Alumni Spotlight: Elisabeth B.
After spending a year exploring historic streets and immersing herself in a new culture, Portland, Maine native Elisabeth Brewington returned home from teaching English in the Czech Republic with new skills and a lifetime of memories.
Why did you decide to teach English abroad?
I taught abroad with CIEE in Thailand before and had a really positive experience, so I decided to do it again. I had never taught prior to teaching English abroad and I really enjoyed my experience the first time. I knew I wanted to continue to live abroad and teaching English was the way to do that!
Why did you choose the Czech Republic?
I was open to go anywhere, and one of the reasons I chose the Czech Republic was because I had never been there before. I have family from Germany and was somewhat familiar with their culture, so I decided to choose a country that was like Germany, but still very different. I really just wanted to learn about an entirely new culture.
What makes the Czech Republic unique?
Czech Republic is a small country, so lots of history and culture can be overshadowed by bigger and more tourist attractive countries. Prague is also a very beautiful city with lots to see and do. I was located outside of Prague which was a really neat experience because I formed close relationships in the community. In the end, if you put a lot into it, you’ll get a lot out of it.
What was your favorite part about living in the Czech Republic?
One the biggest perks of the Czech Republic is its location in central Europe. I visited 24 countries in a year all while working full time. That’s not something you can do just anywhere. Although it can be expensive, there are great opportunities for private tutoring to earn extra income.
What was the biggest challenge?
I had to learn a lot about the characteristics of the people that live there. They’re not always super warm and friendly to everyone so I really had to show that I was invested in their education. The center of Prague was a little bit different, since they have a wider range of people living there. The Czech language is very difficult to learn and there aren’t a lot of English speakers outside of Prague which is where I lived. So, learning Czech was definitely a challenge.
How did teaching in the Czech Republic affect you personally or professionally?
At first, I thought going abroad for a year would be a bad thing to have on my resume. That it wouldn’t be the “real” work experience that I needed. But actually, everyone always asks me about it. Teaching abroad for a year shows that you can adapt to new environments others may not be able to. It forces you to think on your feet in new situations, be more open minded, and very importantly, shows communicate with anybody. As a person I’ve gained more independence and confidence in myself. Something I could never get by working in an office my entire life.
What advice would you give to someone considering teaching in the Czech Republic?
Just do it. There’s never a perfect time and you would never regret it. I’d recommend Czech for the right person. I think it’s great for travelers who are independent and or want to push themselves to become more independent.
P.S. CIEE staff in Prague are great! They are super responsive and very supportive. I felt very good and secure the whole year.