TEFL Certified & Final Days at Via Lingua

I am officially certified to teach English as a second language! My days as a student is over and now I can focus on visiting language schools in Italy and getting that first teaching job! After an intensive month of studying and teaching, it is time for me to move on whether or not I’m ready. Currently I’m on a four hour train to Rome since there are several language schools there. Plus I’ve been dying to go to Rome. It’s on my top 5 cities in the world I want to see. (London, St. Petersburg, Venice, and Athens are the other four right now – not necessarily in that order. Stockholm is a very close since my newly formed Swedish friend told me great things about that city!)

Anyways, I was planning on writing about my final days at Via Lingua while it’s fresh in my head. Now that I am thinking and writing at the same time, I don’t believe I described a typical day of school. Here we go!

8:00 am – The school day starts. This is also when we have our teaching practice. All the teachers-in-training are assigned to teach either the Intermediate or Elementary students. If we are not teaching, then we are observing the teachers and pretending to be a student. We have real Italian students to teach.

10:00 am – The instructors give the teachers-in-training feedback on the lessons they give.

10:30 – We have classes on how to teach and a refresher courses in English grammar.

12:30 – Lunch

1:30 – Lesson planning for our morning lessons (if we are not teaching the next day, we have this time off)

2:30 – Practice teaching lessons without the real, Italian students. We only had to do this twice.

We had five different lessons we had to teach the Italian students – reading, writing, listening, speaking, and grammar. It was a lot of hard work but very rewarding. The instructors at the school were very helpful but giving us tips and giving us both positive and constructive feedback. It also helped that all fourteen of us who were taking the course supported each other. We were truly in this together, which made this intensive course easier.

The last week was very busy for us. Our biggest stressor was our grammar exam on Thursday. Grammar has never been difficult for me. I worked at the writing center at my university during my undergrad years. I can spot and fix errors without problem. What I never had to do was EXPLAIN sentence errors using terms like gerund, past-participle, past perfect continuos, and so on. The good news is that now I know and I passed my test!

Now it is all over. I had my final meeting with my instructors who told me that they had nothing but positive things to say about me. They say that they love my energy, enthusiasm, and that I had a very good attitude towards constructive criticism. I left grinning like a fool now that I am fully certified.

The hard part (other than job hunting) is saying goodbye to my new friends. Some of them, like myself, are staying in Italy to search for jobs. My two roommates, Laura and Morgan, are going back to America. Laura has a teaching job lined up back in New Jersey. Morgan has a special education job back in Boston. I am going to miss them both. The three of us became close in the last month. We traveled together, ate together, relaxed together, studied together, and we were not afraid to show our true colors without judgment. Because I had not-so-positive roommate experiences at my university in Michigan, this was touching and refreshing. (If you’re reading this Ashley, I’m not talking about you, of course.)

Last night was our last night together. We went out to dinner to have pear stuffed ravioli with a cream sauce and pecorino cheese as an appetizer. We’re going to die of high cholesterol, but at least our tastebuds were happy. After dinner, we walked around and came across a Renaissance photoshop. The three of us got to dress up in Renaissance costumes and have our picture taken together. We went out with a bang and we really can’t forget each other.

Now we have to move on with our lives. I am a lone traveler once again. Yes, I have connections and friends from my course who are still here, but we are traveling in various directions in Europe to search for jobs. There are some of us who are applying for jobs in other countries in Europe. One girl wants to go to Prague and another has German roots and wants to work there.

Am I willing to go outside of Italy? Yes. I have applied for positions all over Europe. Have I received any interview invitations? Yes, just one right now, but I am going to refrain from sharing more details. I have faith that God knows EXACTLY where He wants me to be. A door will open. I just need to be willing to walk through the door God opens.




Cinque Terre – August 17, 2014

On Sunday, August 17 I went to Cinque Terre and it was beautiful. Beyond Beautiful. Gorgeous! Spectacular! Words cannot completely express how amazing this place is. This is the very reason why I brought my Sony Nex-5 with me. Pictures speak a thousand words. I hope you agree. 

