The downfall of Ceausescu in 1989 provided the catalyst for great change in this former communist state. However, the pace of change has not been nearly as fast as some of its neighbours and the western visitor cannot help but be stricken by how ‘different’ things are in this country. Nevertheless, the cost of living is very cheap, there are many medieval castles and villages to visit, excellent quality skiing and hiking are available, and the contrast between horse-drawn vehicles vying for space on the roads with yuppies talking on mobile phones whilst they drive flash cars is quite amusing. In addition to this some of the mountainous landscapes are haunting, breathtakingly beautiful, and right out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
A population of twenty-two millions fits into ninety one thousand square miles. Romanian is the official language, but Hungarian is spoken in Transylvania. French used to be the official foreign language taught in secondary schools, so this may help the Francophile get by; however, English is now the official second language, and, certainly with the younger members of the population you may be able to communicate using English. Those professing religious faith are divided into eighty seven percent Eastern Orthodox, six percent Protestant, and five percent Catholic, with the remainder ‘other’, presumably Vampirism.
Since 1989 the transition to a market economy in what was the old Soviet Bloc has led to huge demand for English language skills. Everything from tourism to commerce depends heavily on English, and natives who want to make the most of this free market recognise that English Language skills are a must. Major cities are now teeming with foreigners, and many TESOL teachers fall in love with the ancient great cities whose history stretches far back beyond the communist era.
To teach in Romania you will need a TESOL certificate. It is becoming more often the case that an undergraduate degree is required, and in some cases a PGCE and teaching experience, but you should check out your prospective employers requirements. It is sometimes the case that one can be expected to teach a second subject, such as History, in addition to English. Most teaching in high schools is carried out by very able Romanian teachers, and students perform very well in the Cambridge exams.
Outside of the official education system there is a plethora of language institutes, and these tend to be on the look out for well-presented, confident candidates, and, of course, all the qualifications you can muster will help you gravitate to the better institutes.
Another thing to be aware of is that many companies run in-house English language training, and these tend to be the better paid, more stable and predictable posts. In addition to this, for those who do not wish to commit themselves to a full academic year, language summer camps are very common, and can represent a fulfilling way of experiencing the country without having to spend the whole year there.
Because of the huge variety of standards in education you can expect a commensurately varied student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others will have many years experience in studying English.
In addition to this teaching materials tend to be in short supply. You would be well advised to take along your preferred curriculum books, and be aware that photocopiers are in short supply. It’s not a bad idea at all to take along magazines, photos, and anything that you think will help you construct a lesson.
Students are keen, well-motivated and recognise that it is greatly to their benefit to take their English studies seriously. Indeed, high school students must pass a demanding foreign language paper - normally English - in order to graduate high school.
Visas and Regulations
The visa situation is somewhat fluid and you would be best advised to consult the consulate in your country of origin. Request the document ‘Employment Visas and Work Permits for Foreign Citizens’, and this should bring you up to speed.
As things currently stand Americans can enter the country for one month without a visa, and Britons have to apply for a three-month tourist visa prior to setting out. Teachers must apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Employment and Social Security. The current fee levied for this is $200. Applicants must supply originals of their educational certificates, a statement from your local police in your country of origin indicating that you have no criminal record, a medical certificate indicating that you are healthy and have no communicable diseases, including HIV. Finally, with this you must submit a contract of employment.
As indicated above, visa requirements will vary from country of origin to country of origin. When making your enquiries about visas from your local Romanian Consulate think about also what you have to do to renew your visa. All the way back home, or does a cross-border trip do nicely? Also consider how many times can you renew your tourist visa, and how long your work permit is good for and what you have to do to renew it.
Bucharest is the capital of Romania, and a city of striking contrasts. The architecture is an eclectic mix of styles, periods and influences. The people are very friendly, and westerners are still regarded as something of a novelty. But, if going native, you will really want to get yourself out into the great outdoors and enjoy the splendid natural beauty the country has to offer.
Getting a Job
Jobs in Eastern Europe continue to be advertised in the educational press. In addition to this there are a number of organisations who recruit directly into Eastern Europe.
Other contacts specific to Romania include The Ministry of Education (21 615 7430). The Ministry is not a recruitment agency per se; however, they are actively involved in placing volunteers, and assigning teaching jobs. They work in association with the very active British Council, who have an office in Bucharest. QUEST Romania (www.quest.ro) functions as a quality control body, regulating private language schools, and placing highly qualified teachers in posts. British-Romanian Connections (+44 151 645 8555) is an organisation set up to run language clubs in Romania, and may be able to provide some contacts.
With this said there is a great deal to be said for getting work on the spot. This gives you the opportunity to negotiate a salary, evaluate class sizes, timetables, teaching materials, hours and, where applicable accommodations. Accommodations are of considerable importance and often come with jobs. Wages are not high in Romania, so you will want to get all the perks that you can.
For many, getting a job will mean knocking on doors - hence, the need, yet again for your certificates, resume, etc. Local telephone directories detail universities, schools and language institutes, etc, which are often only too willing to interview candidates. Highly-qualified, and more importantly, well-turned-out, organised and enthusiastic native English teachers are in short supply. If they like you they will most certainly find some teaching for you!