Q & A Time

Last week I was contacted by a fellow ITA Alumna , who had some really great questions about my experience thus far in Florence.  Her questions were fantastic and it got me thinking that there may be others out there, (hopefully reading this blog) looking for those same answers.  With her permission, I have posted our exchange below.

I hope you find the information useful.  I don’t claim to have all the (right) answers.  I can only speak to my personal experience, but if living and teaching abroad is something you are considering this may help.

Please feel free to comment below if you have any other questions that are not covered here.  I’m happy to help.

Here we go:

1.  I’m looking at the apartment costs, and it seems that it would be quite difficult to live in Florence on an English teacher’s salary.  What do you think?

*I can tell you that living in the historical centre of Florence is pricey.  If you’re looking to share residence, I’m afraid I can’t shed much light on that since I opted to live on my own.  Obviously that would cut down your costs dramatically.  Studio/apartments that I’ve seen for one person can range from 500Euros to up to 1500Euros a month PLUS utilities on consumption (water, electricity).  It all depends on your budget.  It is possible on a teacher’s salary to break even if you are resourceful with your spending but I HIGHLY recommend that you have a 5-6 month buffer of rent saved even before you set foot here.  Peace of mind comes from knowing that if the work isn’t available, you can still afford to have a roof over your head each night.

2.  I want to have extra money to travel.  Do you find you have extra money or not really?

*On the same lines as above, save up before you come if you want that extra wiggle room to shop or travel or whatever else you like to do for enjoyment.  I’m not saying it’s impossible to travel without savings, but again, I’m a person to pre-plan and plan some more before making such a big decision.  I have family in the south of Italy and have plans to visit once every few months  I also have plans to explore as much as Europe as my budget can allow.  Again, nothing is impossible, unless you’re really careless about spending.

3.  If it isn’t too personal, can you outline your expenses?   I have a friend who lives in Rome, and she said it costs about 20-30/month for internet, about the same for a phone, and i’d need about 200 per month for groceries, plus your apartment cost.   What are things like for you?
*I can give you a general idea (as I have not gotten my first month’s utility bills just yet)  Internet is included with my rent – which is amazing because you will use it a lot to create and collect lesson plans, not to mention using it to keep in touch with family back home.  My local cellular phone costs me about 20Euro a month (got a really cheap plan with TIM; minutes, texts and data)
Groceries are not that expensive in my opinion, as long as you don’t plan on eating steak and lobster each night.  Again, I’m not sure if you’re planning to come on your own or if you have a family/partner etc.  Pasta and veggies are relatively cheap, and 100% it’s cheaper to cook/eat at home rather than go out.  Save dinners out for special treat-nights.  On my own I spend nowhere near 200Euros a month on groceries and I EAT.  I’m Italian so food is important.  I have a small fresh fruit and veggie stand right beside my studio so I pick up what I’m craving for the day each morning/on the way home.  At home I have the staples, but I buy as I need and I haven’t been spending that much at all.  I think 200Euros per month is being very, very generous.  Mornings I make my own coffee and breakfast, lunch I usually grab a panino from somewhere for around 3-5Euros.  Dinner I usually have pasta, soup, or some sort of protein and veggies.  Sometimes I have just a salad and then I go out for a gelato as a treat.  No shortage of food here!
4.  Are you able to go eat at a restaurant occasionally and do things, or are you just getting by?
*I can’t really say that I’ve been to a lot of restaurants apart from when I had a family member staying with me about 2 weeks ago.  We went out about 2-3 times for lunch and dinner in one week.  It’s possible to do, but just use the internet to research and avoid places that are ‘tourist traps’.  Restaurants in the highly popular tourist locations usually mark-up their prices.  The trick is to venture outside of the ‘central’ area and find those small hidden jems that will fill your belly, but not empty your wallet.  TripAdvisor is really helpful in finding great little places like that.  Grabbing a quick sandwich for lunch will cost you about 3-5Euros, but take it to go.  Once you ‘sit’ in a restaurant, most places charge you a ‘service charge’.  Same thing for grabbing a coffee.  Drink it at the bar standing up.  I’ve visited a lot of the museums, galleries and churches (most you do have to pay to get in)  I have been fully experiencing Florence, but I had that in mind before I came, so I had a little extra cash set aside to do it.  Play it by ear once you are here.  If you know you’re OK one week for money, go ahead and treat yourself, on other weeks, take in the sights of Florence and walk around, window shop, people watch (that’s free and worth every second!!)  *Edit: The first Sunday of each month, all state museums offer free admission.  As long as you don’t mind waking up early and standing in line for a bit, I highly recommend you take advantage of that when you can.*
5.  Again, if it isn’t too personal, can you tell me what you and/or other teachers are getting paid in Florence to teach English full time and part time?

