This piece for Enchanted Serendipity’s Expat Series was written by Alicia.
I recently moved to Prague, in the Czech Republic; leaving behind a secure well-paying job, my friends and family, my pets, and most of my material possessions.
Dropping everything and moving across a whole ocean has been far more challenging and rewarding than any of my travel experiences so far.
Before moving here, I’d had quite a bit of the wrong kind of excitement in recent years. In 2011, I was halfway into a Master’s Program in New York when my fiancé was diagnosed with Leukemia. I left the program to care for him, and we spent about two years in a maze of hospital rooms, test results, fear and pain.
Luckily, he achieved remission and I found myself settling into a good job; but one that I lacked a true passion for. My fiancé had never traveled abroad (except to Mexico, where he was born), and I was itching to get out and celebrate his survival in a big way.
One morning, I turned to him and suggested we buy a one-way plane ticket to Europe.
I felt like we had been through so much and fought so hard for survival that we couldn’t settle where we were. He felt the same way and so we booked tickets to London that same morning! From that point, we started planning to complete a TEFL training program and find work somewhere in Europe as English teachers. After about six months of working and saving like crazy, we took off in July 2015.
Headed To Europe To Begin An Adventure
When we first considered teaching English abroad, we discussed a ton of possibilities, ranging multiple continents. We chose Europe because it was my fiance’s first choice (Prague, specifically). I didn’t know anybody who had done TEFL in Europe, and I wasn’t sure if our plan was realistic, so I was anxious and obsessive over planning for months. We were actually able to find a lot of reputable work opportunities in Prague and the cost of living was quite low. So we jumped in and signed up for a Trinity CertTESOL course at Oxford House in Prague.
Before starting the course, we spent a month just enjoying Europe. Traveling with my fiancé was as wonderful and redemptive as we had hoped, and the stress of the previous few years quickly melted away. We felt lighter, more creative, and more hopeful about the future.
Getting away from the stress of your everyday routine opens huge locked doors in your mind and heart. We felt like we could achieve anything – like the world was more full of possibility than we’d ever realized.
One particular moment stands out for me: we were at the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, and we’d decided to stay the night so we could enjoy this amazing place without a million other tourists around. At sunset, we hiked up to a bridge that overlooks the castle, and had it completely to ourselves. I’m totally afraid of heights, but when I ran out to the middle of that bridge and threw my arms up in the air, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and knew that I could go anywhere, do anything, and be anyone I wanted in this world.
The Prague Life Begins
In August, I arrived in Prague for the Trinity CertTESOL Course. It is a highly intensive program and I found it far more challenging that I anticipated. However, it was an incredibly rewarding and motivating. I discovered that I had a natural talent for teaching and I absolutely loved being in the classroom. I found work immediately after finishing the course and I continue to enjoy teaching. Working with international students is awesome, because I’m constantly meeting new people, and it’s incredibly rewarding to know that I help others through teaching. I think anybody who enjoys meeting and helping people would love teaching English abroad.
Adapting to life in Prague has been quick and easy.
It’s a big, beautiful city with a huge English speaking community. There is so much going on here all the time, you could never get bored here. I do struggle as a vegetarian; because traditional Czech cuisine is basically all meat; but vegetarianism is gaining popularity here recently and there are a lot of amazing specialty restaurants around the city.
At first, I missed food from home, but I now have a long list of favorite Prague spots that I’ll miss if I ever leave! Prague is one of those cities that you can live in for years and still never discover all its hidden gems. The Czech language is difficult to approach as a foreigner, but that’s actually liberating in a sense.
When I sit on the tram and hear nothing but Czech language around me, it makes me feel free to gaze out the window and contemplate life rather than get caught up in overhearing other peoples’ conversations. When I do need to communicate with somebody, finding an English speaker is never difficult. This is a tremendously easy city both to visit and to live in.
The most challenging aspect of moving to Prague has been going through the visa process. I had a lot of difficulty finding an apartment because there is a lot of competition between real estate agencies here, and getting my visa took more time and effort than I realized it would.
But I did it.
My advice for anybody interested in teaching in Prague is to work with a professional who can guide you through the visa process. This makes is quite costly to start living and working here, but for me it’s completely worth it when I stroll alongside the river with my fiancé, or when we jet off to another great European city for the weekend! We haven’t traveled as much while working as we had hoped, because to be honest we have some debt that makes it difficult for us to save up. But if you are debt-free or close to it, living here as a teacher is affordable and you have ample opportunity to travel.
Appreciating This Expat Journey
Taking this journey to Europe and moving to Prague has been the greatest experience of my life so far.
I feel more joyful than ever, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet great people and see places I never even heard of before, such as recently boating through an underground river in the Moravian Karst. I think that the biggest benefit of my move is that I’ve become more positive and open.
Moving abroad helped me to process all of the different pressures I’d been experiencing at home and to fully accept and deal with the anxiety and fear I’ve been holding inside since my fiancé’s cancer battle. After moving abroad, I’ve taken to quickly saying ‘Yes!’ to everything and pursuing a variety of creative work opportunities, travel experiences, and friendships instead of trying to master plan everything in my life.
I’m going to turn 30 next month, and I feel like I’m approaching my third decade on this earth with a much healthier perspective on life than I had in my twenties.
That perspective is that we only have today.
Nothing more is promised to us.
And I want to spend today saying yes.
You can follow Alicia on her European adventures on Instagram.
If you enjoyed this, check out Jessica’s story about being an expat in Thailand.