“When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.” – Amelia Earhart. When I applied to the Winter 2017 CertTESOL course, the word ‘adventure’ was appropriate for my overall feelings of what lay ahead. Looking back, my experiences reflect Joseph Campbell’s concepts of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ and the ‘Call to Adventure’. In essence this refers to when a person, living their normal life, suddenly receive an invitation or information which acts as a call to head into the unknown. To offer some perspective, I graduated in July 2016 with a BA (Hons) degree in History from Queen’s University Belfast. Like many graduates, I was stuck in this awkward limbo, unsure where the next chapter of my life would unfold. Looking back on it now, the day I stumbled upon the English Teacher Training College and their CertTESOL course on the Guardian jobs website was a blessing. This was my ‘Call to Adventure’.
The Beginnings of my TEFL Adventure
Prior to beginning the course I had limited teaching experience. As a result of this, it is fair to say that when I first entered an Austrian classroom, I was a bag of nerves. Unlike other TEFL organisations, one of the key benefits of the CertTESOL course offered by the College is the sheer degree of classroom experience you gain during the four month course. By April 2017 I had taught in fifteen different Austrian schools, and acquired 316 hours of teaching experience. To put it simply, you will be a teacher by the end of this course, and you will have the credentials to back this up. Whilst progressing through the course, the feeling of fear when entering a new classroom on a Monday morning had gradually subsided to a feeling of excitement and anticipation, as my confidence in the classroom increased. One of my favourite aspects of teaching was building rapport with my students. If I’ve learned anything from Austrian students, they love three things; bottle flips, selfies, and pink fluffy unicorns. If you have done the course, you know what I mean.
The program is challenging. It is intense. However, from my perspective, the intensity of both teaching in the classroom alongside working towards the CertTESOL qualification only helped to develop my character as both a person and a teacher. When you are waking up at 5am in the morning, travelling to schools, teaching, returning to campus for input sessions, and then working on lessons plans and assignments, you have to grow certain character virtues. Perseverance, discipline, creativity, courage, and leadership are just a few of the personal characteristics I enhanced thanks to my time in Austria.
It’s the People who Make the Journey
One of the main reasons I enjoyed my time in Austria, and successfully completed the course is thanks to the people I met along the journey. Whether it was my fellow student-teachers, course tutors, or specific people working within the English Teacher Training College itself, they all had a positive impact on my time in Austria, helping me along the way. Although it sounds cheesy, the people you will meet during your time in Austria will become like a big extended family. Moreover, although a lot of work is involved, I was also fortunate enough to travel to various cities and places throughout Austria and even Germany in my free time. I visited Hallstatt, Salzburg, Gmunden, Passau, and Vienna, to name a few.
My time in Austria is something I will never regret. The people I met, the places I saw, and the memories I made will be something I will always cherish. Again it may sound clichéd, but a piece of my heart will always remain in Austria. To those thinking about applying, DO IT. Accept the ‘Call to Adventure’. You won’t regret it.
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Written by former Student Teacher, Shannon Melaugh