*Hard to say.  It all really depends on the school you end up working for.  I can tell you that at my school, for example, the hourly range for teachers is about 10-15Euros per hour.  This all depends on your level of certification (B.A., Masters etc.), teching experience and how desperate they are for teachers!  Most teachers work part-time and use private lessons to supplement income.  I also plan on supplementing with private lessons, but for right now, I’m working at one school for about 12-15 hours per week.  If you end up teaching young children, you’ll most likely be working with them outside of normal school hours (after-school language programs).  Unless you have a teaching degree and a proper visa, working full-time in the public/state schools is improbable from what I understand.  The teachers I’ve spoken to work a few hours here and a few hours there.  Wages range and hours range.

6.  I’m planning on getting a student visa, attending a language school and also working.  Do you have a student visa or are you just there working?  Do you have any comments on visa issues?
*I actually have a ‘working-holiday’ visa granted by the Government of Italy.  It is a special visa that took months to get and is only given to 1,000 Canadians per year.
I know that a lot of people work ‘in nero’ or ‘under the table’ here, but since I plan on staying for a year, I had no interest in being paranoid that I’d get busted for being in Italy illegally once my tourist visa was up after 3 months.  Good plan on the student visa, you’ll just have to be really good with time management to ensure that your studies get looked after, that you have time to create and plan your lessons and that you are making money teaching as well.  Again, for the visa, I would just rather have one.  No fuss, and no extra stress.  One less thing to think about as you start your new experience here.
7.  How many hours of English teaching is considered full time?   (I’m assuming that the hours are counted as in-class hours, not prep hours)
*Hours are calculated in-class only, yes, but you will be doing a lot of prep, so be ready for that.  Since you won’t know the age and levels of your students until you actually start to work and get hired by a school, it’s a good idea to have 1-2 lesson plans for each level and age group already done before you come.  Afterwards, you’ll spend a bit each night planning and getting things organized once you know your class.  I have no idea what full-time hours would be.  You would be able to accumulate more hours if you work for 1 school and do side private lessons too.  Sorry, not much help here.  Again, most teachers work part time (outside of regular school hours for children).  Adult classes are different, they are during the day, but again, may only be for a few hours per day.  I work 12-15 hours per week with adults and my shifts alternate from morning classes (0930 to 1240) to afternoon classes (1400-1800) give or take – but even these hours change every day due to cancellation or other issues. *Edit: It’s important to make yourself as available as you can to these schools.  Tell them you are willing to double up or even triple up on daily lessons.  That will show them that you are serious about working there and they will appreciate that they have someone who will happily take teaching hours, even at a moment’s notice.*
8.  Do you know if it is common for schools to hire people who can only work 20-25 hrs (the student visa only allows for 20-25 hrs of work per week)
*I think that may be the norm here.  Full time work at one school (i.e. 0830-1800) is not common from what I’ve seen/heard so far for TEFL/TESOL teachers.
9.  What was it like finding work?     Did you send resumes ahead of time or go from school to school once you got there?
*I blasted out emails with resumes and cover letters about a month before I moved here.  I received responses from 4 out of 17 schools saying they couldn’t process any resumes/applications until I was actually living in the area, but at least I got on some radars.  The morning I arrived here in Florence, I packed a bag full of resumes and hit the schools closest to my studio.  I REALLY lucked out and got hired on the spot at the first school I went to and to top it off, was teaching by 2pm that same day!  It really can happen that quick, so be prepared.  In most, if not all cases, you will have to go school by school and drop off resumes and inquire of positions available.  I recommend you have maps from your home to each school and have them printed out so you know exactly where you need to go.  Hit the ground running!!
10.  How do you like your job so far?

