Meet Nikki Foley, Your Premier TEFL Pre-Departure BFF
Nikki’s first travel love was teaching abroad in Barcelona (although Berlin remains her top travel spot). Now, she’s channeling her passion for travel by helping other adventurous teachers—like you—find your very own teach abroad love story as Premier TEFL’s pre-departure expert. You’ll love Nikki’s sweet stories from the road (no doubt influenced by her favorite teacher of all time, Miss Honey). Read on and reach out to Premier TEFL to start your next great chapter. Pro tip: Want to get on her good side? Send her lasagne.
Tell us about your own adventures teaching abroad!
My experience teaching abroad was absolutely fantastic. I was placed in beautiful Barcelona; I would advise anyone with an opportunity to go here to take it. I made it my mission to explore every inch of this fantastic city; and as much of the rest of Spain as I could. As I had weekends off, I had many traveling opportunities and managed to tick a lot of places off my bucket list; Valencia for las fallas, Girona for Temps de Flors, Madrid—because why not, it’s the capital?, Granada for santa semana, Sitges for Carnaval, Salou for Portaventura, and Andorra for mountain walks (it was June so there was no snow for skiing). All this in a short period of six months!
One of my fondest memories from this time would have to be when I hiked the Sierra Nevada mountains in the south of Spain in 35 degree weather. We were able to jump into the river along the way to cool down, had to scale the rocky edge of the mountain, and afterwards, we relaxed with some beers and tapas.
What inspires you to help others have incredible international experiences like you had?
Traveling, in my opinion, is one of the greatest experiences available to us. It opens our mind to a multitude of new things. Travel leads us down paths we never expected to be on but simultaneously wouldn’t change for anything.
The main reason I am so excited about sending people on amazing TEFL adventures is so that they can understand and appreciate everything this world has to offer. Those who never travel are metaphorically trapped in a box; closed off from all the wonderful wonders and people of this world. While this is perfectly fine for those who choose never to travel, that is not for me—and clearly not for our travel bug interns!
Through teaching abroad, I also made friends for life from all over the world from an array of different backgrounds (something which would never have happened if I stayed at home). I only spent a year and a half traveling and a lot of my best memories and friends were made during this time. My hope is that every intern values their time abroad the same way that I do; I hope that myself and everyone else at Premier TEFL can help them achieve level of contentment in their journey; before, during and after they travel.
Teaching ‘Adventures’: For the duration of my placement I worked in the secondary section of the Jesuits Gracia – Kostka school as both a conversational assistant in English classes of up to 30 students and a language assistant in CLIL subjects such as Science, Ethics, Arts and Crafts and European Citizenship. I took part in many school trips including those to the Olympic Grounds in Barcelona, Costa Brava and Parc Guell. traveling with Barcelonians was unique as they were places they had already been and they were astounded by my awe at these beautiful places because it was home for them.
What are your biggest goals in your role helping prepare new participants for their teaching stints abroad?
Having travelled abroad myself to teach, I understand that at times, the preparation can be stressful. My biggest goal in helping interns prepare for their TEFL adventures is to eliminate any stress as best I can. A lot of the time this stress is self manifested and a little reassurance that there is someone looking out for them is all people need. I hope to calm people down in these times of stress. I want to help as many of our interns as possible to depart with a positive outlook and more importantly I want them to arrive in their new home excited for the adventure they are about to embark upon.
Tell us about a rewarding moment you’ve experienced with a prospective teacher while working in Operations with Premier TEFL.
As I have not been at Premier TEFL long, very few teachers have actually departed and returned in my time; however, there has been a fantastic intern who I’ve been in contact with post-internship. She was a home tutor and she had such an impact on her students English that he wound up sleep talking in English; so cute! She had such an amazing time during her internship in China that Rosey is traveling back and working alongside our Chinese partners. Her experience really made me proud to be working for a company who provides people with such life-changing opportunities. I look forward to hearing more stories like this in the future.
