Survival guide for new EFL teachers

When we were asked by one of the DoS (Director of Studies) whether we’d like to present at the IH South Italy conference, although I was overwhelmed with all the additional work I took up on top of teaching (putting together promo videos and planning events, which I absolutely love but God it takes time) and barely had time to do anything else, I really wanted to.

I’ve never presented at a conference before. Sure I gave presentations at work and uni, but never at a conference.

‘But what can I talk about? I’ve only been teaching for two months, what can others learn from my experience?’

Most of the days I’ve been over stressed, overworked, overwhelmed, wondering whether I’m doing this well, if my students are really learning and whether all this it’s worth the anxiety, the lack of me-time, of any time to do anything else other than work. If you are a newly qualified teacher you probably nodding your head reading this.

And that’s when I had a light bulb moment. What if I put together a ‘survival guide’ for newly qualified English teachers using the wisdom of existing teachers? I’ve already learned a lot from my manager, our DoS and fellow teachers in the couple of months I’ve been working as an EFL teacher, so imagine gathering all these little nuggets of advice and summarising them into a couple of pages?

I asked James (one of our DoS and the kindest man on earth) if he thought that would be a good idea and he seemed to like it. It’s hard to tell if he really liked it or he was just being polite as he always is but I thought ‘Let’s do it’, I might not get the chance again, who knows where I’d be and what I’d be doing next.

I asked around the room if anyone wanted to present with me, not that I was shy presenting on my own, but there are a lot of NQTs in our school and it would be a good opportunity for someone if they’d like to present. One of my fellow teachers wanted to present with me and to cut a long story short I set up a survey, sent it to teachers we knew and posted it on FB groups and got around 40 responses in just two weeks. Time management is a huge issue for new EFL teachers!

We gave the presentation at the IH South Italy conference yesterday, summarising and demonstrating some of the most common advice on topics we, newly qualified EFL teachers struggle with the most, and I thought I’d share it here too, to hopefully help other newly qualified teachers who may be struggling.

The CELTA can’t prepare you for what’s about to happen when you start teaching children or large classes or full time (also forget CELTA lesson planning time when you start teaching 4-5 hours a day!) so if you need any ideas on how to reduce your lesson planning time and manage your time better in general, or what you can do to help you with teaching young learners, or how to look after your mental health and wellbeing, have a read below.

What I’ve learned so far and I’d advise others (which most teachers recommended in the survey):

-Always have pre-prepared, low resource activities in hand (see ideas below) or lesson plans you have already prepared (start building your own archive), so if you hadn’t had time to plan in detail or ran out of material you can still have a great lesson.

– Plan less, don’t spend hours on it. Most of the time you can’t afford to spend hours. Not every lesson has to be amazing with heavy resource and planning activities. Use the coursebook and extend/adapt some of the exercises, students will still enjoy it (though it is more fun not using the book, especially if the material is not engaging for the students).

-Ask for help. We all regardless of experience give each other ideas and we all help each other with little and not so little things. And if you are struggling, talk to someone!

-Make time for yourself, your hobbies, your passions. Teaching shouldn’t take over your whole life. There is is much more in life than work.

-Making a mistake is not the end of the world. In fact that’s how you learn!

-Look after yourself. Rest, have breaks, sleep. At the end of the day teaching is just a job. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing/ you are too tired/ drained it not only affects your teaching but it’s not worth doing if it compromises your mental and physical health.

(the session started with a 5 minute mindfulness activity I’ll share on another post and also included demonstrations of a classroom routine, giving clear graded instructions, planning an activity for a lesson in a few minutes-yes, it’s definitely do-able- and finished with the audience getting to know each other outside their teacher remit and catching up with friends they haven’t messaged in a while).

Feel free to share and spread the wisdom. The survey is still open if you’d like to share yours. I thought instead of closing it, try to get as many teachers filling it in with their own ideas and advice instead (

Thank you to everyone who filled in the survey, my co-presenter Nour, my lovely colleagues Maria and Mariah for their super useful feedback and ideas and a very special thank you to James who not only advised and helped me with the survey and PPT from the beginning, even during the Christmas holidays but also for his encouragement and mental support. He even saw the session twice. What a man.



Thankmas Day Seventeen: Thank you Fiona and Jonny

Doing and actually getting an A on my CELTA (relevant post here) was undoubtedly one of my most memorable and probably the biggest highlight of the year and I wouldn’t have managed to finish it, let alone achieve the highest grade without my classmates”, I wrote yesterday.

But there are two so very important people I would certainly not have done the CELTA (let alone get an A) without, my CELTA tutors, Jonny and Fiona.

I posted about it before and from conversations I had with fellow teachers, I feel I was lucky to have such great tutors.

They were not just incredible teachers themselves (I observed them both delivering interesting, interactive, informative lessons so naturally they made it look easy, but trust me, it is not!) but amazing teacher trainers too. Our input sessions with them were always fun and varied, they managed to grab our attention every single time and we learned a lot from them (with some exceptions towards the end of the course when we were all exhausted and our attention span shrank significantly). Two superb professionals, who though quite different in their teaching methods and personalities, they are a match made in heaven.

