The pivotal moment in my life came in late 2012. I was working as a secretary, with some fantastic people, who had become friends over the months and years. We had so much fun together but one by one, my closest friends started to leave. They began to re-evaluate their goals and got jobs in sectors that really interested them; marketing, buying and law. I felt panicked, the thought of being left behind in a job that I enjoyed, but no longer felt challenged by. I remember speaking to my friend Chloe, who I have known since we were both in nappies. Incidentally, Chloe has recently finished an epic year of cycling through 18 countries with her husband Will. You can read about their experience here – it sounds fascinating, unforgettable and exhausting all at once!
Anyway, Chloe and Will were listening to me whinge about how unfocused I felt, how I wanted to leave England and travel but didn’t know how to go about it. Remember, this was 2012, before “digital nomad” and “full-time travel blogger” became legitimate job titles. Chloe & Will suggested teaching overseas, and I said I wasn’t keen on teaching children. “You don’t have to, you could do a CELTA and teach adults”
I quickly looked into it and discovered a branch of St Giles, near my house, offered the CELTA course. CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Finally I had a plan! I took time off work, unpaid, as the CELTA takes twenty days, spread over one month. It can also be done part-time, one day a week over six months, but I wanted to immerse myself completely in the intensive course. On the 1st day, the trainer eases you in gently – explaining the programme and what is to come. By the 3rd day, you are standing in front of your trainer, fellow trainees and real students (there to benefit from free English language lessons), doing a short lesson. It definitely throws you in at the deep end. I had never taught before, had rarely stood up in front of a group and given a presentation. Funnily enough, I used to blush in meetings when lots of people paid attention to me – yet there was I, standing in front of a class, teaching, actually doing it. I felt immeasurably proud of myself (along with anxious and sweaty).
The 20 days passed by quickly – we studied the theory during the morning, put into practice what we learnt in the afternoon, received feedback (good, bad and ugly) from our trainer and fellow trainees, then wrote essays on pedagogy and the methodology of teaching at the weekends. I deactivated Facebook for a month (that’s how seriously I was taking it!) and restricted my boyfriend’s visits to weekends, making sure he knew that during my CELTA, it was studying first, smooching second. There were some tears along the way (Ian really missed the smooches….) but the experience bonded us CELTA trainees. We were going through something intense, overwhelming and challenging together. At the end of the month, I was awarded an “A” and knew it had all been worth it. I knew that certificate would take me places.
As my fellow CELTA trainees jetted off to exotic lands – Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand – I stayed in London. I didn’t feel ready to go overseas yet. Sure, I had the qualification but I didn’t feel I had enough experience. So I stayed and I worked. I taught adults, teenagers, children as young as nine and ten. I taught individuals, small groups and large. I leafed through coursebook after coursebook, familiarising myself with the material. I looked at hundreds of websites and saved thousands of worksheets and links. I created my own material. I had never felt so creative and imaginative. I was observed frequently and learned from the feedback. After almost two years in London, I felt ready. Ready to fly.
But where first?
I began looking at teaching in Asia, as so many English language teachers do, but I began to feel overwhelmed again. I didn’t really know anything about the countries, let alone the cities and towns I could be working in. What if the city was dangerous and I felt uncomfortable and unsafe? What if the town was terribly boring? What if I made the wrong choice and was committed to teaching there until the end of my contract? I spent time completing application forms and getting ready for 4am Skype interviews (before going to work for a full day’s teaching) when I confessed to Ian that I didn’t feel ready for Asia yet. So what was I ready for? What had I spent so much money, time and energy getting ready for?
It was always going to be Italy.
My love affair with Italy started many, many years before. I first visited Rome with family when I was 16. I remember us doing the main tourist sites but little more. Over the years, I visited a few other Italian cities, then Rome again in 2009. A friend was studying there and showed me a new side of Rome, from a local’s perspective. I spent five days with her and told myself: ‘I am going to live here one day’.
In 2014, Ian and I revisited Rome (along with Cassino, to see his family there, and Naples) and my passion intensified. In 2015 – I saw a job advert for a Business English language trainer in Rome. I didn’t quite have enough Business English experience…..but I was armed with an “A” grade CELTA, General English teaching experience, buckets of enthusiasm and a winning smile. Twenty days later, I was on a plane to Rome!
Stay tuned for more about my experience living – and loving – la dolce vita!
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow