Meet Rachel, a self-confessed travel addict who’s been a member of the TEFL World since 2015 and an Academic Team member! Rachel’s first introduction to TEFL was a Summer Camp in Romania in 2015, and she went back a year later because of the amazing people she met there. After learning the work-from-home life was for her, Rachel travels where she wants, when she wants (outside of pandemic restrictions), and teaches from anywhere with an internet connection. Read Rachel’s story to find out her favorite parts of the Romanian internship, what countries she’s been to and why she thinks speaking English is one of the most important skills to have.
Hi Rachel, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am originally from North Wales and went to university in Manchester. There I studied Modern languages. After graduating in 2014, I decided to embark on a TEFL career and decided to head to Spain, as one of my languages was Spanish. I’ve been in Spain ever since working as an English Teacher. I have mostly worked in the classroom teaching children and adults in language schools in the South of Spain. When the pandemic hit, I started working as a freelancer online. Now I do lots of different things including teaching online, assessing, proofreading and also I volunteer online, teaching migrants and refugees in Guyana- it’s been a very rewarding experience so far. I’ve also worked summers in Switzerland, Romania, Italy, Greece, and back in the UK. I love traveling (doesn’t every TEFL teacher?) and I love learning new languages- I speak 6 at the moment and want to keep going!
You took part in a summer camp in Romania, can you tell us a bit about that?
Before I headed to Spain, I did a summer camp in Brasov, Romania for summer 2015. I decided it would be a good opportunity to travel for the summer and get a bit of TEFL experience before starting a full-time job in Spain. At the time, I was really nervous as it was my first time working abroad as a teacher and Romania was a little bit out of my comfort zone. Many of my friends asked me “Why, Romania???” as they didn’t know a lot about the country, my response was “Why not?”- which is my general travel motto! I worked there for five weeks teaching English to children between the ages of 7-17 and also helped with other activities such as sport, arts and crafts, and other games. The team included about 10 native English speakers and also some Romanian teachers who taught English too. We lived together separately from the children and had all meals included. We had one day off a week where we were taken out by our Romanian colleagues to various tourist sites in Romania – it was a great opportunity to see the country.
You actually went back to the summer camp in Romania, a second time! Can you share with us why?
In the summer of 2016, I worked in a camp in Switzerland for nearly two months and I didn’t want the summer adventures to end! So I planned to head to Romania for a few weeks after finishing my work in Geneva. The main reason I headed back to the same summer camp in Romania was because of the amazing people I worked with! I met some great friends who I am still in touch with today. I always know I’m always welcome in Romania and have made some great connections there. The second time around was even better as I felt more confident as an English teacher having had some more experience, and I met more amazing people that summer. Working together at a summer camp really does enable you to make great friendships and amazing connections all over the world.
Can you tell us your favorite parts of the Romania internship?
My favorite part was the opportunity to explore Romania. It was a country that none of my friends and family had been to so I was excited to see as much as possible. We visited so many places including Dracula’s Castle, Brasov city and even a weekend in Bucharest. My favorite place in Romania is Peles Castle, which is a summer palace of the former monarchy- it’s an absolutely beautiful castle with large gardens. I have been twice! The best part is that my friends and I were always accompanied by Romanian colleagues/friends- this made me feel even safer in a country I wasn’t familiar with and where I didn’t speak the language. I did pick up bits of the language- as a keen linguist how could I not! I may not be fluent but if you ever need to order mineral water or tell the children to stand in a circle in Romanian- I’m your girl!
You said the summer camp in Romania was the start of your TEFL career? Can you tell us more?
I had completed my TEFL qualification and had lined a job up in Spain for the autumn. However, I just couldn’t sit still and wanted to see if there were any summer opportunities I could do before heading to Spain. I applied to go to Romania on a whim! It was my first experience abroad working and my first TEFL experience. It gave me a great taste of how fun teaching English can be and how it can take you to places you never expected. I still remember perfectly arriving at the airport in England at 11 pm to meet my future colleagues and fly overnight to Romania- we landed at one of the smallest airports I have ever been to; just two small rooms. From there, we were picked up by the camp directors and traveled to the camp together. This experience gave me the confidence to start teaching and more importantly, it taught me that getting out of your comfort zone can be an incredible experience.
