After I had graduated from college, I didn’t really have a plan for my life. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to travel, and while I was working as a freelance writer part-time, it wasn’t enough to rent an apartment in Europe—one of the things I most wanted to do.
I decided I was going to teach English as a foreign language. Many of my peers had gone on great adventures and had encouraged me to give it a try, so I enrolled in the Via Lingua class in Florence. However it didn’t take me long to learn there were some things that my friends and forums online had not told me and that I wished I had known before I went.
- It’s very difficult to make an acceptable income from teaching classes alone.
When I first began earning my certificate to teach English as a second language, I was surprised to learn that in areas like Italy, France, and Germany, it was almost impossible to earn enough money from teaching alone. You might only teach two classes a day a few times a week, and the going rate when we were in Florence was 12-15 euro. That’s only 288 to 360 euro a month—definitely not enough to live on while you’re abroad.
- Many schools or institutions will not help you with your visa.
Although this is less of a problem in Asian countries, it’s a major problem in Europe. The likelihood of being sponsored by a school or institution is almost impossible—you often have to work there illegally for several years before many places will consider it. Eastern Europe might be more willing to take you on, but where we were in Italy, no one was willing to sponsor their employees because they could replace them too easily.
- I was told I could teach anywhere—I couldn’t.
I also learned about a catch-22 while I was there—most schools required two or three years of experience teaching. A job was definitely not guaranteed when you were in Italy. When you are transplanting yourself to another country, the idea that you could be without work for months could be terrifying. I was told also that I could apply for a position in Asia and that I would immediately get a job. However, every interview I had based in Asia also required more experience than a few weeks of training.
The bottom line? I wish I had much more information before I had picked up my life and transferred it across the ocean. I would have also taken more time to find a program that would have worked harder to find me a job after.
The result was I returned to freelancing, and I’m glad. Otherwise I wouldn’t have this blog.