Most people think Slovakia is in Eastern Europe, but it is actually in the heart of Central Europe, so it is easy to get to both Western and Eastern Europe. English is a requirement for secondary students so private language schools are everywhere. As a teacher, you will love teaching in Slovakia because of the students desire to learn English. Since it is an extremely important language for them, they are attentive and interested in everything and anything that comes from English speaking countries. Make sure you know your native country's history because you will be quizzed about it!
Bratislava, the capital, is the best location for teaching in private schools. The largest and most cosmopolitan city in Slovakia, it has a population of over 500,000. There are many universities, museums, restaurants, and the well known Slovak National Theatre. Many Europeans come to Bratislava to hear opera because it is relatively inexpensive when compared to Vienna, but with the same talent and social acumen. Bratislava is best known for the castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the city. It was the residence of Queen Sissi, the Austro-Hungarian queen, and she loved to spend her time outside of Vienna in the castle.
Piestany. This resort town is home to 25,000 and is about an hour northeast of Bratislava. Piestany is a very popular town known for its thermal waters and was visited by wealthy Russians and German in its day. Today, it is less frequented, but the waters still flow and attract many visitors to its many spas. There are several English language schools and it is a good choice for teaching in Slovakia if you want a smaller town experience.
Insider tip: Stick to cities where you can get to larger cities fairly easily.
Smaller cities, like Trencin, have less expensive accommodations and food; but they also offer less teaching opportunities, and options for entertainment and English speaking clubs. As a medium sized city of approximately 70,000, Trencin is home to the national army. It was the main target point in the invasion of Slovakia by the Russians in 1968. As such, it has many important historical monuments, but the main attraction is the 11th century castle. It is a good location for nature lovers because it offers easy access to hiking.
Teaching in Slovakia
Private schools pay better than secondary schools. Depending on the language school where you teach in Slovakia, you may be asked to teach young students, teens, or adults. Many adults need English for their jobs and schools may offer classes at private companies. Teens need English for their maturitas (testing) and adults usually take English for work or because of travel to English speaking countries. Teaching jobs in Slovakia can include one-on-one lessons with individual students or a classroom setting of anywhere from four to seven students. Many of the language schools in Slovakia have several classrooms but vary in how many native English teachers are available.
Some schools offer only English while others offer many languages. Most teachers, except the native English teachers, are contract teachers making an hourly wage and pay all their own taxes and health insurance.
Secondary schools. Teaching materials are usually provided by these schools, but teachers can supplement them by downloading lessons from the Internet. Oxford is used quite often but the type of books a school uses really depends on their curriculum.
Teaching Materials. You should always be prepared with your own teaching materials. Many schools will pay for additional materials, but some may not. Using your own materials is a good way to tailor lessons according to the particular interests of students or classes and keep them engaged. If you have a particular teaching style or tool you want to use, check with the school administrator first to make sure it meets their guidelines. Teens use the Maturita book and early childhood education teachers have specific course books to follow. You will have much more latitude with adults and one-on-one lessons.
Job Search. If you earn your TEFL/TESOL certification from a certified organization, then the organization will help you apply to foreign schools for jobs teaching English abroad. You can also put a resume out on ESL websites and get job opportunities that way.
Timing. It is best to apply in the summer, as a school year is usually from September to June. However, some private schools in Slovakia do offer summer and winter classes, and you can work out separate arrangements.
Contracts will usually include a monthly wage and the school will pay taxes and health insurance. Some contracts will include accommodations but make sure you have seen the accommodations first to be sure it is in acceptable condition and in a good location. Your teaching contract in Slovakia will most likely not include visa costs (ranging from 100 to 200 Euros) and your traveling expenses to and from your home country.
Salaries & Costs
Salaries will range in level and disbursement depending on your school. One private school may pay 400 Euro a month, expect a 40 hour work week, and pay for your accommodations, while another will pay 10 Euro an hour for approximately 80 hours a month and not include accommodations. The amount of teaching time and requirements vary from school to school as does how your lessons will be structured or if you will be teaching in a company. Most schools offer two-weeks paid vacation per year. Since these important items vary so much, it is important to review them closely when searching for teaching jobs in Slovakia.
The cost for clothing, food, and other items is on track with the U.S. If you want to do a lot of traveling or go out to eat, you will want to make sure you have extra money, because the salaries will cover living but not much else.
Accommodations & Visa
International teachers will find accommodations in Slovakia to be fairly inexpensive, except in Bratislava, but don’t expect a lot of space. The size of the flat you will be able to afford while teaching in Slovakia and living on a teacher’s salary, or the one that will be included in the contract, will be the size of a studio apartment in the United States. Re-adjust your thinking and then you won’t be disappointed. Most rent prices include utilities and some internet. Make sure you check with the school prior to signing any teaching contracts. They can help negotiate the costs of utilities if it isn’t part of the rent. There are many places to buy linens, towels, etc., just like in the U.S., so it is better not to ship them or bring them with you.
If you are not an E.U. resident, you need to have a work and resident visa to teach abroad in Slovakia, and live in Europe in general. If you are a U.S. citizen, the first thing you will need to do is file for an FBI report. For the FBI report you will need notarized fingerprints, birth certificate, and a completed form. It takes about eight weeks for the FBI to process the paperwork. This is basically a background check for the foreign police.
If you have obtained a teaching job in Slovakia before you file, you can have the paperwork sent directly to the school. If not, then have it sent to your home address. If you only want to teach in Slovakia for two to three months, then you won’t need to apply for a work and resident visa.
Private or public schools will help you through the visa process. There are two steps:
1. The work visa through the school
2. Registering your address with the foreign police
If the school is supplying accommodations for the duration of your teaching job in Slovakia, they will handle the registration with the police, but you will need to go to the foreign office for an interview. Someone from the school should go with you because the foreign police and employment office staff rarely speak English. American and Canadian English teachers are required to pay for a working visa (around 120 Euro) and you will need to pay for your air travel too.
Benefits & Challenges
- Who Gets Hired. U.S. citizens and Canadians are given preference for English teaching jobs in Slovakia because Slovaks can understand their accents more easily than those from the U.K. or Australia.
- Health Insurance. Private schools will provide health insurance. This is where things get really different from Western countries. Slovakia was under communist rule from 1968 to 1989 and they were also part of the Czech Republic from WWI until 1993. Many of the medical facilities are old, but clean; medical care is typically adequate, but facilities are antiquated. The health system is similar to the U.K.’s in that you don’t have to pay for medical care, but you will need to pay for prescription drugs. If you are worried about health care, purchase a travel policy that can be used anywhere. Vienna, Austria is just an hour by train from Bratislava if you are more comfortable with a modernized facility too.
- Travel. Slovakia attracts English teachers because it is only an hour by train to Bratislava, three hours to Budapest, less than two hours to Vienna, and about three hours to Prague. Slovakia is great location for seeing the greatest sites of Europe.
- Language. Learning to speak some Czech is important. You should have some basic words and phrases memorized so you can ask questions and understand the answers. There are very few expat communities outside of Bratislava. In more rural areas, you may not have any English speaking community at all. There are online sites that will help you learn words and pronunciations, but do a bit of studying before you teach in Slovakia. In the main cities, many people in restaurants and businesses will speak some English and there are English bookstores so you’ll have some familiarity.
- Students Will Love You. They will ask so many questions and want to learn as much as possible, especially about American and Canadian teachers. Bring maps, history books, and articles from famous writers. Students are particularly fascinated by the American lifestyle and celebrities, so be up on your pop culture!