What made a huge difference for me was their understanding, kindness and above all, empathy, a rare trait nowadays.

I cried in front of both of them on week one after I informed them my grandpa had died and they not only offered me a break if I had felt I needed it, but they checked up on me making sure I was OK.

They also helped me manage my anxiety which reached ridiculous levels during my CELTA- I haven’t felt that stressed teaching as a professional and I’ve been working with a large number of students, nothing beats CELTA-induced stress I guess-, especially Fiona. She had a way of bringing me back to the moment and somehow making me forget about stress even for a while.

I shared a special moment with each I won’t share, they are both quite personal , but I’ll never forget.

I’ll never forget as well that they believed in me enough to push me for that A grade. They didn’t have to do it, they took a risk and I’m over the moon I didn’t disappoint them.

So thank you Jonny and Fiona. Thank you for your advice and nurturing, your empathy and kindness, your love for that you do, your honesty (God I miss a no bull***t Fiona chat!), for believing in me and for all your hard work.

I wish I’d have spent more time with you, there’s so much more I could have learned!


Thankmas Day Sixteen: Thank you CELTA classmates

Doing and actually getting an A on my CELTA (you can check out relevant post here) was undoubtedly one of my most memorable and probably the biggest highlight of the year and I wouldn’t have managed to finish it, let alone achieve the highest grade without my classmates.

The (full time) CELTA experience is so unique and intense, it brings people very close very fast, at least that’s what happened with us. It’s hard not to when you spend most of the day, every day for a month together and you see each other at their worst, stressed, tired and emotional.

We looked after another, comforted each other, read each other’s assignments, lesson plans, helped with cutting, glueing, offered food, got coffee, had a laugh, a cry, long chats, we did it all.

I still remember the hug Carolina gave me when I told her my grandpa had died, the sandwich Darren offered me just before my last TP, since I was so stressed I hadn’t eaten all day, the coffee I desperately needed and Elliot got me when I was running late for my lesson planning session and I had barely slept the night before, laughs to the point I almost peed myself with Sonia, deep conversations on life with Monalisa, Shalala’s look, she could always read my emotions, (I’ll never forget on our last day when we just looked at each other and we both started crying) Fatima’s spicy dates I snacked on for days, Ralph’s bright red face the first time he made a sarcastic joke and Anoushka’s brilliantly still unspoilt enthusiasm (ah to be 21 again!).

So thank you everyone, I would have quit on week one if it weren’t for you.

I hope you are all doing well in your new and not new jobs and lives. Maybe one day we’ll meet again but even if we don’t, we will always have that strong, special bond of August 2019 in Cambridge.


How I got Grade A on my CELTA

Now in terms of possible outcomes, most students get a Pass, some get Grade B and very few (usually experienced teachers) get an A. I think you’ll do very well”, I remember Jonny telling me at my CELTA interview.

I had zero previous experience, I didn’t have much time to do any pre-reading and I hadn’t studied for anything for years, so I definitely did not expect or aimed for an A, but I somehow managed to do it.

Does it matter? You may ask.

Not really, I don’t think. It looks good on your CV and it seems to impress recruiters (at least the ones I’ve had interviews with so far), so it might give you a slight advantage, especially if you are newly qualified as I am, but as long as you have the CELTA, the grade doesn’t really matter. It’s tough enough getting the qualification and everyone who has done it knows that!

How did you do it? One might wonder.

Surprise, surprise, there is no recipe. Even if I were to describe you in every single detail what I did, I bet you it wouldn’t work for everyone. So unfortunately I can’t do that. What I can give you is some guidelines and advice to help you achieve an A (no guarantees) based on my experience.

  1. Avoid distractions. Do the full-time variant and away from home if you can. It helps if all you concentrate on is the CELTA. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally but I functioned significantly better focusing only on my course. For me the course actually helped as a distraction from dealing with the sudden death of my grandpa and other life situations.
  2. Listen to your tutors. It’s a no-brainer really. But listen carefully, take in as much as physically possible and actively take part during input sessions. I was craving for a challenge after years in a repetitive, dull job and my brain worked like a sponge and I followed their instructions and guidance religiously.
  3. Work on the feedback your tutors and classmates give you on your teaching. Probably the most important one. Every single time I took their suggestions and feedback on board and I improved after every Teaching Practice (TP).
  4. Help each other. OK, this you can’t control. Your classmates might not be that friendly or helpful but our group was pretty amazing. We helped each other with everything, checking each other’s handouts, reading each other’s assignments, even little things like getting coffee for each other. I wouldn’t have done it without them. Honestly.
  5. Trust yourself. This is a tough one, but in order to get Grade A you need to demonstrate you can work independently, plan and deliver a lesson with minimal guidance (for the last two TPs the only ‘guidance’ I got was nodding). When Fiona, during our second tutoring session, asked me why I was being ‘modest’ when scoring myself as ‘to standard’ for most and a couple of ‘below standard’ of a long list of competences (the ones you are being assessed on your CELTA), I wasn’t really being modest. I thought I was doing OK but I didn’t really believe I was ‘above standard’. I didn’t know what the standard was so I had no idea how I was doing. After that session I did my best, not because I was desperate to get Grade A, but not to let Fiona and Jonny down, who believed in me and gave me the chance to go for a higher grade. I didn’t care about the grade, I cared about them, so I had to believe in and trust myself, particularly for those last two TPs.
  6. Pay attention to detail. Don’t rush into doing your assignments or planning a lesson. Do it carefully and take everything you learn into account. Otherwise you won’t produce quality work and I promise you, you will have to resubmit at least one or two assignments. The reason I didn’t have to resubmit any was due to my overthinking and excruciatingly painful need to keep working and working on something (and probably all the years of studying at uni). Thank God for deadlines.
  7. Be creative. With your lesson plans, your handouts, your PPTs. If you just follow the book to every single detail and not improvise, use other resources, design your own exercises, not only you won’t get an A, you won’t make a great teacher either.
  8. Get to know your students, keep them engaged and interested. You can design the best, most fun, amazing lessons in the world but it means nothing unless you deliver them well. How? Learn your students’ names and personalities, use their first names, ‘read’ the situation, if they look bored or disinterested or baffled, change your lesson plan. For me it was easy, I love chatting to people, getting to know them and I’m good at observing and noticing others reactions. If you don’t care about your students you won’t last long in this job!

