Stuart hails from Scotland, where he grew up in the middle of the central belt, halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. He’s worked abroad in multiple countries—Australia, Cambodia, Zambia—but he’s only taught in one, Romania. Read on to learn how this University of Edinburgh graduate ended up as a TEFL teacher abroad!
What were the most impactful experiences from your younger years that inspired you to teach English abroad?
Teaching English abroad is something that I have always been keen to try. I enjoy travelling and working in different countries and saw teaching abroad as a great opportunity to engage with local people and the local culture.
What were the three most helpful things that you learned/practiced throughout your TEFL training?
I was pretty confident with the principles of teaching English but found that the course was really useful in providing guidance on how to frame those principles within effective lesson plans. The course was also really good at providing clear grammar/structural explanations that I could then use in lessons. The clear chapter breakdowns also allowed me to study in intervals and allowed me to track my progress.
Your travels have taken you to Romania. What drew you to TEFL in Romania? Any fun stories to share—from both the classroom and life outside the classroom?
I have friends who have worked in Romania and Moldova and who recommended that I visit when I asked for destination suggestions. I had heard good things about the nature and people of Romania and was hopeful that the right opportunity would come around.
I was drawn to the fact that the teaching position in Romania was short-term (five weeks) and felt like it would be a good taster into teaching English abroad. I also liked the fact that the opportunity was based at a summer camp, with a less formal teaching setting.
As part of the programme, we (the English trainers) had some days off and were given complimentary trips around Transylvania. It was great to experience some more of Romania (including Bran Castle, Brasov and Sinaia) with the other TEFL teachers. It has definitely inspired me to return.
Our days at the camp were always eventful—whether we were participating in some of the on-site activities (zip-line and archery were highlights) or sharing some of the incredibly funny moments that had happened during lessons, there was never a dull moment. We were also on bear-lockdown a few times and happened to see some wild bears on our last day.
Describe your first few days abroad. What was it like? What were your biggest fears? How did you handle/manage them?
The day of arrival was spent getting to know the staff at the camp, along with the other English trainers I would be spending the summer with. This was after travelling from Bucharest into the Transylvanian mountains (with guidance from the programme co-ordinator). The scenery on the journey was beautiful, so much so that I also missed the stop in my distracted state (jumping out of moving trains can be a thing in Romania).
The next morning we were shown around the resort grounds and provided with all the materials we could ever need to deliver successful lessons. I spent most of the first full day planning lessons, familiarising myself with the environment and getting to know my fellow trainers a bit more. Spending the summer getting to know. and working alongside, a group of like-minded, passionate people made the experience so enjoyable.
We were all a bit nervous for the arrival of the first cycle of children, who descended on the resort mid-way through the third day. Before I knew it, we were introducing ourselves at the first camp opening, sharing fun facts about ourselves and getting to know the children we’d be teaching. My advice to anyone who is feeling a bit nervous about the experience would be to use the people around you for support and advice: fellow trainers, camp staff, PremierTEFL contacts—everyone understands what you’re feeling and is eager to help.
What has surprised you most about life in Romania?
The people I met in Romania were lovely. The thing that surprised me most was how interested everyone was in getting to know me. I decided on the opportunity to TEFL in Romania so I could submerge myself in the local culture and get an idea of what it was like to live there. I hadn’t anticipated just how eager the children I was working with would be to find out more about me. It really contributed to a sense of mutual learning.
What insider tips do you have for future English teachers considering this beautiful country for teaching abroad?
I would definitely recommend the summer camp in Romania to anyone interested in teaching abroad. I honestly had the best time and spent the whole summer laughing. The programme co-ordinator was lovely and was always on hand to help whenever necessary.
The nature of the programme means that you will gain experience of teaching children of different ages and who have varying English proficiency. You also get to work with other English trainers and build some really great relationships. The children are really interested in the lessons and love being at camp—it was amazing how often they told us that they had had the time of their lives.
The five-or-so weeks are definitely intense. You need to bring the energy, loads of enthusiasm and an ability to adapt to different environments/situations. No two days are the same, which only adds to the experience.
More broadly, what advice do you have for individuals considering getting a TEFL certificate?
My main piece of advice would be to go for it. I think a lot of people want to do it but are nervous that it might be too difficult, or that they will not adapt well to the teaching. For those who want to submerge themselves in working with different people in different countries, getting a TEFL certificate creates so many different opportunities. It really is a gateway to travelling and to developing your personal and professional skills.
Thank you so much, Stuart and best of luck as you complete your course!
Want to read more about TEFL in Romania? See our 8 must-visit places here!