Filo Tu-Faleupolu - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I needed a change of scenery, something that would be challenging and out of my comfort zone, yet appealing and fulfilling in every aspect.
What made you pick Smaller Earth?
I chose Smaller Earth because it's program came through Victoria University of Wellington, which made it sound legitimate. After consultation and research of the organization based on the New Zealand branch, it appealed to me more and more.
What was your favorite part about being in Prague?
Prague was the "jewel" of Europe, especially being so central. With so much history and beauty to match, it seemed like an exotic destination that would be fulfilling. But more importantly, it was the fact that it seemed to be Europe's best-kept secret, so the mystery around the Czech Republic as a whole was very enticing.
What makes Smaller Earth’s TEFL program different from other TEFL programs?
The sense of family. The staff at Smaller Earth go above and beyond their job descriptions. They offer more than just administration or teaching; they provide you with the necessary tools to engage, survive, and sustain yourself in the long run. In addition to this, there’s a fantastic group of alumni who are evident in and throughout the program, providing the social atmosphere to a foreign land, while also being supportive through thick and thin. This program truly showed me how strangers are really friends you've not yet met!
What did you like most about the local staff?
The local staff were very engaging, right from the moment I made the decision. The New Zealand branch staff offered all of the guidance before travelling. The Prague-based staff was also interactive and communicated frequently - answering questions left, right and centre - and being available every step of the way. The teaching staff was always positive with critical feedback for improvements, as well as with providing networks that I could engage with during and after the program. Even after the program, the staff were still evident in ensuring accommodation and visa applications were being dealt with and/or achieved.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I would have been less critical of myself, and allowed more positive juices to flow. Being open to making mistakes (as well as over-analysis) were probably my greatest barriers.
How was a typical day like during your TEFL program in Prague?
Eight o’clock in the morning was rise and shine, ensuring that we started the program at 10 a.m. Every two hours was a module with a lunch break, in addition to a lesson-planning period. Teaching at 5 p.m. and/or 6 p.m. meant that we would leave the program at 7:30 p.m. each night. The modules would vary from grammar to phonetics to learning the local language or engaging with prominent partner organizations. Evenings would be filled with dinner and studies, and the weekend would be filled with more studies among social events. No two days were ever the same, and every day brought with it new sights to see and explore.
What was your favorite thing to do on your free time?
The program offers opportunities to see things that are unique to Prague. We were given the opportunity to attend the Christmas Markets in the Old Town Square, which was amazing. But my favourite activity had to be the chance to watch an ice hockey game live; it was AMAZING. The atmosphere was phenomenal, with both teams having a large crowd of supporters. It was so positive, you would never hear any foul language or see any brawls or scraps. There was a "gentleman" air to it all, almost like a camaraderie of sorts. It was great!
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I had a private room, which consisted of a bed, desk, chair, cupboard with shelves and hangers, and a couch. The kitchen facilities included a fridge, an oven, pots and pans, and cleaning utilities. I liked the view from my accommodation, as it looked across an internal park with trees and benches. I also appreciated the privacy and lack of noise within the neighbourhood.
What surprised you most about Prague?
I was most surprised by the architecture, the history, and the hidden beauty. It offers so many different museums and some really interesting niche markets.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Communication with locals is varied. The older generation are very upfront if they cannot communicate in English, but most grocery stores and local supermarkets will definitely have those who can grasp a certain level of English. The greatest moment of support I received was when I was lost with a dead phone, it was really dark out, and a woman guided me all the way to my destination, five blocks away and through a movie set!
What is one thing you wish you would have known before enrolling in TEFL courses in the Czech Republic?
I wish I had known a little bit more Czech grammar before I stepped foot into the country. I think it would have helped just that little bit more.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Prague?
When packing for Prague, I would check the season and temperatures beforehand. Winter is cold and summer is hot. Packing the essentials for either season will definitely help in the long run!
How much have you personally grown through this experience?
Greatly! I have learnt so much about myself. I've managed to increase my skill set, I'm qualified, and I'm ready to tackle the world. I feel like so many doors have opened up for me, now that I've been there, done that! But most importantly, I've gained a whole new family that I would love to go back to.
Would you recommend Smaller Earth to other aspiring TEFL teachers?
If you're an aspiring teacher, and you want to ensure that you get the right tools for the trade, I would definitely recommend Smaller Earth. The quality of the program is enough to stretch the mind, but the ability to meet new people in the classroom (and around Prague) provides a balance that will set you up in the future. The support networks doesn't end after you graduate. It's beautiful in so many ways that words cannot even begin to describe it.