So these are my top 8 tips, based on my experience. Some of it may not be easy to follow, not everyone finds it easy to be creative, perceptive (that’s down to personality) or write an assignment (that’s down to experience and I had plenty in academia) and you may not get Grade A even if you follow my advice, but I promise you, you will at least get the most out of this uniquely painful, rewarding and at points surreal experience.


Teaching English Abroad Step 3: Getting an EFL job

Where to start from? How do I know which job to go for? How do I choose? Should I go with the best paid position or the one with more benefits when it comes to professional development or the best location? LOCATION! Should I go for Asia, Latin America, Europe? What if it’s not a good school? What if I end up overworked and underpaid? Who should I trust? WHAT SHOULD I DO?

A minefield. Overwhelming. Stressful. At least not as stressful as the CELTA (nothing is as stressful as a CELTA).

If you are a newly qualified English Language teacher you certainly had all of these thoughts whilst trying to do the impossible, decide what teaching job to go for, especially for your first one.

There are, no exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of EFL teacher job posts everywhere: on Facebook, on EFL websites e.g.,,, on some of the largest International School franchises e.g. International House (IH), British Council, English First and the list goes on.

I managed to secure my first EFL teaching job pretty much straight away, through word of mouth. My cousin recommended me to a language school and also Cambridge exam centre director in Cyprus who offered me a part-time position.

Getting my first full time EFL job was easy (the process was) but deciding where to apply for and which position to go for was incredibly difficult.

One of my CELTA tutors recommended a language school in Southern Italy as well, which offered great professional development and it’s an IH school, which guarantees at least a good level of organisation and support, though the money and the location (a small, quiet town) were not ideal. I also applied for a position at another IH school in Hanoi in Vietnam and I had an interview with a private school owner in Genoa. I had also applied for a few other positions that were filled but were still advertised.

In the end I went for IH British School Reggio Calabria, where I’ve been working at for the last month. I remember my tutors pointing out emphatically how our first year of teaching will be the toughest and we won’t have much free time to do anything else other than lesson plans and preparation and teaching, so I decided it was better to go somewhere with not many distractions and get as much experience as possible. And that’s what I did. I don’t know if I made the right decision, only time will tell, but all my fellow teachers, senior teachers and Directors have been tremendously supportive so far, not only with lesson planning and teaching so far but also with settling in, and important life adjustments and situations one needs to deal with when moving to another country, especially Italy (I’ll tell you all about in another post!).

So what did I learn from job hunting so far?

Word of mouth is highly ranked. Schools recommended to you from people you trust e.g. your tutors or fellow classmates/teachers or people recommending you for a job, that most of the time means you’ll get it!

Don’t trust random people/recruiters on social media. If you are a member of the big TEFL job seeking groups on Facebook, you will have already noticed how many profiles with fake pictures and fake promises are out there. I was offered a job in China, though I was aware that it’s illegal to teach in China if you are not an English native speaker. The recruiter insisted that wouldn’t be a problem. Emm, no thanks, I don’t want to end up in a Chinese prison.

Research the city you are applying for. Cost of living, bills, transportation etc so you can avoid nasty surprises when you get there. Make sure your salary covers all your expenses!

Don’t be shy to ask all the important questions in interviews e.g. working hours, whether there’s a syllabus, age groups you’ll be teaching, professional development opportunities, which days you’ll get off (some schools are open on weekends and/or you may not get two consecutive days off), whether you’ll have split shifts, what textbooks does the school use, holiday leave, sick leave, salary, national insurance, ask to speak to a current teacher etc. Thankfully our lovely CELTA tutors gave us a list of questions to ask which I religiously used in every single interview. Happy to share. If anyone would like that, let me know.

