A First Time English Teacher in Italy

Teaching Around The World, The ICAL TEFL Blog

Welcome to Ally – a former ICAL student – writing this guest post. Ally began her  TEFL life after a career in banking; here she talks about her first experience teaching English which happened in a small town in northern Italy.

Living in Italy had been my dream for years, but I never wanted to go down the usual trodden paths – Tuscany, Umbria, Rome, Naples. Instead I really wanted to experience the Italian lifestyle far from the madding (and maddening!) crowd, and in less glamorous areas. So after finishing my TEFL Certificate course I jumped at the opportunity given to me by a small English school in Gorizia, North East Italy.

Now I bet you have never heard of this town, nor do you know it is in a region called Friuli – Venezia Giulia (it’s a bit of a mouthful, I know). Gorizia is on the border with Slovenia and Italy so you get all the cross-cultural influence as an added bonus. Actually I just learned that its name comes from the Slovene word Gorica  “little hill”.

As a first time teacher in my mid-thirties I was a bit apprehensive as I was packing my bags to leave for this “little hill”. I did not know what to expect but I felt fairly confident in my freshly acquired knowledge of sound teaching techniques and good classroom practices. So armed with that, and a few words of Italian, I landed at Trieste airport. There the school secretary was waiting for me with a bottle of Tocai – then a completely unknown wine to me but one that I soon learned to appreciate for its aromatic dryness. What a nice and unexpected touch, I thought. I couldn’t have had a better welcome. Later in my small flat when I opened the bottle to chill after all the travelling my appreciation grew even further!

But it was my work at the language school that really made my time a very pleasant one. I had researched teaching English in Italy on all sorts of TEFL blogs and forums and found mixed reviews. So now I want to give my version to encourage those teachers who like me want to challenge themselves, putting themselves in a new environment, dealing with strangers, learning a new language (I even started a course in Slovenian while I was there!) and embracing a new culture.

During my two years in Gorizia I taught 4 hrs a day, 5 days a week and after a stab at teaching young learners I was assigned all the business English classes, mainly on account of my prior experience as a business manager.

My students were very focused and motivated so I needed to work extra hard to prepare interesting and engaging lessons for them. The books available were run of the mill and so much of the teaching was down to me and my creativity. But thanks to my TEFL training I had a good idea of how to put together an effective course. My DoS gave me cart blanche and seemed to be happy with the results. The students attended my classes regularly and I had a zero dropout rate. I was quite chuffed about it considering that these were busy adults whose course was paid for by their employer as part of their standard training policy, and they had no real obligation to attend. The only negative was that the extra time I spent preparing each lesson was not paid for.

As for life outside work, I got to know a few ex-pats with whom I enjoyed the Italian ritual of getting together for an aperitivo before dinner. This is not your standard “glass of wine with a few peanuts” affair but a full blown buffet offered free of charge in every bar to accompany the customer’s choice of drink. Very often after these aperitivos nobody felt like dinner given how much we ate at the bar!

I also joined a local group of outdoor enthusiasts with whom I went on mountain hikes, and that did wonders for my Italian, not to mention my waistline!

Useful Links

Teaching English in Italy – basic facts on teaching in Italy

Weekend TEFL courses in Florence, Italy

My name is Ally and I’m British. I now live and work as a TEFL teacher at an Adult Education Centre in Wiltshire, UK. I switched careers in my mid-thirties and moved from business banking to English teaching. I have no regrets and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a meaningful change in their life. Just make sure you get the right training before embarking on your teaching career. I trained with ICAL TEFL but there are plenty of TEFL courses out there to choose from .. just make sure you get the basics right!

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  1. Rhea Baliwala

    Hi Ally,

    My name is Rhea and I am from India. I have a very similar background as yours. I am currently in banking with JP Morgan but I am keenly interested in teaching English and particularly in Italy.
    As any newbie, I have a lot of questions/queries/apprehensions etc. It would be really really great if you could share your email id with me, so that I could mail you personally and get some guidance!

    Hoping to hear from you.

    Thanks in advance!


    • Jenny Scott

      By all means feel free to ask here, Rhea and we’ll do our best to answer. (Or, if you’d prefer to ask in private, contact us on admin@icaltefl.com).

  2. Louise Jenkins

    Hi Ally
    Your article has inspired me! I am also in my mid 30’s from the UK and have worked in HR in the corporate world for the last 12 years with the odd bit if travel in between. Having lived in New Zealand for a while a few years ago, I moved back to the UK for a couple of years but have just moved back to NZ via 6 months in South America. I completely fell in love with South America and am really struggling to settle back into the corporate world of work and have been thinking of a complete career change, potentially doing a TEFL course and teaching English. I’m just concerned about whether it would provide longer term career options so it’s great to here of someone in a similar situation who has gone for it. I’d love to ask a few questions and get some advice if it’s possible to email you directly?

    • Jenny Scott

      Of course, Louise. You can write to admin@icaltefl.com and she’ll be happy to answer any questions and help out.

  3. Sarah Pecci

    Hi Ally My name is Sarah and I am English just moved five months ago to Treviso with my part Italian husband, I am at present doing a ICAL TEFL course, I found you article very interesting and encouraging, we are both semi retired but will be looking for jobs in September,I would love some advice on how to get started and know how you are now doing. Best Wishes