Posts Tagged With: travel

A Town Called Radom

 

I thought I would talk about this town I have been living in for the past nine months: Radom. Since last September, I have been teaching English to children and adults in this small city of about 200,000 inhabitants. Radom is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Warsaw. To be honest, it is nothing to look at in terms of touristic appeal. It is considered a working class town where a lot of locals actually commute to Warsaw for work. In fact, my Polish friends in Warsaw – and other Poles I’ve met in my travels – ask me, “Why are you in Radom?” “Well, I know it’s not the prettiest place,” says I, “but what’s the big deal?”

“The city is cursed,” they tell me. Cursed? At first, I had no idea what they were talking about, but later I learned that Radom staged a revolution against the communist government in 1976. As a result, the government stopped supporting the city, leaving most Poles believing the city is cursed.

But in all honesty, Radom isn’t all that bad. The cost of living is much cheaper than that of the bigger Polish cities, it has a lovely high street full of cafes, restaurants and bars. There is also a huge shopping center where most of the locals congregate on weekends. It has a bus and train station where I can be in Warsaw or Krakow in under three hours.

So how did you end up in Radom?

It all started over a year ago when I was living in Ottawa. I was unhappy with my current situation and looking for a new job. I had a mutual friend who was teaching English in Radom, and suggested that I apply to the school, which he was teaching at. I did a little research on the city, mainly relying on Wikipedia. My friend was blunt. He told me the city wasn’t much to look at, and that life there can get boring really quickly. Nonetheless, I applied for a job, had an interview with the director a week later. Another week later, I was offered the job, and promptly accepted it.

What do you do there in your spare time?

Wind down from a long week, walk around town, work on my novel in a café, and go to the gym. Most weekends, I travel around Poland and during the holidays I travel around Europe.

Anything you particularly don’t like?

At the time of writing, the city doesn’t have an airport (well it does but there are no flights in operation). So if I need to fly somewhere, I have to use Warsaw Chopin Airport, which means carefully timing logistics so I can make my flight. The city is beautiful in the summer months, but during the winter it’s a ghost town where many bars and restaurants close early. What really irks me is that during the winter months it gets dark at 3pm! It’s also not great looking at the many apartment blocks in the city.

How do the locals perceive foreigners?

Some are genuinely curious about them, others wonder why I am even there. I have even be told once, “We don’t want you in our town!” I simply took that with a grain of salt. I have come to accept these negative opinions, but I also remember that I am here providing an invaluable service.

What do you like best about it?

I can walk everywhere. In fact, it only takes me five minutes to walk from my apartment to work. I wouldn’t have this if I lived in Warsaw or Krakow.

Would you recommend other foreigners to follow your path?

Radom, for me, will challenge even the most seasoned of travelers. One must be fully independent and able to entertain themselves. They will also have to be able to sacrifice certain creature comforts like Starbucks. At the time of writing, there isn’t one in the city. However, there is McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

One thing that foreigners would find interesting is that Pope John Paull II once visited Radom and prayed at the intersection of the place where the revolution took place. Kind of nice if you are a history buff. And Pope John Paul II is revered here (he was Polish himself).

Just to be clear, I am not criticizing Radom. I am simply sharing my reflections on my time here. I am glad I came because it has made me stronger professionally and personally. I now feel a greater sense of gratitude for my own country and community. This is something that so many of my countrymen take for granted. Perhaps Radom will grow and maybe become a booming metropolis like Krakow or Warsaw.

 

Categories: Life | Tags: , ,

Unravelling the Myths of Teaching Abroad

Business woman over the background with a different world langua

I used to think teaching English abroad was relatively easy. But after talking to colleagues who had taught in Korea, China and Dubai to name a few, I realized this was not the case. I have been teaching English in Poland for six months now, and I can clearly say teaching abroad is no duck walk. You basically have to work as hard as if you were working in your home country. If you’re considering teaching abroad, you may want to read on and find out the truth about some of the myths you may or may not have heard about.

1. Teaching English Overseas Means having conversations in English with the students. Definitely not the case. You have to plan lessons, be able to teach grammar points and vocabulary as well as listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. You have to prepare dynamic and engaging lessons that cater to different learning styles. You may be having conversations some of the time, but this is assuming the students’ proficiency level is high enough to do so. In short, teaching is way more than just having conversations with students. Conversations simply won’t cut it.

