Originally hailing from Belfast, Fionnuala spent 5 years teaching English as a foreign language in Hong Kong, before moving to Dublin in 2016. As Student Services Manager with The TEFL Academy, she enjoys being able to draw on her personal experience to advise and support students through every stage of their TEFL journey.
What is your favorite travel memory?
One of my favourite things to do when I'm travelling is to get off the beaten track and explore the countryside, so I decided to sign up for a 3 day trek while travelling through Myanmar, from Kalwa to Inle Lake. Unlike many other tours in South-East Asia, where ‘tribespeople’ are paid actors dressed up in traditional garb to put on a show for tourists, trekking through Burma offers a genuine glimpse into the culture of the hill tribes, without being intrusive.
My homestay during the trek was with a family belonging to the Shan state, who numbering 4-6 million, are the largest ethnic group in Burma. The Shan’s past hardships they’ve endured in their ongoing fight for independence was hard to imagine in the warmth of their welcome, as they made me feel instantly at ease with smiles and laughter around a campfire. In a country struggling to free itself from a history of repression, corruption and reclusiveness, it felt very special to be welcomed into a family home to learn more about their culture and customs.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
I've learnt a lot from my colleagues who have taught all over the world since joining The TEFL Academy. The Student Services team has a wealth of experience which makes them experts in their field, and I take great pride in managing a team who gives such great advice and support to our students. From speaking to our students, I've also come to appreciate that everyone's motivation for embarking on a TEFL Course is unique, and it's important to take the time to listen to each student and give them the best, personalised advice possible.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
One of the most inspirational stories that I've heard from a past student came from Daniela Bonitz, a German student who secured a teaching contract in Vietnam on completion of our course. The reason Daniela stands out for me is that she is a non-native English speaker, but she didn't let this put her off pursuing her dream of teaching English. Lots of non-native speakers believe they won't be able to find work abroad, and may not realise that TEFL is an option for them. However, Daniela is proof that, if you are determined and your English level is high enough, there are some fabulous opportunities out there!
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
I would choose the Hong Kong Internship, as I know from personal experience that you are going to develop some valuable teaching and classroom management skills through this programme. As the contract covers the 9 month school year, you will have a fully immersive experience of what it is like to work as a TEFL Teacher in a local school, and you will get the opportunity to foster lasting relationships with your co-workers and students. It's lovely to be able to see the students through the full school year from September to June, and you will feel great satisfaction in seeing their progression and confidence with the English language grow over your 9 month contract.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
I believe the level of customer care that our Student Services team offers really sets us apart from other course providers on the market. We genuinely believe in the quality and status of the Level 5 TEFL Course we are offering, which allows us to assist all of our students with transparency and honesty. You can tell from speaking to any of our Student Advisors that they are passionate about TEFL, and they will happily chat very openly about their own experiences of the course and teaching English abroad. We enjoy taking the time to get to know our students, what motivates them and their plans for the future, and hearing my team take the time to support and advise our students makes me proud every day.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I believe when everyone is engaged in the vision and mission of the company, then anything is possible! The TEFL Academy aims to offer the most accessible, flexible and cost-effective way to get TEFL-qualified, with more ongoing opportunities for successful graduates than any other TEFL course provider. Everyone in the company strives to work together to achieve this goal, and it is this dedication from every department and person across the company that ensures the ongoing success of the company.