Update your CV. As you can imagine recruiters get a large amount for applications from all over the planet, so you need to make your CV stand out. Have relevant teaching/CELTA qualifications and experience on the top as well as any other relevant, impressive achievements. That’s the first thing employers will see.

Prepare for interviews. It’s difficult to come up with answers on the spot if you are newly qualified and you haven’t taught before the CELTA, so prepare a few examples from your CELTA on important topics e.g. classroom management, your most/least successful lesson so far, lesson planning, time management, dealing with challenging students/situations etc.

Be confident. Interviews are nerve wrecking, especially if you are a newly qualified teacher but remember at this point they are looking for confident, energetic, enthusiastic teachers, they are aware you have no experience. Also you are interviewing them as much as they do. You can tell a lot from an hour long interview, particularly when it comes to organisation, knowledge and professional support.

Trust your instinct. If a job seems too good to be true or if your interview didn’t leave you with the best impressions, then you know. Trust yourself and listen to your gut feeling.

If you are a non-native speaker that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent job. Unless it’s a legal requirement e.g. in China (which I think it’s obscene and unethical and unnecessary but anyway) then there’s no reason you can’t apply for any teaching job. Yes, in some countries recruiters favourite English native speakers and there’s no market for NNES but there are hundreds and hundreds of positions out there elsewhere.

Don’t sign anything until you read the contract and terms of employment carefully. No need to explain this in detail but I’ve heard plenty of horror stories.

Finally as with jobhunting in any profession, be patient and don’t take rejection personally. You need to remind yourself, particularly in this occupation, recruiters get lots of applications from candidates across the world. A lot of it is down to luck.

Wherever you end up, good luck and take care of yourself. The first year of teaching is hard work (if you are at a decent language school and teach a variet of different groups full-time) but there’s only one you and you need to be strong mentally and physically to be able to cope. More on that on another post.

Hope this was helpful!


Teaching English abroad- Step 2: Full time CELTA

‘You won’t have any other life for a month.’

Jonny did warn me at the interview, as I assume all CELTA tutors do with their potential students (full details of the interview process here), but no amount of explaining and warning can prepare you for doing a full-time, intensive, month long CELTA course. A level 5 qualification (equivalent to HNC/HND) which normally takes between 6 months/ 1 year full time and 2 years part time squeezed in one month!

Lead in, TPs, Gist Task, Detailed task, Guided Discovery, Monitoring, you pick up the CELTA language from week 1, that’s how intensive it is.

I’ll talk about my experience at Cambridge Regional College but I’m certain the format and the content are similar across the world, as they all follow the Cambridge English syllabus, though not everyone might have been lucky enough to have had such great tutors, classmates and students.

A. format

We started the course on a Friday, to give us time to get to know each other and our surroundings and on the following Monday we taught for the first time, just an introductory, non-assessed class. The following day we had to teach our first assessed Teaching Practice (TP), extremely stressful for someone who struggles with anxiety like me, but it helped we got to know the students the day before first. With most education providers you are required to teach your first assessed lesson on day two. Yes, it’s pretty intense from the start.

-Input sessions

Every morning we had input sessions, where Jonny and Fiona in turns covered the main topics of EFL teaching: learners and teachers, and the teaching and learning context, language analysis and awareness, language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing, planning and resources for different teaching contexts and developing teaching skills and professionalism. For more details you can check the Cambridge English CELTA syllabus here.

Input sessions with those two were never dull, they were always fun, engaging and creative, even with typically boring, dreadful subjects like teaching grammar. Jonny’s colour- coordinated flashcards and phonetics jokes were superb and Fiona’s energy, honesty and saying things as they were were refreshing. I won’t go into much detail, I wouldn’t like others to steal Jonny and Fiona’s hard work but I’m not sure many CELTA students got to mime, dance and laugh as much as we did whilst learning.


In the afternoons we were split into two groups. Half of us taught the pre-intermediate group and the other half the upper intermediate (and we switched half way, every teacher has to teach two levels). When we were not teaching we observed and gave feedback to each other. Jonny or Fiona (in turns) were always there assessing and providing us with feedback after each session. We taught six 40 min and two 1hr long sessions (8 sessions and 6 hours in total).

Don’t worry if you’ve never taught before, I hadn’t before this. We were provided with lesson frameworks to use from day one and every morning the day before we were to teach we met with our tutor to help us with the lesson planning, except for the last two sessions where assistance with planning was also assessed and varied depending on what grade you were aiming for (more on that on a separate post).


You are also required 6 hours of observing experienced teachers. We observed summer school teachers in the classroom, a video-taped session and our tutors who both were AMAZING at their teaching and way better than the rest we observed. Engaging, building rapport almost instantly, monitoring effectively and making the class fun and interesting. That’s how I aspire to teach.


As if lesson planning, input sessions, teaching and observing are not enough you also have to prepare and hand in 4 assignments, around 1000 words each covering the main topics mentioned above. It’s hard work this course!


Possible outcomes are:

-Pass A (about 5% of successful candidates).

-Pass B (about 25% of successful candidates)

-Pass (about 70% of successful candidates)


Fiona told us from day one she won’t let anyone fail and nobody did.

