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Teach, Study and Travel in Austria with a Non-Profit
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Teach, Study and Travel in Austria with a Non-Profit

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

A very rewarding and valuable experience

As someone with 6 months experience teaching in China I was very keen to finally experience teaching in Europe - and when I saw the advertisement for ABCi I thought that this would be a great route for me to go down. ABCi offered me a Trinity Cert TESOL qualification in return for my time - so I got an internationally recognised language teaching qualification for free AND 3 months teaching experience in Austria on top of that - a great addition to my CV. Another great advantage was the variety of experience: a different school each week provided me with the opportunity to teach students from 5/6 years old up to students in their early twenties; and the opportunity to experience small rural schools, huge urban schools and everything between. I could also spend my weekends and down time experiencing many different cities in Austria - from Gmunden, Salzburg, Graz to Vienna. But for me the most valuable part of this experience was helping kids for an NPO. Visiting schools for just one day to provide them with free and fun English lessons and seeing how grateful they were for my time and efforts was incredibly rewarding and important to me. Thank you ABCi for giving me this fantastic opportunity!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Intense but so worth it

I have never worked so hard in my life: I spent 4 months waking up between 4.30 and 5.30am to work at schools that could be up to a 1 hour and 45 minute drive, teach for 6 hours, then return to do 2-3 hour training sessions. As well as teaching I had to study and do assignments as I was completing the CERT-TESOL (which is a very good certificate to have in the ESL world) so I didn't have much free time throughout my time spent in Austria. But, with the time I did get off, I had the chance to visit different places in Austria as well as Hungary and Germany a couple of times!

This course is not a holiday. It is hard work but rewarding work. I taught students aged 6-19 in 18 weeks of teaching and I also gave one-on-one adult lessons. The adult lessons were pretty unorganised which was unfortunate but it was good experience nonetheless.

Although this course is a lot of hard work, the support I was given from my senior teachers was incredible. They would give me all the support I needed, answer any silly question I had and most importantly, made the long days fun. This course relies on the support you all give each other (between trainees, senior teachers and staff). As it is so intense, it really is so important to be a positive and optimistic person. In all honesty, I don't think my group of trainees would have completed the course successfully if it wasn't for the support and encouragement we gave each other. Although you are completing this course to become a qualified ESL teacher yourself, you have to be a team player. Working together and sharing ideas is what is needed to be successful.

Living situation- It is like living in first year halls/dorms all over again. Lack of privacy, shared rooms (up to 4/5 people in a room) and shared bathrooms. Although the accommodation doesn't give you any privacy, it is actually really nice. They are modern and there are large kitchens/ living rooms to chill out in. ABCi provides basic food (pasta, pasta sauce, rice, etc) which is a big help. The most important thing is to be flexible. Sometimes you would be relocated to a different town/city with very little notice. Although this can be very frustrating, you just have to take the positives from it- it's a new place, different schools, working with a new senior teacher who will give you more tips, etc.

During my time with ABCi, there was a lot of stress but also a lot of laughter. I would definitely recommend this course if you are looking to become and ESL teacher as it gives you so much experience in such a short amount of time and getting this training in such a beautiful country with lovely students is obviously such a great bonus. You just have to be ready to work and to be committed for the whole time you are there.

How can this program be improved?
More organisation, assignments spaced out better, more privacy in accommodation.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Teach abroad and get a TEFL qualification in return

ABCi is a fantastic charity which works with schools across Austria to provide interactive English workshops to pupils. The organisation is run by Frank and Ben who are very passionate about their mission and delivering high quality English education. It's great because you teach English and travel around Austria, meeting other teachers along the way and get your food, accommodation and a TEFL qualification in return!

The work is most definitely not for the faint hearted. The days can be long and you must be dedicated to becoming an excellent EFL teacher. There is a big emphasis on training and improving and practicing your craft, as well as some (very) early mornings.

If that does't perturb you, then ABCi is the volunteer programme for you. You will have great fun with the children, delivering their excellent programme of activities. I am now a teacher and frequently employ many of the active based learning techniques that I delivered through my work as an ABCi teacher.

This is a unique, challenging, fun opportunity in a beautiful setting. You will make friends for life and better your professional life. What is not to love?!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Incredibly Stressful and Rewarding

I completed the winter (Jan- March 2016) program last year and it was incredibly stressful and exhausting as well as really enriching and rewarding... I loved it. And I learned a lot. But also, as a new and rapidly expanding program, the logistics of it were pretty chaotic. I think we logged over 225 teaching hours, which is outrageous for a beginner course, in towns all over Austria. That amount of teaching practice really forces you to build confidence and improve as a teacher.. especially in observed lessons, where I mostly got really thoughtful feedback. But it also is overwhelming when you have assignments due, lessons to plan and activities to memorize.