If you were to go back and become an ESL teacher again, what would you do differently and why?
If I had the opportunity to become an ESL teacher all over again, I think one thing that I would certainly do differently is that I would a more lively approach to my lessons from the beginning. Employing “edutainment” (education and entertainment) approaches on every possible occasion is much more fun for both the teacher and the student!
If you could distill teach abroad pre-departure prep into three specific pieces of advice, what would those be?
- Be confident in your abilities: Even if it is your first time teaching abroad, your students don’t know that, you are the professional in their eyes
- Prepare some lesson plans in advance: Even though you will have completed your TEFL training, you will still be new to the classroom environment, so having some lesson plans prepared will be a great resource
- Accept that you will probably make mistakes and that’s a-okay too 🙂
You dream of visiting Argentina. What draws you there (besides the steak, tango, Malbec, and mountains?) 😉
I’ve studied the Spanish language and Spanish & South American culture in university for four years. South America has always appealed to me, but after familiarising myself with the Argentinian culture, I was completely drawn to it. Argentinians’ friendly and welcoming energy is enough appeal in itself.
The climate range, from tropical in the north to Antarctic in the south, also attracts me—weather-wise, you could travel the length of Argentina and feel like you’ve experienced every season in a matter of weeks rather than months. The landscape throughout the country is breathtaking in images so I can only imagine it in person. On top of that, mid-day naps are encouraged and not frowned upon, what more could you ask for?
You’re going to China to visit with Premier TEFL partners! WHOOT! What makes you most excited about visiting the Middle Kingdom?
I know!! So exciting. traveling to China has always been a dream of mine so this is an amazing opportunity. I think I’m genuinely most excited to experience their unique culture and see what it is really like and to see how their traditional values mix with today’s modern society. As well as that I’m also really excited to visit the Yu Gardens in Shanghai. Firstly, they look breathtaking and secondly, they have been described as one of the most tranquil places—beyond expectation—in the world. I’m really intrigued to experience this.
What surprised you most about China?
I think what definitely surprised me the most about China was the lack of hustle and bustle around the city. Before traveling the Shanghai I envisioned the city being mobbed with people – to the extent that I could feel the grips of claustrophobia choking me. This was entirely not the case. Saturday was the busiest day but it was the weekend, so that’s to be expected!
I had also heard the smog was shocking and stopped any sightseeing—I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Sure there was fog and you couldn’t always see the top of the Shanghai Tower (632m), but when I was on top of the Shanghai Tower, I could see everything below. The city’s night lights were astonishing. 😍
Are there any insider tips, especially when it comes to packing, that you’d share with any Premier TEFLer en route to China?
I would definitely recommend that all interns download a VPN before traveling to China so they can share all their amazing pictures and teacher stories with Premier TEFL (we mean, uh, friends and family😉) while they are in China. As well, even though our Shanghai internship interns receive assistance setting up their SIM cards during their orientation, I would advise that any TEFL teacher traveling to Shanghai alone organise their SIM cards ASAP—you will not beable to use data, connect to public WiFi or contact people otherwise. It’s definitely a key thing to organise in your first day or two.
Lastly, I recommend that everyone traveling to China familiarize themselves with the Chinese culture. Showing respect is if great importance in China and nobody wants to seem impolite. Fun fact: If you’re pouring a drink for others, you must pour it to the very tip of the rim of the glass as a sign of respect.
What was your favorite part about working with Chinese students?
I was really excited to see how eager the children were to learn—they really had a thirst for knowledge of the English language. I found this different from classrooms here in Ireland where, in my experiences, it has been difficult to get children excited about learning a foreign language. This was amazing to me and I really loved their enthusiasm.
Another great thing is how affectionate the children are towards their teachers. They really do love and appreciate the work you are doing. It’s also nice that as a teacher in China, you can give affection back to your students (in this way, you don’t come off as a cold superior but rather a friend!).
Duo xie, Nikki! 🙂