2. You don’t work a lot of hours. This depends on the country you are working in, but generally you can expect to teach 20-24 hours a week, plus lesson planning and administration. This can add up to 40 hours easily, which is pretty much a typical working schedule at home. Be prepared to spend a lot of hours in the school. If this is not what you were expecting, you should definitely reconsider it before embarking on a teaching position overseas.

3. Teaching isn’t all that difficult. You may be a native English speaker but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach it. Are you prepared to teach the differences between John has been to London versus John has gone to London? You will need to be clued up on grammar points before walking into a class. If you have never taught before, I would definitely recommend investing in taking a CELTA or TEFL course. Both will give you the tools you need to be able to teach grammar, vocabulary and receptive skills.

4. I will be able to save money. This is not the case. In fact, it’s a good idea to go to your chosen country with money saved up for initial expenses. You will find that you will be breaking even most of the time. With me, I find that I am breaking even because I like to spend my money on travel during my time off.

5. I will be able to live like a tourist and travel all the time. Living like a tourist, not really. You will have to go to work, pay bills, get sick, buy groceries, clean your apartment, etc. Life is life wherever you go, only this time you will be dealing with culture shock, language barrier and adjusting to different rules. As for travelling, this depends on where you are. If you are working in a place where it is super easy to travel around, then you will be able to travel. I am in a city 100 kilometers from Warsaw, which is not easy to get travel to other parts of Poland. I need at least four days off if I want to go up to Gdansk. However, I have been able to travel to other parts of Europe during my holidays. Speaking of holidays, you can use these to travel. And you can expect to have lots of holidays, especially if you are teaching in Europe.
So hopefully, this has cleared the air into some of the common myths about teaching English abroad. I am not by any means trying to put you off. I just think you should know what you are getting into. If you have realistic expectations and understand what teaching is all about, I’m sure you will have a great experience. It has been one of the best experiences I have done, even though it has been very challenging at the same time. Do your homework, get certified as a teacher, and understand that you will not get rich by teaching abroad. Also understand that you will have to work hard as a teacher and commit to your students.

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , , , ,

South America Here I Come!

Machu Pichu In Peru

 

 

In just over a week, I will be heading off on a month-long trip to South America – 34 days to be exact! It seems like only yesterday when I first booked the flight back in September, and now the days are numbered until I set foot on a new continent. Rather than bombard you with countless paragraphs, I thought I would give the nitty gritty through a Q&A panel:

So where are you going exactly?

Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. I fly into Lima and fly back from Buenos Aires.

Alone or with friends?

I’ll be joining up with a small tour group in Lima where we will begin our South American odyssey.

What will be the highlights of the trip?

Visiting Machu Picchu, crossing the Salt Flats of Uyuni in Bolivia by 4×4, exploring the lake districts of Chile and Argentina, and getting lost in the metropolises of Santiago and Buenos Aires.

How will you get around?

A mix of using coach buses, trains, car rentals and internal flights.

Did you have to get any shots?

Yes, five of them. Three in one day, I might add, ouch!

What are you looking forward to the most?

Obviously Machu Picchu! But I’m really looking forwarding to seeing Chile and Argentina as well, since they are both such fascinating countries rich in history.

What will be the most challenging?

I would say when we journey through the Salt Flats, where I have been told can get really cold. We’ll also be camping there for three nights, and I’ve never camped before! That, and adjusting to the altitude when we get to Cusco; it’s 12,000 feet above sea level, which is four thousand feet higher than Machu Picchu! I’m hoping I don’t get Altitude Sickness.

What about the language barrier?

That’s the beauty part, there won’t be any! I speak almost fluent Spanish as I hold a degree in it, and I lived in Spain for over a year.

Will you get any writing done while you’re there?

Unfortunately not, unless one counts writing in a journal. I’ll be constantly on the move, and any free time will be spent relaxing, doing laundry and keeping friends and family back home posted.

What souvenirs do you hope to bring back?

Lots of photos and memories of course! I do collect fridge magnets, so I’m hoping to bring one back from each country I visit.

Why South America?

It was a toss up between this, Japan, or Australia and New Zealand. I made my choice and I stick with it! I’ve always wanted to go, and I figure it’s now or never. I wanted to visit other Spanish-speaking countries. I’m fortunate enough where I will have a month off work as it is a slow time at the school where I teach English. When will I ever have this opportunity before retirement?

 

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Blog at WordPress.com.