Rebecca Ferran - Program Coordinator
Originally from Liverpool, Rebecca dreamt of finding a way to combine her love of working with people with her passion for travelling before joining the Smaller Earth team. After hopping around the globe on many different adventures, she found that TEFL was the answer. Rebecca now lives and works full time in Prague, Czech Republic, guiding people from all over the world on their own teaching journeys.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the field of international education?
It was a combination of things. Growing up, my family and my own teachers always told me to consider a career in teaching, so it was always in my mind as an option. However, my big passion was the English language, so instead of doing an education degree, I went with English.
My other true love in life is travelling; my soul is never still for long in one place. After working in a few different teaching roles, I realised that education was the right route for me to take, but I hadn’t yet found my ideal environment. I set about finding a way to combine the things I am most passionate about, which is travelling, language, and communication. I wasn’t sure I would be able to turn it into a career, so that was a huge bonus. Although it doesn’t really feel like work, it is definitely more of a lifestyle choice!
How were you introduced to Smaller Earth?
As a teenager I had heard a little bit about work and travel in America and was really interested. Someone recommended Camp Leaders (the Smaller Earth summer camp U.S. program) to me, so I checked out their website and knew straight away that they were the right choice for me. I spent five summers at an incredible camp in the U.S., which completely changed my life.
I then decided to head to Prague and get my TEFL qualification, which leads me to where I am today: living, working and teaching in Prague. I see myself as a true product of Smaller Earth!
How do you use your TEFL experience in your current role?
My TEFL experience is extremely useful in my current role for many reasons. As part of my role, I teach and lead teacher training sessions, so of course my classroom experience is drawn upon every day. However, TEFL skills are totally transferable, so in all areas of my job I use the newfound confidence it gave me, the communication, public speaking, and presentation skills, and it also made me extremely creative and adaptable.
Aside from that, my TEFL experience means that I know what our applicants are thinking and feeling every step of the way, because I have been in their shoes. If they have questions about an assignment or they are nervous about a lesson, I can guide them through it because I was in their shoes just a few years ago.
As a former TEFL student, what do you think makes Smaller Earth unique?
Honestly, the fact that everyone genuinely cares so much about what they are doing and believes in the programs that they offer. Whether that it is at home when you first start your application, the day you arrive at the airport, or half way through week two when you need some help running through a lesson plan, there is just so much care and consideration given to each applicant.
When I came as a TEFL student, I had support everywhere I turned, whether it was for networking opportunities, job advice, housing situations, or just friendship. I made lifelong friends from this course, one of whom I ended up living with, travelling with, and I will even be a bridesmaid in her wedding this summer; she is the person I turn to for everything and it is crazy to think that without Smaller Earth I never would have met her!
What makes Smaller Earth’s programs life-changing?
Of course, taking any kind of big trip has the capacity to be life-changing, but with Smaller Earth, the company mission of positively impacting others is really visible in every program. It may not be something you are fully aware of when you apply, but once you are on the program you feel it from every staff member you meet and every event you take part in; it is such an integral part of these programs and there is so much evidence of people coming away from a Smaller Earth program and it really has changed their life.
For me, the programs I did changed my life at face value. I ended up moving abroad full time, working in a new job, and that was a big change, but it also changed me below the surface too. I really grew as a person and I don’t know what opportunity at home, for me personally, I could have taken that would have enriched my life as much as these travel experiences did.
I think, though, the most life-changing thing that came from my experiences is the relationships I formed. When choosing a program, if the importance for you is your positive impact on the world, then generally you will be meeting very like-minded people. I now have this amazing group of friends based all over the world and I have bonds with them like no other. No matter how much time passes, nothing has changed when we meet again. My friends here in Prague are more like family and my best friend, well, I know one day we will be two little old ladies, sitting on a Czech park bench, reminiscing about all our crazy adventures.
How does Smaller Earth support participants before, during, and after their program?
Smaller Earth take care of every single detail for you, usually before you have even thought of it yourself! From the moment you apply, you have a support system built up around you. Any questions you have will be answered, the steps you need to take will be broken down for you, and if you hit a bump in the road along the way and need to make any adjustments, it is no problem at all.
During your program you will have access to 24 hour support, frequent check ins, the chance to give honest and constructive feedback, and if there are things that can be done to improve your experience or assist you in any way, Smaller Earth will always do their best to get it done.
After your program you will again have the opportunity to give feedback about the program too, or even blog about it if that is something that interests you. There are many benefits to being a Smaller Earth alumni. With the TEFL program, for example, Smaller Earth has a very active graduate program, based around social networking and the team are always running events so people can catch up and make new friends; they host competitions with great prizes and they even have a discount card that graduates can use all over Prague at restaurants, bars, and different stores.
Why do you think ESL teaching is important on a global scale?
The realisation of how important ESL teaching is hits me in some way or another every once in awhile. The memory that sticks out the most for me was last year; I was on a bus driving through the Welsh mountains with all of my colleagues going to a global conference. Sitting behind me was one of my colleagues from Slovakia, and next to him, another from Hungary. Neither of them can speak each other’s native languages, but they were happily chatting away in English and I just felt really overwhelmed and a little bit emotional by the realisation that these two people from different countries could build a friendship using a language neither of them were born speaking. How incredible is that?
For me, as an English teacher, I am able to help people to grow as friends, gain new career options, travel the world comfortably, make connections, and change their lives in some way all through the English language. It’s a total privilege and I will never stop feeling honoured that I’m a part of that.
As a little girl, you had dreams of being a teacher. Is that little girl inside of you happy with the way your career has blossomed? What achievement are you most proud of thus far?
I don’t even remember how old I was when I first heard about TEFL, that’s how long it has been a goal of mine. The day I graduated was one of the proudest moments of my life because I really felt like I was accomplishing something I had always wanted to accomplish. I’m extremely happy with the path my life took after graduating and the way that everything panned out for me, and I can confidently say that moving to Prague was the best decision I ever made.
Aside from completing my course, my proudest moment comes every month at the end of the course when I see my trainees walk into our ceremony as graduates, knowing that I helped them get to that point.
What do you love most about your job?
Every single day is different! I don’t know many other positions where I could be teaching Czech students one day, training English students the next, having Skype calls with potential applicants in the Philippines in the morning and Australia in the afternoon, writing blogs, and then taking the TEFL group to the opera, a football match, or a beer garden in the evening! It is such a varied position and really holds my interest.