B. Day to day work

You may assume you go home around 5pm and you only need an hour or two preparing for the next day but that’s not the case. Lesson planning takes, especially to begin with, at least 4-5 hours- ‘Double the time you think it will take’ Fiona used to say and she was right- and the more you progress through the course the more exhausted, sleep deprived and stressed you become, which slows everything down significantly.

C. How to make it

  • Classmates

All ten of us used to go in as early as possible so we can finish our lesson plans, print our handouts and/or help each other with assignments. Honestly we wouldn’t have made it without each other. I certainly wouldn’t.

We all reached our limit and were about to quit, particularly towards the end of week two. We were warned that would happen, though nobody told us it would happen more than once. If you really want this qualification, persevere. You will feel like quitting at least once, but the sense of achievement will more than make up for it in the end.

Most of us were not from Cambridge, we had no family or friends around, we lived and breathed CELTA for a month and that takes its toll. We kept each other going, read and corrected each other’s assignments, lesson plans, hand outs. We cried together, we laughed together. We bonded a lot, very fast. It’s inevitable when you spend every day with the same people, trying your best for the same thing.

Having a WhatsApp group helped a lot not just with homework but also mentally. Sharing our frustrations and worries was therapeutic.

This may not be the case with everyone who does the CELTA. I think I was lucky I had such sweet, caring, brilliant, funny, all round awesome classmates I now call friends. I miss you all!

  • Tutors

I’ve touched a bit on this already but I feel we were lucky we had such great tutors. It’s obvious they love what they do and they are incredibly amazing at it. They passed on their enthusiasm, skills and knowledge to us, so when we get out there and teach we care and we do it right.

They were there before us in the morning and left after us most days. Whilst they had to train us, they also had to deal with the rest of their day to day job in between as well as read and mark our assignments.

Both Fiona and Jonny supported us as much as they possibly could, me personally, when I was going through my grief having lost my grandpa on week one. I cried in front of them on my first week and they were both understanding, they offered me a break and checked up on me.

Also I wouldn’t have been able to manage my stress and teach so effectively if it wasn’t for Fiona. She helped me more than she realised. She is awesome.

  • Students

I got to teach two lovely groups of students. Before my first teaching session I was terrified of what I was about to face but by the end of the course I loved everyone in both classes. People from all over the world, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Lithuania, you name it, who happened to now live in Cambridge and just wanted to improve their English all came together and I was blessed with teaching them. I got to know and chat to every single one of them outside the class, have a laugh with them and hopefully taught them a thing or two.

  • Accommodation

Most of my classmates were not from Cambridge or the UK, so we all lived in a brand new environment dealing with all sorts of situations whilst studying hard every day.

I lived with a host ‘family’, it was only the landlady, Mary in my case, who also provided breakfast and dinner every day and did my laundry every week. It was challenging at times, especially when all the rooms were occupied, noise, queue for the bathroom (though they were three!) but all in all it was brilliant. Mary looked after me and I made great friends, not just Mary but also my Russian flatmates! If you have the option I definitely recommend it, you won’t have time to cook or do anything else for a month, it helps to have dinner prepared for you and a clean room to your disposal.

Overall thoughts

The 4 week CELTA course was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I ever had to do, it tested my sanity, my health, my limits in more than one way and my anxiety flared up bad, I didn’t sleep more than three/four hours a day, I didn’t get to see much of Cambridge but it was also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, at least for me. I learnt a lot, I fell in love with teaching and I made friends in Cambridge and all over the world, from Peru to Italy and Azerbaijan. Once in a lifetime experience I’ll never forget.

If I had to do it again I’d may opt for the part-time option, though that has its challenges too if you work full-time, and it may take longer to learn as you don’t apply what you learn immediately, but I don’t regret a single moment.

If you decide to do it full time, I’d with no second thought recommend Cambridge Regional College.

If you do it in Cambridge, go a few days early or stay a few days after to enjoy what this gorgeous city has to offer. I’d love to go back some time and go punting, visit the Wren Library, have afternoon tea at Grantchester and do yoga in the park by the river. Who knows, maybe I will one day.

After thoughts

Despite no previous teaching experience I managed to get the highest grade (Grade A), so it is possible, but I will write about that on a separate post.

I just started a part-time job teaching A1 Movers and A2 Key young learners, the CELTA can’t prepare you for that I’m afraid. I’ll write about that soon too but any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Following my dreams (just need to find out what they are) Chapter 1: Cambridge

Saturday morning, 27th of July.

I’m sitting at an old, antique desk in my room in Cambridge. It’s cloudy and raining but I don’t mind for once. I needed the break from the heat. This country was not built for any temperature higher than 25 degrees.

Can I sleep in Your Brain comes up on my little Bluetooth speaker. I just finished my notes for my first teaching exercise on Monday and finally have some free time to sit down and write about all of this. It’s been too long.

A million and one thoughts in my mind I’m not quite sure where to begin.

Today is my grandpa’s birthday. He turned 83. But this time I can’t call him like I do every year. He is at a nursing home. Now my uncle’s recovering from a major operation, my auntie can’t look after both of them.