I haven't had the chance to search for a job with the cert TESOL I received through ABCi, but the certificate is accredited through London Trinity College and many of my friends from the program have been able to get jobs teaching all over the world... have a friends in the Galapagos, Germany, and Barcelona. The fact that I now have the opportunity to travel anywhere to teach makes it pretty worth it. You also receive the Tefl-yl certificate which is not internationally recognized but given through ABCi.

Austria's beautiful and an amazing country to travel.. though there was little time to do so during my course. Also as a US citizen I had some visa restrictions... US citizens can only be the Schengen are, most of Europe, for 90 days max in a 180 day period.

You learn a lot about active learning and classroom management through teaching games, drama, and songs. Its fun and pretty rewarding to have your class perform dramas in English at the end of each week. I feel really confident about lesson planning and running an activities. Though by evenings in the second month when we started studying for CertTESL, we were exhausted when the actual input sessions about English language, phonology, grammar etc. came up. It's possible and everyone in my course passed.. it just took a lot of will power and patience.

The support form my senior teachers was great when it came to actually teaching in schools.. but you spend a lot of time driving to and from schools. The printers and wifi and housing was always a bit sketchy.

Hard to give the program a positive or negative review. I learned a lot. Made some really good friends and got to see some incredible places. I'm really happy I did it. Just have to approach it with expectations of hard work, uncomfortable challenges and inevitable logistical nightmares.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Great starting place for a career in TEFL

I started with ABCi when it was still the initiative as a volunteer teacher, moved on to be a paid teacher and then worked as project coordinator for over a year. The time I spent with ABCi was invaluable and made me into the teacher I am today. The work was challenging, rewarding and exciting. The staff were committed to their vision of what English education should look like and the support we received was fantastic.

Teaching- For a first time teacher not having the stress of lesson planning and teaching a set program allows you time to practice and perfect different teaching techniques. You receive a good balance of theoretical input and practical application in the classroom. The work load does demand a lot of time and effort but it's worth it!

How can this program be improved?
ABCi progressed massively during the time I spent with them. However, it is important to remember it is still a developing organisation and as such occasionally has teething problems. There have been a lot of changes since I left but if you are flexible and keen to work hard for a great start in TEFL I’m sure you’ll find a visit to beautiful Austria with ABCi a rewarding experience.

Overall Rating

1/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    3

  • Program Administration

    1

  • Living Situation

    1

  • Community Engagement

    1

  • Health & Safety

    5

  • Day to Day Life

    1

An overall negative experience

Let me start our with what was good: the CertTESOL. It is extremely helpful and well-respected, and great for getting a job later. Therefore what you get in the input sessions is very useful material.

The reason I stayed for the whole program is because I'm a fairly stable person, because I made some really great friends there (adversity bonds people very well), and because I had the opportunity to continue improving my German. I didn't realise until just over two months in that I should have quit earlier, but by then I was too close to finishing to quit.

However, there are many ways to get a CertTESOL. This program advertises itself as a scholarship program, but if you take into account 4 months' living costs (reasonable living costs, not the 25 euros a week that they recommend), you will end up spending at least as much money on this course as you would on a normal intensive course that you have to pay for. In addition, you will have a much lower quality of life.

Let's start with the hours. They advertise that a benefit of the longer program is more class hours than a traditional TEFL course. This is true. They advertise that you will get at least 200 hours of teaching experience. I got 350. However, it was 100% not worth it. 200 hours of teaching would have made this program so much more reasonable. Teaching a full school day with no lessons free is not something that normal Austrian teachers do, and they were shocked that we had to do it. Having to plan and implement lessons for students that you've never met before is not something that any CertTESOL program is supposed to do, and Trinity College was shocked that we had to do it. Waking up as early as 4am (the average was around 5 or 5:30, contrary to what they tell you) to get in the car and not finishing input sessions until after 5pm, sometimes without even time for lunch is just ridiculous.

