Alumni Spotlight: Les Gebhardt

Les is a student of history. He enjoys discovering new places and learning about cultures from around the world. He's in his early fifties and loving his new life living abroad in Prague.

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Why did you choose this program?

After I decided to become a teacher of English as a foreign language, I knew I needed a great program. Since my previous career was in IT I needed a program that would provide the most real teaching experience.

After looking at a number of websites dedicated to reviewing TEFL courses, I realized that The Language House was always at or very near the top in terms of ratings and they offered the most real teaching opportunities of all the courses I looked at. They also offered very strong life-long, post-graduation assistance and a strong alumni network. These three features along with the location tipped the scales in favor of The Language House.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The Language House worked out nearly everything except my transportation to Prague. They arranged the housing during the course. They arranged our monthly metro pass for the public transportation system here. They arranged the pickup from the airport or train station to student housing upon our arrival. They organized a two-day orientation meeting and city tour before the course began so we would have some idea of how to navigate and live in the city.

They also offer, thru an affiliated company - Visa Guru - all the assistance you need to get legal to live and work in the Czech Republic or other countries. They also gave us some basic Czech lessons so we could shop at the markets, ride the trams, order food, etc.

As I mentioned, I had to arrange my travel to get to Prague. They do offer housing assistance after the course, but a lot of the looking for a flat falls on your shoulders. It's not a complicated process as much as a competition for suitable, affordable housing.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice? Aside from telling you to study your English grammar well ahead of the course, I'd say the best thing I can tell you is to be prepared for long days, long nights, and an intense, "boot camp" style course. You'll want to cry some nights, quit others, and just toss it all and hit the pub for beer instead. Don't do that, at least not too much!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day consists of getting to school at 9:30 am with classes until 1 pm and then a 2-hour block of lesson planning from 2-4 pm, followed by teaching a class starting at 5 pm. We give three 45 minute lessons per night (3 students each teaching one of the lessons) and we're usually done by 8:30. Then, it's back to student housing to write the next lesson plan and/or study grammar.

The average week looks like this:

  • Monday-Thursday: Class at 9:30 am - 1 pm, lunch from 1-2, lesson planning from 2-4 pm and teaching 5-8:30 pm.
  • Friday: Class at 9:30 am - 1 pm, lunch from 1-2, another class until 3:30 and then you're done for the week.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear, honestly, was passing the grammar test during the last week of the course. The Language House really stresses understanding English Grammar inside and out. This is so we, as native speakers, can explain why we have different ways to say things, why read and read don't rhyme, etc. I overcame my fear by studying English grammar starting several months before the course began. The school offers a free online grammar course that covers the basics and I highly recommend working through all of the lessons in it.

My views haven't really changed. But, my level of confidence in my grammar knowledge has grown exponentially. I'm certainly not an expert, but I believe I can adequately explain things when non-native speakers ask questions about the mechanics of English grammar.

What is life like living in Prague, how are the people, the city, etc.?

Life is pretty awesome here. The city is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. The older parts of the city have architecture that just astounds. You can walk down many streets in the older parts of the city, turn a corner and discover something you've not yet seen that takes your breath away.

The people here are really friendly once they've gotten to know you. They can be standoffish at first, but quickly warm up to you if you are polite and respectful. I've had zero problems living here and shopping, using the trams, etc and not really knowing any Czech. Many people are happy to speak English so you shouldn't have many problems with daily life here. They also love their dogs. Many stores and restaurants even allow you to bring your dogs into the building. People walk their dogs all over the city.

Lastly, right near the school, in the public square (Namesti Republiky), they have lots of outdoor vendors selling food, drink, handmade goods, etc. My favorite food stall is the raclette stall. They take this cheese (raclette) and melt it over cut up boiled baby potatoes with pearled onions and pickles. Add grilled mushrooms and sliced, grilled chorizo. Trust me on this, you won't regret it.