“He won’t even recognise you”, my mum messaged when I asked how I can contact him. “His dementia is taking over more day by day”. She sent me a picture I took of him and myself a few years ago. A classic mum habit. I told her off not because I was annoyed this time but because it makes me sad. I remember everything about that picture, his excitement when I asked for a selfie, laughing whilst taking it, asking me where to look and afterwards chatting about me splitting with my ex of 7 years.

“Are you happy? That’s all that matters” pappou Costas said then and smiled.

Tears came streaming down my face thinking of that day. (A few hours later my mum messaged me to give my aunt a call. She was with my grandpa. I called and wished him happy birthday. He recognised me at the beginning but not for the whole duration of the two minute phone call. I could feel his confusion every time he went quiet. At some point he asked me when I’ll go back to Cyprus like he always does and then the next minute he forgot what he was talking about. I promised I go see him as soon as I’m in Cyprus. He said he might leave by then. I choked up. I hope he meant the nursing home. He is slipping away from us…)

I tried hard not to cry last week saying goodbye to my Southampton friends and life, it didn’t feel like goodbye, my brain still struggles to understand what is happening. It feels I’m on a break and I’ll return back to Southampton any minute now.

I don’t think I’ll realise any time soon. One thing is for sure, I will miss so many people, friends I’ve known for years and friends I’ve only just met, because that’s life. It never stops, you meet people and make friends all the time. Thank you to everyone who came to my leaving celebrations (and they were MANY) or made the time to see me before I left.

I will miss every single one of you and all the little special connections I have with each.

Now I’m crying about everything. But I feel good. These are not sad tears. These are cathartic tears, letting everything out and finally hitting the reset button.

Last month feels like a blur. Friends’ birthday celebrations, after work drinks, Graduation week, the stress of dealing with removal companies, getting rid of furniture, cleaning, throwing out things. It was fun, bittersweet, exhausting.

I’ve been living in Cambridge for about three days now and I’m surprised how well I adjusted from living on my own to living with a house full of people (minus a few sleepless nights because of the strong anxiety and heat cocktail mix).

My hostess Mary is wonderfully weird. Though she’s lived in the UK for 28 years, her accent is so strong I struggle to understand her at times but she is adorable. Her cooking is amazing. She won’t let me do my own washing, it’s been years since someone else washed my clothes.

She wears a plastic bag on her head when she makes fish to keep the smell away (I chuckled when I walked into the kitchen for some water and saw her wearing the bag, she then told me to rush so I don’t smell like fish either), she hangs the bed sheets off the staircase to dry faster, unintentionally creating a little fort I found too amusing, and she randomly knocks on my door to ask for help with translation or to give me treats. I haven’t tasted melon that sweet since the last time I was in Cyprus.

My room is small but perfectly formed. Clean with all the essentials. The bathroom is sparkling clean and I only share it with one other. There are two kitchens, both huge, especially the guests one. I’m glad I opted for the host family option (though it’s just Mary, her adult children don’t live here, so thankfully no toddlers are running around screaming off their head), though I worry I’ll soon miss living on my own. It will happen eventually.

On Thursday, when the temperature outside hit 38 degrees, I decided I’d go out to explore Cambridge a little bit, since my course was to start the following day and I may not get the chance to do much wandering when I have homework. ‘I lived in Cyprus for 22 years after all, I can take some heat, if I get to live in a hot country from January, this could be my daily reality’ I told myself.

I’m glad I did (though I can’t remember the last time I sweat that much it felt like peeing myself). Cambridge is gorgeous, there is so much to see and do and a couple of friends already suggested places I’d love to go before I leave the city at the end of August.

Yesterday I had my first day of CELTA teacher training class. It was intense, exhausting but incredibly fun. Going to college, buying stationery, finally using my brain again, felt rejuvenating, even just after a day.

Most of the studying I did throughout my life (and I’ve done a lot, from degrees, to qualifications, diplomas etc), in only few occasions I cared enough to actively participate in the classroom. With this one I wouldn’t shut up. The perks of being a mature student or maybe in my case, finally being confident comfortable enough with myself to not worry too much about what others think.

Fiona, our tutor who ran the session on the day, is amazing (I hope Jonny is as good, though it will be tough to beat Fiona).

My classmates are all very beautifully different and unique, a wonderfully diverse bunch. Some travelled from their home countries, Bangladesh, India, Azerbaijan, Spain just to do this course, others are semi-retired and doing it for fun or to follow their partner to Colombia (ah young love). I’ll write about the course separately when I get the time.

I oddly felt more British even than the British in the group. I guess I’ve lived here for too long. And to think I worried I might find it hard with my accent and everything doing this course.

I worry I’ll struggle in Cyprus. And I worry about so many other things,- Will my stuff make it Cyprus? Will I get my deposit back? Will I manage to keep up with the amount of studying required? Will I make it to Chris’s wedding? What if my uncle or grandpa die and I don’t get to see them again? What if I’m not good enough for anything else and this is a huge mistake? – But I need to stop worrying. There’s nothing I can do about any of this and choosing to leave the comfortable but dull 9 to 5 life means there will be a lot more to worry about.