If you are applying for this program, I'm sure you already know about the long hours. The real issue comes in with the complete lack of understanding from staff. They expected us to be fully present and participating in these input sessions as if we weren't completely exhausted, and some of the staff led these input sessions in such a condescending way that it was completely unbearable and I had to leave the room. They also consistently refused to acknowledge the fact that we were teachers. We did all of the teaching for them, and they present us as teachers to the Austrian schools (most of whom are under the impression that we are being paid, mind you, apart from one teacher I met who actually knew the director and made sure that we were treated extra well at her school to try and make up for our experience at the office), but outside of the schools, we were treated as useless, replaceable volunteers.

The place where you are treated the worst is undoubtedly Vorchdorf, so if you do end up deciding to go here, avoid it at all costs. My group was there at the beginning and the end of the program, and I burst out crying and had a breakdown during the input session the day before we had to go back because I just could not handle the staff there (most of it was due to a staff's horrible treatment of us that week - he works at the Vorchdorf campus but had come to Pressbaum for a few days).

The standard of living on this program is miserable. The accomodation is crowded, dirty, and completely neglected by staff. When the refrigerator and oven broke, it took them weeks to replace the refrigerator and the oven was never replaced. When the toilet was overflowing, they refused to hire a plumber and instead forced one of the course tutors to take care of it after a very long period of complaining.

A lot of what you see about this program online is false advertising. You will have almost no time for traveling, because you will be too exhausted to do anything other than sleep and eat during your free time on weekdays. There are no bicycles, you will only see most of Austria through a car window (and you might even sleep through it, if you're lucky), you will 100% be spending much more than 25 euros a week even if you're thrifty.

Towards the end of my experience there, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the emails that was sent to the admissions staff, stating regulations for specific phrases they need to use in order to make this program seem more appealing, because they were having a lot of problems with recruitment due to bad reviews, a lot of staff quitting, etc. This is really representative of the organisation as a whole. All they want is for the Austrian government, schools, and potential staff and student teachers to see them as a great organisation, when on the inside it is one of the most miserable places that I have ever had the displeasure of working at (SORRY, I meant "student teaching practice").

Please be aware that A LOT (not all, but a lot) of the positive reviews here were forcibly written by staff because ABCi is extremely concerned about the negative reviews it gets from student teachers. I am still in contact with people who have been staff there until recently, and nothing discernable has changed.

How did I survive 4 months here? Friends and wine. One of the ways we expressed our frustration was through song, and I think this is a good way to end the review:

5 to 5 chorus (to the tune of 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton)
Workin' 5 to 5
What a way to make no money
Bein' treated like
We don't know s**t, it ain't funny
We just lose our minds
And they never give us credit
It's enough to make you crazy if you let it!

  • The English Teacher Training College responded to this review July 12, 2017 at 7:32 AM

    Dear Stevii,

    We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience during your time here. We can assure you that the staff here care about the Student Teachers’ well-being. The Student Teachers on your intake had quite a full teaching schedule due to the large number of Austrian schools who had booked English projects with our Bilingual Classroom Initiative. It is completely understandable to find the full days of teaching to be very taxing. The schedule has been amended so that Student Teachers are spending less time in the classroom and are given free periods and Professional Development Days in order to prepare lesson plans and catch up on assignments.

    The College is apologetic concerning course staff who were perceived as condescending. Of course this was never the intention of any staff member. The course staff model classroom teaching in the input sessions in order to give the Student Teachers additional practical teaching examples. We understand that there were also negative feedback regarding a second name policy that was enforced during the particular course. This was enforced due to feedback from a previous course, but has also been amended due to more recent feedback. The College is always willing to take on input from Student Teachers, and we encourage Student Teachers to let us know if they are feeling uneasy with any aspect of the program.

    As for the accommodation, they are rented properties and we apologize if issues were not responded to immediately by the landlord. The College has ameliorated this by employing our own Facility Coordinators who are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Student Teacher accommodation. We have supplied bikes to the Wolfsberg campus, while the other campuses are in short walking distance from train and bus stations. Other equipment such as grills and benches have been delivered to all campuses. Evenings, weekends and public holidays are free. It is possible that a heavy teaching schedule and a lack of public holidays during the duration of your program could have led to less time to travel. Regarding the amount of additional funds is reasonable to budget for in addition to the food allowance, we will definitely be collecting input from our Student Teachers and amending our recommendations accordingly.

    We know it will be of little comfort to you now, but we are always trying to improve the experience our Student Teacher have and we appreciate the time you took to provide us with the critical feedback. We will be taking it on board. We apologize for any aspect of the program which was not to the standard you expected and we hope you can understand that as a non-profit, the staff are doing their best to provide the best experience for Student Teachers. There would be no point working for a non-profit, 1000s of miles away from most of our homes, if we did not.