Two of my roommates, Laura and Morgan, went to Cinque Terre with me. We paid $40 euros through the tourist group, Florence For Fun. With the package, we received transportation on a coach bus and a tour of three different beaches. We also had the option of either taking a boat out on the water or hiking from one beach to the next. It was a hard choice since both options were amazing. I decided to walk off all the pasta I’ve been enjoying and take a hike. My two roommates did as well. 

The view from the cliffs were incredible. The water is so blue and clear. The town itself is so colorful and vibrant. As Laura kept on telling us, it felt like we were in a storybook. While the hike was rough at first climbing and made me sweat like a pig, the view was definitely rewarding. 

The hike itself was roughly 90 minutes long, which gave me time to talk to the others in our group. Since the tourist group was called Florence For Fun, most of us could speak English. It was also a discounted tour for students so most of us were in our twenties. The countries represented included: Turkey, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Scotland, Britain, and America. On the hike, I mostly talked to a girl from Sweden named Malin. She’s studying law back in her country, but is in Florence to learn Italian just for fun. We ended up getting coffee after the hike and talking about American culture versus Swedish culture. She also wanted to know my heritage since she said that I looked like I was Swedish, Norwegian, or German. I told her what I knew, which was Dutch and Norwegian. We ended up getting pizza together last Friday in Florence and mostly talked about politics. She’s really cool. I wish her the best of luck in law school. 

I also talked to a girl from Holland who asked me several questions about the educational system in America. She was surprised to learn that American universities require “generals.” She told me that secondary school was meant for general education and universities were meant for specialized studies. She also asked me if it was true that American high schools had stereotypes between the jocks, nerds, preps, and so on. (She has seen many high school American movies.)To her, those stereotypes do not exist in Holland. Talking to the Americans I met here and went to public schools, most tend to agree with me that lines are blurred. I told the girl from Holland no, but if my readers disagree. Please comment. 

I will confess that I didn’t swim in the beautiful water of Cinque Terre. For one, I had an expensive camera I didn’t want to part. Secondly, I didn’t bring my swimsuit. You might say that I am missing out, but I traded swimming for photography and talking to new friends from around Europe over cappuccinos. To me, it’s worth it. I came to Europe not just to enjoy a beautiful beach but to make new friends and learn new cultures. 

The colors are so vibrant here! 

The beach is really just large boulders, but personally I believe it adds to the charm. 

This is the view from the hike. I kept on seeing this view while talking to Malin from Sweden and Stefany from Holland. 


Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florence

On Saturday, August 16 and 23, I finally visited the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florence. It was a bit of a journey just to travel from the center of Florence and reach the outskirts where the church is at. Days before, I emailed the church and let them know that I was a student abroad. The youth pastor of the church contacted me right away and gave me directions. I appreciated the help, but because of the language barrier and the fact that I did not know how the bus system works, I got lost trying to find this church.

On Sabbath morning, I walked to the train station where I was supposed to meet bus number 14. It took me a long time just to figure out which bus stop to wait at. To make a long story short, I got on the bus. The youth pastor told me where to get off, but he did not tell me how to get from the stop to the church. I ended up asking a local where the street was located. He did not speak any English, and I only know basic Italian phrases. I showed him the directions the youth pastor wrote down for me and he ended up walking me to the church. After thanking him (saying “Grazie” of course!) I walked up to the church.

I have been told that up to 300 people attend the church. I learned that this month was an exception. August is the month where Italians take time off and go on vacation. The church had maybe 60-70 people the day I visited and there were no young people. The youth pastor who gave me directions was not in church that day as well. The woman who translated the sermon for me on my first Sabbath told me that more young people show up during the school year mostly because the Adventist university is right next to the church in Florence. The next week (today), there were 15 youth.