For now I’ll work hard to get my qualification and enjoy every moment in Cambridge.

Here’s to new beginnings.


Teaching English abroad- Step 1: Getting qualified.

Ever since my big news a few weeks ago a couple of you asked me about the course I’m planning to do and how to get into teaching English abroad, so I thought I’d document my experience, every step of the way as I live it, to hopefully help others considering doing something similar. So this post is about…

Step 1: Getting a relevant qualification

You have a few options when it comes to getting a relevant TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification.

a) Do I need one?

If you are a teacher or a native speaker you may be able to land a TEFL job with no qualification whatsoever, but opportunities would be more limited, and that also means (especially if you have no teaching experience) you might end up in a foreign country alone with no clue on how to even begin teaching English.

b) What about online courses?

There is a huge number of TEFL courses out there (and too much information, it can be very confusing). Online, classroom, combined, cheap, expensive e.g.

A short online, relatively cheap course is a good option if you are only looking to refresh your Grammar knowledge, learn more about teaching in general as well as teaching English as a foreign language. Some of them are recognised by various regulatory bodies but some countries only accept one of the two classroom based, internationally recognised or equivalent qualifications, Cambridge CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL. With these two diplomas you will also be qualified to teach English for academic purposes (pre-sessional English courses) at UK universities.

c) CELTA or CertTESOL?

CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is
provided by Cambridge English Language Assessment through authorised Cambridge English Teaching Qualification centres and CertTESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is awarded by Trinity College London. When it comes to choosing between the two, I’m not sure myself whether one might be slightly better than the other, the content is very similar, but after some research I did, it seems CELTA is better known and that may open more doors for me (and if you decide to apply for funding, the Advanced Learner Loan covers the majority of the tuition fees charged for CELTA at most colleges but only partially for CertTESOL, more on that below).

Both CELTA and CertTESOL are level 5 qualifications, offered full-time, part-time and online but face-to-face assessed teaching as the practical element is what separates them from the rest. The full-time variant is a month long-9am-to-5:30pm-five days a week, intense course whereas the duration varies when it comes to part time options, from 3 months up to a year, depending on the training provider.

I opted for the month long, intense one. It’s a great challenge and you are done in four weeks. Though that will be your life for those four weeks. No time for anything else. You are pre-warned by EVERYONE who has already done it and the course trainer.

When deciding where to apply, make sure you check the training providers offering them are accredited (for CELTA you can check here and for CertTESOL here)

d) Any funding available?

For both CELTA and CertTESOL you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan(ALL) at specific providers, which will cover your tuition fees up to £811 for CerTESOL, that may not cover the tuition fee and £1417 for CELTA which is what most providers charge for it (list here for CELTA and here for TESOL). Oh by the way, there is a long list of qualifications you can get an ALL for! All details about the loan, repayment terms etc here.

e) What’s the application process like?

Applying was a bit scary for me, since I haven’t applied for any course for a long, long time and my self-confidence levels are running a bit low lately, but it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it’d be.

I applied at Cambridge Regional College, so what I’ll describe is their application process but it’s very similar to most of other providers.

Pre-Interview task. Part of the application (in addition to the usual personal and education information) is a pre-interview task mainly consisting of grammar, syntax questions and ways you’d teach various English language related items. See examples here. I was allowed to use books and the internet for my answers.

-The interview. I was very nervous on the day, I was terrified I’d be asked a million grammar questions on the spot, but it wasn’t that bad at all. Jonny, the course trainer and interviewer was very sweet and put me at ease straight away.

I was offered a Skype interview, it would have been a nightmare getting to Cambridge at 10am, so I spent a tenner to get a chair for the dining table (I could have sat on the sofa, but in my head it seemed unprofessional), an unhealthy amount of time deciding where to set the table, where to put the chair and so on (of course the overthinking took over).

I woke up early, had breakfast, did my make-up, put a nice semi-formal top on (I kept reminding myself this was not a job interview but it’s hard to get out of that mentality), got a cushion and my blanket to keep my feet warm and made a cuppa. All set!

After introducing ourselves and talking a bit about my background and the reasons I wanted to do the course, we then went over my pre-interview task answers, to make sure my level was English was adequate. There was also a short 15 minute interview exercise, with a couple of questions, similar to the ones on the pre-interview task.

He then told me more about what the course entails, the units we’ll cover, that teaching starts from day two and the fact I won’t have any social life for a month. What I got from what Jonny and some of my friends and colleagues who’ve done the course, as mentioned earlier, is that it will be intense, time and life consuming for four weeks but also rewarding.

‘It was tough, but so worth it!’ every single person who’s done it told me.

The main purpose of the interview is not to check your Grammar or vocabulary skills (the trainer has to check your level of English is satisfactory, but they don’t expect anyone to be an expert and know every single rule or exception). It’s for them to make sure you are applying for the right reasons and you are aware of the intensity of the course and for you to understand what’s about and whether you are prepared to take it on.