* I love my job.  The school I work for is amazing and the adult students I work with are bright and eager to learn.  So far my experience has been A+ (knock on wood!)  You just have to get used to a different pace here.  People move MUCH slower here.  Pack your patience and remember to laugh at the things that seem really backward or even stupid.  Keep positive.

11.  Why did you decide to move to Italy?

*My roots are here in Italy and I needed a change from the mundane at home.  Italy was an easy choice for me….Florence was even easier.  Despite the statistics that there are not a lot of teaching positions here, I took that chance.  It has always been a dream of mine to live in Italy for a year and Florence just felt right to be the choice city.  I also have the chance to spend a lot of time with my family in the south.  I’ll be spending a month or so there with them over the summer (and also all the major holidays from now until then).

12.  What area/neighborhood of Florence do you live in?  Do you like it?

*I live in the historical centre of Florence.  I’m flanked by the Piazza Della Repubblica and the Duomo.  I had to live in the central part.  I wanted that full immersion.  I LOVE it, I walk around every night.  It’s so easy to just go out and wander around and discover places on your own.  Food everywhere, shopping everywhere.  Transit is decent too (when it decides to show up).  Just most locals suggest not taking it very late at night.

13.  Is there a certain reason you picked Florence over other cities?

*I knew Florence was it.  I may have considered Rome for a hot-minute (due to Visa reasons)…but in the end Florence was it.

14.  I have heard it is particularly hard to get a teaching job in Florence (vs. Milan or Rome).  What do you think about that?

*I can’t really comment on that since I have no experience with the market in Rome or Milano. I have heard that as well, but I’m working here…so I can’t really say that it’s 100% true or 100% false, if you know what I mean.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Sending all my best wishes to this Alumna and all future/present Alumni out there.  I hope this was helpful for you!.
Until the next blog, baci xx
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4 thoughts on “Q & A Time

  1. Sabrina, fantastic blog. I’m thinking about doing a similar thing, but am currently trying to get my head around the details. I’d really appreciate some help if you have the time.

    Not sure if you can see my email address. Please do let me know how we can connect. Grazie.

    Like

  2. Ciao Sabrina,
    I am pretty set to enroll in the Online TEFL course over the summer and plan to teach in Florence after getting my certification. This is super helpful information! I was also wondering what month you went to Florence to apply for jobs? If I arrive in the middle of September, is that still hiring season?
    Also, how was your TEFL experience? If you don’t mind telling me a little about the lessons and overall experience, that would be wonderful.
    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ciao Laura! First off, thank you for your comment. I’m happy to help any way I can. I arrived in Florence during the second week of January, just after the Christmas break. I’ve been told the hiring periods are January and September, so your idea to arrive at that time is a good one. My TEFL experience was amazing. I completed the online course offered by the International TEFL Academy (Chicago based). Lessons varied from teaching techniques, to classroom management, grammar and adapting to various learning styles. I have nothing but amazing things to say about ITA. I completed my course while working full time. At times it was a bit challenging to give the reading and weekly assignments my full attention, but I managed. Honestly, this has been the experience of a lifetime. I’d do it all (the course, the travel docs etc) again to have an experience like this has been. Best of luck. Feel free to post if you have more questions. I’m happy to help! I hope to see you in Florence in September. In bocca al lupo ❤️🇮🇹❤️

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