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’.
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 course 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.
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.
On your time in the course you will be split between two campuses; either Vorchdorf in Upper Austria or Pressbaum in the outskirts of Vienna. If you are on the course I would encourage you to complete your assignments as soon as you can, or at least take an hour out of your day each day to work on completing assignments, rather than rushing at the last minute. I would recommend bringing between 800-1000 euro for living expenses, like food and travel. Honestly you could survive on a lot less, it just depends on how much you would be willing to spend. For a weekly shop, I got by on 25-30 euros. Also if you are travelling in Austria I highly recommend you get an OBB card. It costs 19 euro, however it reduces train prices by 45%. It is a valuable investment. Knowing German isn't a pre-requisite of the course, but I would encourage you to learn or pick up bits and pieces during your time in Austria, even if it just simple greetings. Near the Pressbaum campus, there is a local Cafe called Cafe Corso. I highly recommend going there. The prices are decent and they do really good hot chocolate and cake. In terms of shops, in Vorchdorf you have an ample supply; including Hofer (Aldi), Lidl, Spar, dm (Like Boots in the UK), and Libro. In Pressbaum, your closest shop is Hofer, and there is also Lidl and a dm, which are about a 15 minute walk away from Hofer. The weather throughout January and February, for the most part, was very, very cold. In January it could get low as -10 degrees. However by March- April, the weather improved drastically. It got as high as 25 degrees.
Overall, I would say just have fun with your time in Austria. Yes, it is challenging and intense, but embrace the struggle, embrace being thrown out of your comfort zone. It is a truly unique experience. When you finish the course, you'll come out of it a stronger person. My time in Austria is something I'll never regret. The people I met, the places I saw, and the memories I made will be something I'll always cherish. It may sound cliched, but a piece of my heart will always remain in Austria. To those thinking about applying; take a leap of faith and trust yourself. Show courage. Accept the 'Call to Adventure'. You won't regret it.