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If Italy’s combination of superb food and wine, and la dolce vita - the sweet life – doesn’t grab you, then nothing will. Italy proudly boasts fabulous art and opera, a magnificent array of ancient monuments, and history stretching back thousands of years. Whether you head for fashionable Milan, or ancient Rome in this relatively small country you’re never too far away from great beaches, verdant rolling hills or alpine skiing. Who could ask for more?
The language primarily in use is Italian, however, it may be useful to note that Italians can understand Spanish. Outside the main tourist areas English is not widely spoken, and indeed the Italian education system is a little deficient on this front.
This deficiency in the high-school education provision is one of the reasons that there are good opportunities here for English Teachers, since many high-school students seek to improve on what they have available to them via the state. There is a large number of independent language institutes ranging from elite academies, where experience and qualifications are a requisite, to small-scale outfits where a degree, much less a TESOL qualification, may not even be required.
Italy is awash with famous cities: Rome, Florence, Milan, Naples, Venice and Bologna. Each of these is very distinctive and has its own character and history. It is practically a sin to go to Italy and not spend some time in each of these cities. Breathtaking art and architecture, abounds, but it should not be forgotten that the more rural areas, such as Tuscany, have a great charm all of their own. As mentioned, Italy is a relatively small country in European terms, and good public transportation means that it’s easy to plan plenty of excursions from wherever you are based.
If you wish to teach in a state or private high-school may need to have a degree, but a TESOL qualification is often enough. Some teaching opportunities in Italy require two-years’ language teaching experience, but there are always opportunities available for newly qualified TESOL teachers.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching children or adults in the same class. Enthusiasm for English amongst the general population can sometimes not be as high, for example, as it is in Germany or Holland, and it is possible that the motivation of those being taught is not quite as great.
In the main you will find yourself teaching students of varying ability, even within the same class. Hence, expect all ranges of ability. The challenge, particularly with children, is in motivating them. It is also a task to cope with varying levels of ability within the same class. Nevertheless, Italians can be great fun to teach, and can be very enthusiastic
For those seeking work in advance there is no over-arching list of the hundreds of language schools - scuole di lingue - which exist in Italy, and one’s best resource is the Yellow Pages. International language schools like Berlitz, Benedict Schools and Liguarama have a strong presence in Italy, and there are several Italian chains. The Italian groups include the British Schools Group (www.britishschool.com) and British Institutes (www.britishinstitutes.it). Another is Oxford Schools (www.oxforditalia.it).
The new arrival would do well to consult the weekly English language papers Rome Metropolitan and Wanted in Rome. In addition to this placing ads in tobacconists and supermarkets is not a bad idea, and there are also notice boards in the two English bookshops in Rome, Lion Bookshop and Economy Bookshop.
Whatever way you look for work it is important to remember that life grinds to a halt in August, as with many European countries. Therefore your travel plans should be formulated to avoid hitting this dead spot during which very little gets done.
When contract for a position in an institute it is very important to thoroughly read your contract, and check what it stipulates. There can be a slight cultural trait amongst Italians to tell you what you want to hear. The reality may be somewhat different. Remember what is important to you - accommodation, class size, salary, etc. and try and ensure these are adequately catered for in your contract.
It can be the case that some state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Italian consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme.
You should be aware of the fact that the reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU means that high schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions. This means that some schools are generally not willing to take on anybody who is ineligible.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organise a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.
For Americans as well, it is worth trying to see if there are positions available through the US military. The military employs lots of civilians and may be able to process work permits, etc. for you. In addition to this student visas are also an option.
Working your way through the bureaucracy you will need original certificates of any qualifications you have, along with passport photos, birth certificate, and passport.
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