The island of Sicily has always been an important part of the Italian identity. From back in the Roman era when it was the site of great battles to modern times in which it has gained recognition as an autonomous region due to its distinct cultural history, Sicily has always marched to the beat of its own drum. Teaching abroad in Sicily will be an educational journey to remember for those who are brave enough to make the leap.
Most teaching jobs in Sicily that are open to foreigners are for ESL teaching. There are language institutions and public schools throughout the region that look to hire fluent English speakers to educate people of all ages. Not all of these teaching jobs require a TEFL certificate, although it will greatly boost your teaching opportunities in Sicily if you do have certification.
TEFL training is highly recommended for all international teachers regardless of their destination, as it will effectively prepare ESL teachers and provide all the tools needed to teach in a foreign classroom setting. Some teaching jobs in Sicily will even tack on an additional month at the beginning of the program during which participants can opt to earn a TEFL certificate, practice teaching scenarios, and become oriented with the area.
Most individuals who teach in Sicily do so for one or two school years. Teachers do not need to speak Italian to teach English in Sicily, as most schools will want you to avoid using the native tongue as much as possible within the classroom anyway. However, if you plan on seeking employment in an educational setting outside of primary and secondary schools, either teaching a different subject or at a university, then you will need to be fluent in Italian. Italian is the normal language of instruction in schools and businesses.
Sicily remains somewhat underdeveloped compared to the rest of Italy, with a higher unemployment rate and an economy which performs below the Italian average. Much of this has been blamed on the daunting influence of the mafia in recent history, but times are changing quickly. Crime is gradually being uprooted in Sicily and its tourism industry is taking off as people from all over the world flock to its beautiful beaches and historical sites. While teaching in Sicily, you will be safe and well taken care of in your new home.
Sicily is widely known for its scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage. From the sprawling coastlines to rolling hills to the foot of Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in all of Europe, the Mediterranean’s largest island has a magnificently diverse landscape that will strike inspiration in all international teachers. The island also boasts a bevy of ancient temples and archaeological sites dating back to the Roman and Greek eras, a testament to the resilience and power of this autonomous Italian community.
Most people in Sicily are bilingual, speaking both Italian and Sicilian. Often these two languages blend into a unique regional dialect, so those who teach in Sicily and know how to speak Italian may have trouble adjusting at first to everyday speech. Not to worry, Sicilians are warm and engaging and can easily switch to pure Italian (and often English) when need be.
Costs of living are relatively cheap in Sicily compared to the rest of Italy because the nation’s economy is underperforming and it is not as big of a tourist attraction as other parts of the country. Of course this is speaking in generalities, because major cities such as Palermo, Catania, and Syracuse will typically cost more daily than smaller rural areas. Overall you can expect to earn plenty to get by teaching in Sicily.
Sicily is a big island with over 5 million inhabitants and a diverse range of communities, so the type of accommodation you will find depends on where your placement is. The two most popular housing options for teachers in Sicily are: living in their own apartment or renting a single room. Obviously the latter will be cheaper, but there are certainly benefits to having your own place while teaching abroad in Sicily as well. Real estate is affordable in most areas, so look around and communicate with your employer about the best possible housing scenario.
If you are planning to teach in Sicily for more than three months then you will need to apply for a visa to stay and work in Sicily (this excludes European nations, whose labor laws allow for free flow of workers). Your host school or employer will likely help to organize these details, but you can also check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more information about Italy’s visa policy for your home country.
Teaching abroad in Sicily will be a fascinating and highly rewarding experience. This is a truly special region of Italy that has been the site of much historical intrigue and today remains a widely respected influence in art, literature, and the culinary arts.
From the beaches to the piazzas to the churches, it is hard to imagine a more romantic idea than uprooting yourself from your home and becoming a teacher in Sicily for a few years. Now it is up to you to turn the dream into a reality.