The interview concluded with Jonny offering me a place, explaining what the next steps will be and sending me a book recommendation list and a pre-course task, so I can start preparing.

That’s what I’m about to start now. Any questions or advice, comment below!


My News!

I’ve been meaning to accompany the video I posted two days ago with a blog, but life got in the way. The last couple of weeks have been surreal…

For those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while, the first half of the vlog is just a few words about me (that you probably already know) but on the other half I reveal my news and briefly explain how all came together.

There are some things that didn’t make it into the vlog as I tried to keep it as short as possible. The original recording was 40 minutes long, so I thought it’d be better to give you some background info here.

As you probably know, I have been for the last three years trying to get out of my desk, number-based, not for me job. I’ve coped relatively well, considering my mental health struggles (anxiety, depression) and a million other things that got in the way (e.g. living with a flatmate for a while in order to repay my loan), the set of coping techniques I came up with worked great for a while (and my post on that was one of the most read ones), but I’ve reached a point that I feel I’m wasting 8 hours of my day in front of the PC that I would utilise much better, the money and comfortable life are not enough, so now the time has come.

I’m finally in a position (or at least as close to as I can ever be) I can quit my job and try different things.

Initially the idea of completely abandoning my efforts for another 9 to 5 job, leaving security and certainty behind was terrifying but the more I thought about it the more it felt like the best time to take the risk.

After I came back from Cyprus in January I was actively and intensely looking for another job, more meaningful, more creative more of everything, but the ones I was interested in I either didn’t have the experience or didn’t pay enough. Then I had an idea for a YouTube channel which will hopefully now come to life in September, if all goes well.

That kept me going and fed my creativity cravings. I was going to work on it whilst in my full-time job but that would have given me zero free time, with the volunteering and other things I do outside work. It got me thinking…

How can I make it out of a full time, 9-5 job completely?

Co-incidentally a couple of friends whilst talking about what else I can do mentioned teaching and how they’d thought I’d make a great teacher and that could put my creativity to great use, but the problem is, every single teacher I know is overworked, underpaid and have no social life. That’s not a compromise I was willing to take.

Then Donna, in a chat we had a couple of weeks later, mentioned TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). And it all came together. I can teach English aboard, to enable me to travel like I always wanted and give me the freedom to visit Cyprus more often to see my family and start work on my Youtube channel project idea.

I wanted to visit home longer than a few weeks for a years. And now it’s my chance. And a TEFL qualification would be the perfect way to ensure I don’t get stuck in Cyprus, otherwise all this would be for nothing.

So after some research on Teaching English abroad (I’ll write a separate post on that with lots of useful information) I decided to apply for a full-time, month long CELTA course, just after the rental agreement expires for my flat, in a city I’ve never been before, Cambridge. I applied, I had my interview and I got a place. I even got an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the fees for now until I can afford to repay it.

Next step was to book my one way ticket to Cyprus. And I now have a date, 25th of August. I’m spending four months back home, finally catching up with all my friends, SUNSHINE, quality time and Christmas with family, exploring my little island whilst I work part-time and kick off my Youtube project.

Then if all goes as desired, in January I’ll secure my first TEFL job in a country ideally outside Europe, as I’ve never been.

I’m absolutely terrified and excited in equal measure.

Worried my course will get cancelled or something might happen and ruin my plans. Petrified that the little money I’m saving won’t be enough to keep me going, horrified I may get trapped in Cyprus, terrified I will struggle with living with others after three years living on my own, in a country other than the UK, that’s been home for the last 10 years.

But so excited I will finally at least attempt to chase my dreams. Try different things, travel, use my creativity every single day.

Needless to say my anxiety levels are reaching dangerous highs almost daily but the thrill and absolute joy of what is about to come makes it all worth it.

A few friends and family still hope that I’ll ‘find the love of my life’ and either stay in Southampton or Cyprus. Even in 2019 it’s tough for some to comprehend that being in relationship is not a priority. Of course I still would like to have family, but not now and not ever if it’s not with the right person. That’s another compromise I am not willing to make.

I sometimes feel guilty I feel this way, that a boring but OK job, with lovely colleagues and a comfortable, conventional life is not enough. I am aware that others would love to be in my position. But I am not. It’s just doesn’t fit my personality, as hard as I try. And I’ve tried hard the last three years. I have to at least give myself the chance to be who I am full time. There’s so much I can do and so much I can help with.

I feel I need to talk about the B-word. Though it wasn’t the main reason, Brexit and the current political situation definitely helped my decision. I truly can’t believe what is happening right now. Moving outside the UK was something I wouldn’t even consider a year or two ago but right now, it probably is for the best. It will always feel like home and I will come back, I think. That’s a whole other post though.

Despite the anxiety, doubts and everything else, this just feels right. Maybe I’m wrong but I have a good feeling about this.

So that’s my news. I’m leaving my job in July, moving to Cambridge for a month to study CELTA, moving to Cyprus for four months to draw, film, take pictures, try random jobs like I always wanted to e.g. work in a farm, waitressing and other odd ones I have in mind and then travel teaching English.

Wish me luck!