures. After some research I decided to teach English in Italy. I wanted a more meaningful way to travel around the world in order to earn some income. I loved him so much that I came back last summer. After 12 weeks of teaching English in Italy, I learned more about communication and human connections than ever before in a classroom.
Language immersion and what to expect
The first question that most people ask me when I talk to them about my summer work is always: “Do you speak Italian?” To my disappointment, I always say, “No, but the program is in English, and that’s true, the program I work for is ACLE (Associazione Culturale Linguistica Educational) and offers summer camps that run one or two throughout Italy During these weeks, Italian children are totally immersed in the language while we sing, dance and play fun games.Since this is a summer camp, we try to make learning a language more entertaining and less intimidating I am neither obliged nor encouraged to learn Italian.
In addition to a scholarship, the tutors receive a free accommodation in host families. Although we have been promised that our host families speak English, they rarely do so. This can be problematic if you are lactose intolerant and your Italian host family simply can not understand that you are not eating pizza. Most of the time the language barriers I encountered were a big lesson.
My first camp as a new teacher was in the center of Rome.
I was thrilled because most of the camps I visited before were in small towns on the Italian countryside, far from civilization. ACLE generally arranges tutors based on the main Italian airport you fly to. The year before I had oriented myself in San Remo and was mainly in the north. This year I flew to Milan and found myself a little further south.
I am delighted to receive my train ticket every Saturday with the details of my camp and my location. At the station of your new city, the camp leader and host families greet you with a smile, waving their arms and holding a huge ACLE flag. In most foster families, young children visit the camp where they work. So I was surprised when the manager of my camp said that my host family had only a 22-year-old son. I thought it would be fun – until my manager mentioned that he was severely disabled.
My host father picked me up at the train station and did not speak English. It was a typical macho Italian who said harder in the hope that he would help me to understand Italian. He took me back to her apartment where I met my mother and hostess. My host mother did not speak much English, but my host brother could not speak at all. He was completely blind and I was told that he had the intelligence of an 8-year-old child. My heart sank. How should I communicate with this family? I felt more than a burden for her already difficult life. I closed the door of my room, crying and regretting that I was not in another family.
After my first day, I went home to Marco (my host brother) and my host mother to sing songs and play tambourine. “He likes music,” she says in Italian. She had nothing to say to see how the music enlightened this boy. He could neither speak nor walk, but he rocked to and fro and screamed when playing music.
Since our English camp program is mainly theater and theater-oriented, we sing many silly songs with children. I decided to sing one of the songs from our camp with Marco to communicate with him. Although I thought my song about elephants was stupid, Marco had the biggest smile on his face and applauded that I sing more.
At first I felt sorry for her son and I felt like a burden to her family. When I saw how happy we both were, I realized how much Marco was a blessing for the life around him. In a few words, we have been able to communicate deeply with each other.
This message has been repeated to me over and over again by seven different host families, more than 100 students and many years of traveling.
At the end of my two weeks in Rome, I thought about how excited I was on the first day of my arrival. While I was packing, my host mother came into my room and in English (I could tell she had been training) she said, “Thanks for everything.” When my Host Family Is When I came to the station my heart broke down again as I did I saw my host mother wipe her tears while she hugged me. The tears ran down my face and I realized that you do not need the language to communicate at all.
If you want to teach English abroad, you can do this in several programs.
The program I attended focused on theater and acting and took place only in the summer. It was an ideal choice for a full-time student who likes to sing and dance. Although classroom instruction is not required, it is encouraging to gain some experience as a teacher or with small children. If you choose ACLE, you will attend an orientation week where you will learn everything you need to know. Learn more about the program.
You can also think of teaching in Thailand, China or South Korea. To begin with, here is our TEFL course guide.