Addison Engeman - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad with Smaller Earth?

For any individual looking to open their opportunities in life or have the chance to explore a new part of the world, chose Smaller Earth! This program was much more than learning how to teach English. It was an way of starting the lifestyle that I have always dreamed about and creating my own path to do so. This opportunity has allowed me become one step closer in seeing the world and for that, I could not be more grateful.

Friends having drinks at a pub in Prague, Czech Republic
Pub night with the TEFL course for November!

Why did you choose Smaller Earth over other program providers?

In order to move to Europe, I needed to find a job to be able to support myself once I got there. After a few Google searches, I learned that one of the most interesting and rewarding ways to travel the world is to become an English teacher. That's how I found my program with Smaller Earth.

After researching a few different companies, I found that Smaller Earth provided housing, the course duration was only four weeks, and they have assistance with long-term visa applications and job opportunities. I wanted to be far enough from the familiarity of the United States, but close enough for family and friends to come visit. The TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course that Smaller Earth provided was located in Prague, Czech Republic. Since it was a city and culture that I had never experienced before, I decided it would be the best option to being teaching and traveling!

What was your favorite part about Prague?

My favorite part about Prague would have to be the feeling when you walk into a restaurant or a pub and realize that you are going underground! While not all restaurants and pubs are underground, a lot of them are. I have enjoyed my days the most when I am sitting at a table with a few of my friends, drinking a half liter of locally brewed beer and telling each other of the breathtaking parts of the city we discovered over the weekend. Going underground has made every experience authentic and has made me feel like I am walking onto the set of Eric Foreman's basement from “That 70s Show”!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I believe that I spent about three weeks contacting about thirty-five flat listing advertisers, days touring different parts of Prague with a translator, and hours in a coffee shop when our hostel kicked us out for the day; this has made my experience abroad unique so far. Over the past five years, I have found my own housing, toured different campuses, and spent a grueling amount of hours in coffee shops all day studying.

What makes this experience unique is that I am six hours ahead of my friends for a call of support, I cannot understand a single phrase of the Czech language, and I do not have the familiarity of home that makes quick weekend trips so easy. I have had to embrace an entirely new culture and way of living, and while that has provided many challenges, it has provided me with knowledge and experience.

I am grateful for the chance to not only be out of my comfort zone for a set amount of time, but to immerse myself in an entirely new life that will hopefully keep introducing me to the rest of the world!
Mosaic wall in Prague, Czech Republic
An incredible mosaic wall in Praha 10, the neighborhood our flat was in.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff at Smaller Earth has been incredible to say the least. From the moment I contacted them about my interest, I have constantly been provided information, instructions, and support!

In the classroom, there is a limit on how many students can participate in the TEFL program for a month. Since my class only had ten students, our teacher was able to address us all together and individually. The rest of the staff was able to help with other matters outside of the classroom, including weekend trips and nights out!

From the day I was personally picked up from the bus station and up to three days ago when I was returning a month after the course to borrow there printer for the hundredth time, I have felt nothing but love and support from the staff at Smaller Earth.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Something I wish I had done differently would be the focus of my business visa. Growing up in America, I knew that getting a work visa for another country is not only a great option to stay in a foreign country you love, but also it is vital. Other travels and the TEFL course were a great distraction to the calendar days I had counting down on my travel visa, but once those were finished, there was a harsh reality that I did not prioritize the timing of my visa application efficiently.

If I had the chance to inform myself more of starting the visa before I left for Europe or immediately once I got there, I believe that it would help ease all aspects of my living and working situation in the end.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

A typical day with the Smaller Earth program began by waking up around nine o'clock in the morning, jumping on the tram to the stop for the school, and if I had time, running into a coffee shop for a coffee with a shot of espresso. Class started at 10 a.m. and the two hours following were all about grammar. After a quick fifteen-minute break, the next lesson was on methodology or other strategies to become a more engaging teacher.

Then there was an hour lunch break, when I would either pull out a sandwich made with love, run to a local vegan restaurant, or indulge myself with McDonald's! Around two o'clock, the entire class would prepare the lesson plans for the week, or that night, and print out materials and set up the classroom. Once the students arrived, I would observe a fellow student teach their lesson for an hour, and then I would teach mine. After both students for the night were finished, there would be a feedback session with the other students and the staff member to go over the best and worst parts of our lesson, and ways to improve for the next.

On special days, the class would take place in a local cafe, where we would have a lesson in Czech, or I would not be teaching or observing for the night and I was able to go home early!

Orangutan enclosure at the Prague Zoo
The Prague Zoo

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

On the days I didn't have school, I loved getting out and getting lost. If I wasn't catching up on sleep until 11 a.m. on the weekends, then you could count on me being lost and walking five miles around the same neighborhood I lived in! Prague is incredible in its design of buildings and the layout of the city. However, I have found it to be one of the most confusing cities to navigate without the help of technology. The nights I spent riding the tram the wrong way until four-thirty in the morning or walking around in endless circles for a specific restaurant, only to give up and go to the closest one I could find, are the greatest memories I have during my time in Prague.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

Smaller Earth provided a shared flat located just outside the city center! The flat was a room filled with crisp white walls, tall ceilings, a kitchenette, and the necessities for bedding and storage. The shower and the restroom were shared between my roommate and the five other students who were staying in the flat as well. The flat was placed inside of an old, traditional Czech building, and my room had a window which opened up to an enchanting courtyard and small garden.

What I enjoyed about the flat the most, though, was the community and family that was built within those inhabiting it. In the beginning, we were all from different countries and states that were a little awkwardly forced to become friends. By the end of the first week though, we became a bridge for supporting and helping one another. Even though the same group of people filled our days, this only made up appreciate the different personalities and characteristics of each other. When you put a large group of people trying to achieve an unconventional goal of living a nomadic lifestyle in their own way, you're going to get a flat filled with inspirational and encouraging individuals, and this is exactly how I would describe our own little family for a month.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Before participating in a four-week TEFL course, I would hope that every person considering the course is fully aware of their ability to focus on time management and personal dedication. This course is no joke. If you are ready to put the time and effort in, this program that will not only push your self awareness and ability up a level, but also help you achieve the goal of working and living abroad as well as exploring the world!

Now that you're home, how has your TEFL program impacted your life?

My time abroad had opened my eyes to a world I knew existed, but one that I used to believe I could never be a part of. Being away from all that is familiar and trying to create a new normal has affected my life mentally, physically, and socially; it has shaped me into an independent and open-minded individual. Without an experience like this, I don't think anyone could understand what it is like to be out of their comfort zone in this way, simply because they haven't pushed themselves to explore the limits of comfort within other cultures.

Would you recommend Smaller Earth to others? Why?

For any individual looking to open their opportunities in life or have the chance to explore a new part of the world, choose Smaller Earth! This program was much more than learning how to teach English; it was a way of starting the lifestyle that I have always dreamed about, and creating my own path to do so. This opportunity has allowed me to become one step closer to seeing the world, and for that, I could not be more grateful. I think everyone wants to see the world; they just need a reason to get out there in the first place.