Teaching English as a Second Language offers you some amazing opportunities, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. This past spring, I received a Facebook message from a friend who knew I had taught ESL for a while in South Korea and a few other places. She had a friend who was looking for someone to teach for a few weeks in the Czech Republic. I had never been to the Czech Republic, so I was curious to see what the job entailed. She got me in touch with her friend and we exchanged a few messages back and forth before he said, “Here, let me just call you and I’ll explain the job…”
He called and began: “So, for this job, you’ll live and teach in a 400-year-old castle. The castle is in the heart of Moravian wine country, and there are vineyards and wine cellars all around. You’ll teach regular daytime classes, and then it is your job three nights per week to take your students to the wine cellars, taste wine, and have casual conversations in English.”
I stopped him there with perhaps an unprofessional level of enthusiasm, “Where do I sign?!?” He continued, “The wine is really the basis for the camp. It loosens everybody up and gets the conversation flowing. Think of it like a summer camp for adults…with wine.” I’m pretty sure he could have stopped after “400-year-old castle,” and I would have been in, but the additional information was just a bonus benefit!
This particular school/camp is not a place to go if your goal is to make money. Although a stipend was provided —along with room, board, and most importantly, all our wine, I had to pay my own flight. It was essentially a low-cost working vacation in the heart of southern Moravia in the Czech Republic.
I managed to convince a friend to come with me (it didn’t take much convincing) as they had openings for two teachers. We landed in Vienna, Austria and were met at the airport by the owner of the school and his wonderful family. They brought us over the Czech border to the castle. It wasn’t a castle in the traditional medieval fortress kind of sense. Instead, it was more of a sprawling estate situated on grounds and gardens that was once the summer vacation spot of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. For someone who loves history, being able to walk the gardens planted by an Emperor was an experience in itself!
Upon arrival, we were immediately introduced to Czech hospitality as we were fed a rich and hearty meal along with a tall glass of world-famous Czech pilsner. At this initial experience, I knew it would be a good trip.
The school itself is primarily for adults, although there were some children and teens in attendance as well. The classes are separated by age. With the younger students, we ran some sports programs, teaching them American football, baseball, and capture the flag. The sports were a great way for the kids to use up some energy, and for us teachers to burn off the wine and feasts from the night before. Regular classes consisted of some standard grammar and speaking in the mornings. Then, in the afternoons, we had topic-oriented conversational classes, along with a few trips to local sights such as a hike to a famous memorial and a tour of the castle.
The evening classes were more relaxed, intended to bring down inhibitions and get everyone interacting in a fun way. Teachers can come up with their own ideas, but there are a few staples that run each week such as singing songs and a casino night. Singing and music are a large part of the school as the owner and his family are all accomplished musicians. Guitars, violins, and an electric piano made several welcome appearances in the wine cellars. We even had the pleasure of encountering a traveling Czech theatre troupe who joined us for an evening. I cannot imagine a more immersive —and enjoyable— cultural experience for a brief two-week teaching experience.
Upon completing our stay at the castle, my friend and I spent a few days exploring the Czech Republic, and then we headed to Germany for the remainder of the week. Once you’re in Europe, it is incredibly easy (and cheap!) to travel around, so it was a fantastic opportunity to see a bit of Europe while making a little money along the way. I will most certainly be back teaching at the castle again next year!
Oh the joys and wonders an Oxford Seminars TESOL certificate can bring! Once you’ve begun teaching ESL, so many doors worldwide are opened, and your life can quickly become a question of “What destination is next?”
I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world. Get out and explore this planet and all its myriad cultures, people, sights, and sounds. Live life. Love life.
Dig deeper into Oxford Seminars to learn how you can experience the varying cultures throughout the world and really live life to its fullest!
Written By Brent Morrison
Brent has been involved in ESL as a teacher, Oxford Seminars TESOL instructor, and writer for much of the past decade. His teaching exploits have taken him to South Korea and most recently to the Czech Republic. As both a teacher and avid traveler, he looks forward to every opportunity to explore new cultures, sample new cuisines, and meet new people. He can’t imagine a better way to experience the world!