Both Sabbaths the translator only told me bits and pieces of the sermon. On the first Sabbath, the woman had an upper intermediate level of English. She did a good job over all, but she was very apologetic for not telling me the sermon word-for-word. The second weekend, I had a young man the same age as me translate the sermon. He was more fluent, but he occasionally got distracted and whispered to his girlfriend who sat on the other side of him. When that happened, I would jester by pointing to my ear that I needed a translation. I really need to learn Italian.

To be honest, I didn’t go to church to listen to a profound sermon. I don’t know the language. I really felt the need to meet other Adventists. I wanted to find a home away from home. Did I find these last two weekends? I can’t answer that. I can say that the people from the Dominican Republic who live in Italy now appeared genuinely happy to see me again the second week. A woman in her late 20s named Agnes smiled and greeted me even though her English and my Italian were weak. She enjoyed gesturing with me, which made my day. There was also an older gentleman from Serbia who was happy to see me again.

I will also admit that I found refuge in Native English speakers, but they are only passing through. The first weekend, there was a girl from Canada in her early thirties. Today I met a couple from Australia who gave me a lift back to the center of Florence so I wouldn’t have to take the bus. The Canadian woman and the Australian couple were only visiting and traveling. I believe God knows that if they stay here permanently, then I won’t have a chance to really know the others.

And who knows, I might be situated in another city. Right now I really hope Rome works out (there are a number of language schools that are looking for English teachers right now), but since I’m talking about church, I will say that I’m leaving my future in God’s hands. He knows where I am supposed to find my home away from home. It would be lovely to stay in Florence as well if it’s possible.

God bless and keep me in your prayers!

New Apartment & First Day of School at Via Lingua

Yesterday I moved into my apartment in Florence and today I had my first day of class at Via Lingua. These last two days were very busy but I believe I am mostly settled. My apartment is located on one of the busiest streets in Florence. After the taxi dropped me off at my street, I saw vendors crowding the entire street with their stands. It felt a bit awkward carrying two suitcases in front of vendors trying to sell me purses. What was really awkward was trying to find the right apartment. Long story short, I found it and I am here!!!

My roommates are awesome. Two of them are American – from Boston and New Jersey – and the other is from Spain. My two American roommates, Laura and Morgan, are taking the Via Lingua class with me. The girl from Spain, Martha, is taking an Italian course that her university back home paid for. The four of us are getting along so far and went out for gelato (ice cream) together.

As for today, I started my first day of class. It is very strange to be a student again after not being in school for over a year. After reading all the course requirements, it really hit me that I was going to do school work again. What will be new is that I will be doing a lot of teaching practice.

For those who don’t already know, I am taking a course at Via Lingua so that I can be certified to teach English as a second language or a foreign language (aka TEFL). Most countries require English teachers to have this certificate. In Europe, having a TEFL certificate is a MUST. Over all, I believe it is a very good investment. The TEFL certificate is recognized worldwide and can be used back in the United States. Once I completed a week or two, I will describe exactly what one does in this course. Stay tuned for more!

Trains, Jet Lag, and a Painted Ceiling

I was so tempted not to write a blog tonight after a full day of traveling and a serious case of jet lag, but I told myself that if I don’t feel better eating a slice of pizza, then I would go straight to bed. As it turns out, I ate one bite and was instantly inspired. Who knew Italians could make amazing pizza? 😛

Overall, my flights went smoothly. The only problem was that I couldn’t sleep and Continue reading

In the Minneapolis Airport

Here I am in the airport getting ready for my trip to Italy. My first stop is Amsterdam and I’m leaving in an hour. Only one hour and everything begins! I am both nervous and excited at the same time. Then on Monday I will taking my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and then teach somewhere in Italy. Right now I do not know where, but Florence is my first home on this long journey overseas. I will be taking classes there for a month and then from there it is up to God. Please keep me in your prayers and follow my blog!!!