Justin Landis - 2011 Program Participant
Justin slacklining in Prague. Photo by Bara White
How did you become interested in teaching abroad?
I was a Tennis Professional at an indoor tennis club in Southeastern Pennsylvania at the time. I was teaching a ladies beginner tennis clinic, and one of the players told me she had a daughter about my age who was teaching English in Japan and absolutely loved it. After hearing about this, I was intrigued. So after the class, I returned to my office and searched all over the Internet for information on teaching English abroad.
Why did you choose to become TEFL certified in Prague?
When I graduated from college in 2009, one of the first things I did was take a three week backpacking trip in Europe through Zurich, Munich, Barcelona, Prague, and Amsterdam. I added Prague to my itinerary on a total whim, and it ended up being my favorite city of the trip. So when I googled “teaching English abroad” and Prague was near the top of the page, I was a little partial to the idea of checking out the programs there.
You are outgoing and creative, which seem like the perfect characteristics for a teacher. Can a shy and introverted person also be a successful teacher?
Most definitely! Whether you’re shy or outgoing, everyone has a little nervousness and apprehension when they stand in front of a room full of Czechs and deliver their first full, observed lessons. From what I observed, some of the most shy and introverted people in social settings also have some of the most clear and concise teacher language and transform into the teacher role very well. Once they get accustomed to the idea of standing in front of a class and delivering a lesson (which the TEFL Worldwide training program definitely exposes you to), they become effective teachers, regardless of how shy they may seem.
What was your housing like while earning your TEFL certification in the Czech Republic?
TEFL Worldwide Prague provides housing for students who go through the course. Right now, it’s all very close to the school in Prague (within walking distance), but when I was in the course, I stayed with a classmate in a flat a few metro stops down. It was a very authentic Czech experience living a little off the beaten path in Hloubetin. There wasn’t anything touristy about where I lived, and that was a great cultural experience.
You taught and worked in Prague for two years before returning to Philadelphia. What do you miss the most about your life abroad?
Ishtar Gate in Berlin. Photo credit to Gwen Bellinger
I miss the energy, positivity, and curiosity of the TEFL trainees. When I was serving as the Job Guidance and Admissions Coordinator for TEFL Worldwide (which I did during my last year in Prague), I took on the duty of leading the Welcome Walks and city outings with the classes as well. So basically each month, I was faced with 20 to 30 adventurous and interesting trainees who were ready to begin this exciting chapter in their life. Needless to say, I met a lot of interesting people, took some unforgettable trips, and formed a TEFL alumni community that I miss a lot.
Would you recommend TEFL Worldwide Prague?
Yes, I would most definitely recommend TEFL Worldwide Prague. You really do get your money’s worth. In a short four week span, you get accustomed to a new city, make many new friends, spend 120 plus hours in the classroom, teach about six hours of supervised lessons, and learn all sorts of useful information from highly qualified trainers with very diverse experiences in the TEFL world. You walk away from the experience with a great teaching foundation and an internationally accredited TEFL certification that is recognized by language schools all over the world. The job guidance and alumni network are a huge part of why I’m such an advocate of the course. The school is always planning fun events for trainees to hang out and get to know each other (and alums) in the city, and they’re also helping you tailor your job search to countries that you’re interested in. The opportunities are endless if you soak it all in and manage your time well.
Even though your career has taken a new path, you loved teaching abroad so much you still work as a freelance Alumni Ambassador for TEFL Worldwide Prague answering questions of future teachers. What is the most frequently asked question and what is your answer?
I’d say the most frequent question I receive is, “What is the likelihood that I’ll get a job after the course is over?” It’s a very valid question. I tell them that if they’re proactive and utilize the job guidance resources that they have access to with TEFL Worldwide, they’ll have no problem landing a job within two to three weeks of completing the course. To be more specific, if they let the job guidance staff help them with their resume, reach out to the many language school contacts provided, and tap into the welcoming and friendly alumni network, they’ll receive useful advice and great connections and will get their foot in the door and their teaching abroad adventure started!
Justin posing with a Castle Guard in Budapest. Photo credit to Justine Hrvatin
What advice would you give to someone who cannot decide which country they should teach abroad in?
I usually tell them that if they want to make (and save) a good amount of money, explore the idea of teaching in Asian countries. However, if they want to make a little less money, but have the opportunity to explore European countries, Central Europe is the place for you–Prague especially. It has ample job opportunities since the Czech Republic is actively trying to compete in the English dominated global economy, and it’s so close to other great destinations. I always tell prospective TEFL program participants that Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, and even Budapest are only short, inexpensive bus trips away. It’s an interesting experience getting on a bus, not even getting through a whole movie, and already being in a new country with completely different language and scenery.
What did a typical day look like as a TEFL teacher in Prague?
It really varies. If you’re teaching at a pre-school and working with kids, you’re usually in one spot all day from around 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with the exception of class field trips). If you work for a language school, it varies since a lot of language schools have relationships with businesses and organizations in Prague. For example, you could be teaching Czech Flight Attendants or Bankers at their place of work in the morning, then returning to the school to teach an in-house intermediate English class, and then teaching a private lesson over coffee in the early evening. It really varies based on the private lessons you get and the demand at the time of employment.
If you were to teach abroad again, where would you teach?
If I were to explore something entrepreneurial abroad, I’d choose Prague (again) or Budapest, since they’re both hotbeds for startup companies and have very eclectic expatriate communities. If I were to teach abroad again, I’d choose Thailand. The scenery is amazing, it’s a completely new culture, and from what I see from my TEFL alumni connections who are teaching there, the teaching experience and the lifestyle is something I’d really enjoy.
Some of your hobbies include writing, running, and planning future trips abroad. What trip are you currently planning?
I’ve actually been using running as an excuse to travel lately. Last year, I ran the New York City Marathon, and this year I ran Chicago. I’m thinking next year, I’ll run the Berlin marathon, but that’s not until the fall of 2015. I’m in the process of planning my spring break trip now for March of 2015. I’m debating between a trip to Costa Rica and a trip back to my old stomping ground in Prague, just in time for the opening of my favorite parks and outdoor beer gardens!