Is a summer camp in Romania not for you? Try Germany.
You’ve lived all over the world? Where is your favorite place to live and why?
Switzerland made an incredible impression on me. My daily commute was walking along the lake with an incredible view of Mont Blanc. You had the option to get a ride home but every day but I decided to walk – I couldn’t resist the incredible view and the feeling of how lucky I was to be there. The sheer beauty of Switzerland is just breathtaking, the mountains, lake Geneva, the green fields in summer. It’s a place that makes me feel truly lucky to have the opportunities I have had. There is such a multicultural feel too- you can drive for a few hours – when you left you were speaking French, but then you stop somewhere for petrol and suddenly you’re speaking in Italian! My favorite memory of Switzerland was a road trip to Milan and Lake Como – the scenery was amazing. On the way back, we left Lake Como at 25 degrees, and then when we hit the Mont Blanc tunnel it suddenly changed to snow!
Of course, I must mention Spain. I’ve been here for nearly six years so it must have something special about it! I live in the south so the weather is great. It’s not unusual to get up on a mid-December day to 20 degrees and head for lunch with friends without a coat- who wouldn’t love that? Whenever I go to see my family at Christmas back in the UK, it always feels weird when I see the sun going down at 3 pm!
You’re currently a member of the Academic Team as an Academic Accessor. Can you tell us how you got to where you are now?
After working as an English teacher for four years in a range of different contexts, I decided to delve further and undertake my Delta qualification to get an even deeper understanding of teaching English. I’ve been working as an assessor for over a year now and I love it. I am very well suited to the work-from-home lifestyle and I love being able to share my experience with people who were in the same position as myself a few years ago. It’s so exciting to be at the beginning of your TEFL career (and a few years in also :D) where endless opportunities await you. TEFL is a very exciting industry right now with new things happening all the time- it’s great to be a part of it.
What’s the best thing about your job?
One of the things I love about my work is the places it has taken me. There are so many opportunities all over the world for English teachers – short term and long term. I love traveling, which was a big factor in my decision to move abroad. I love that I can incorporate traveling as part of my job and it’s very much a part of my life. Now that I work online, I have even greater flexibility to pick up and go anywhere I want to. In 2020, I was very lucky to make it to Portugal (the only trip of 2020). I originally intended to go for 4 days and as soon as I arrived, I felt so lucky to have the chance to go somewhere else in the current climate, that I decided to stay for two weeks- thanks to my job, I have the power to be able to do that.
How important is the English language?
As you start working in TEFL, you really start to understand how important English is for people all over the world. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a native speaker and have these opportunities. Learning English can make a real difference to people’s lives- they need it to advance at work, to undertake a degree or even to make a holiday go a little bit smoother with more communication in English! I have many students tell me they wish they were native speakers as in many countries, English is an essential part of life. I love being part of that journey- you can really make a difference in people’s lives. Volunteering with migrants and refugees teaching online has also been an incredible experience- sometimes you don’t truly appreciate how lucky you are until you hear other people’s stories. As an assessor, I can now take that a step further and help people get their start to have a great effect on people’s lives just as I hope I have.
What’s your favorite word/ phrase of the English language?
It may be a cliché for travelers all over the world but my favorite word is Wanderlust. It’s pretty self-explanatory really for a traveler like me!
What does the future hold for Rachel?
Travel, travel, and more travel! I’m sure I’m not the only one but I have seriously itchy feet from not being able to travel during the pandemic. Travel is such a big part of my life and I normally make about 10 trips a year and spend summers traveling. As soon as it’s safe to do so, I will hopefully be on that plane! Next on my travel hitlist are Georgia, Uzbekistan, Serbia, and Argentina- (failed 2020 trips!).
Professionally, I am excited to see how the online world continues to develop in TEFL. I have toyed with the idea of going back into the classroom but I do enjoy teaching online! There are so many opportunities now for teaching and training online so I will probably stay working online and see where that can take me (hopefully somewhere tropical!).