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On Moving to Poland

Adventures teaching English abroad

By RosePublished 5 months ago 6 min read
Top Story - December 2023

Confession — I’ve been putting off writing this life update forever, mostly because I want to write it well. The more time passes, the more I have to say, and the harder it gets to weave everything into a cohesive narrative. I think the only way I’m going to get any words onto this page is to give up on the idea of making this piece excellent, and concentrate on making it just exist.

So, let’s start this simply, with the basic yet big inciting event:

I moved to Poland! I’m living in a small city, where I’m teaching English as a Foreign Language at a local training school. I’ve been here for about three months, and they’ve been wild, albeit in a calm sort of way.

How I ended up here:

I’m a TEFL certified English speaker from the USA. I’d been teaching online for several years after a long stint of working in China. The virtual gig was great, but I missed being in a real classroom and living abroad.

I started my job search in the Spring of 2023. I had initially hoped to teach English in the Middle East, because positions in that region of the world tend to pay the most. I landed one of those lucrative jobs in Kuwait, but it required two and a half years of passport validity. My passport was set to expire in 2025, and because of the backlog at the US passport offices, I lost the position.

I renewed my passport, and started over. During the course of my job search, I was offered placements in Honduras, Taiwan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Poland. I felt like my heart was being pulled in every direction. I wanted to go to all of these places. I still want to go to all of these places.

I chose Poland because Europe is the most difficult TEFL market for Americans break into, due to EU restrictions. Furthermore, my great-great grandmother came from Poland, which gave me a sense of family connection. My mom sent me a picture of her birth certificate before I came here, which cemented the idea that this was a journey I needed to take.

First Impressions:

You won’t find my new home in any tourist guide books, but for me it was love at first sight. The streets are distinctly European. On my first walk through the city, I was struck by how colorful the buildings were, and how many of the houses had lush flowering vines dangling from their balconies.

My own apartment also has a balcony. It’s crumbly and old, and to use the stove you have to twist a dial to turn the gas and light a match. However, it’s near the city center, and across the street from a lovely park.

Although I arrived in mid-September, the weather here was as hot as a summer day in my home state of Maine, and significantly sunnier. There were about two dozen ice cream shops within walking distance of my house, all of them with the prettiest ice cream I’d ever seen. They’re closed for the winter now.

The city where I live is eminently walkable, and it more or less has everything a person could want, from shops, to supermarkets, to restaurants, to museums. It’s a nice place.

The Job:

I taught English in Wuhan, China from 2008 to 2019. During my first year in Wuhan, I became comfortable with my teaching job long before I became comfortable with living in a new environment. For that reason, I accepted every overtime opportunity, and threw myself into teaching one hundred percent.

My experience in Poland has been similar. I’m struggling with the Polish language, and I don’t know enough people to allow me to have much of a social life. However, I love teaching. My classes are all in the evenings. Sometimes, I’m in a bad mood in the morning, but my students are so wonderful, and the energy in the classroom is so electric that I’m always happy by the end of the day. I feel incredibly lucky. Not many people have a job that is a genuine source of joy, but I do.

The thing that has surprised me most about this job is that I enjoy teaching teenagers. In Wuhan, I mainly taught primary school and kindergarten students. In Poland, I teach every age, from seven-year-olds up through grandmas and grandpas. My one stint at teaching Chinese teens was at a middle school with a class size of eighty-five. It wasn’t a bad experience, but I found it overwhelming. I assumed it was because I just wasn’t cut out to interact with children older than twelve, and didn’t stop to consider that the large class size might have been the problem.

In Poland, my teen groups consist of ten students or less, and they are delightful. Every day, they surprise me with how intelligent and funny they are. For example, on Halloween, I brought candy for all of my students, young and old. The little kids shrieked for more, and did not get it. The adults were amused and touched that I’d included them in the festivities. In my teen classes, the kids gave well thought out arguments as to why I should give them extra candy. Before starting one of our textbook’s notoriously difficult listening exercise, a fifteen-year-old girl raised her hand.

“This is hard,” she explained. “We need more sugar to wake up our brains. Besides, we’re growing children. You have to feed us. Please, we want more candy.”

The growing child in question was taller than me and wearing enough eyeliner to make her look like a raccoon. It didn’t matter. Her class got some extra gummy worms.

There are difficult aspects of teaching in Poland. The big one is that each of my twenty classes has a different textbook and needs a different lesson plan. Also, whereas my Chinese teaching job typically gave me a week’s worth of forty-five minute classes to teach two pages in the textbook, my school in Poland often wants me to teach three pages in one sixty-minute class. I have to put in hours of planning every day to make my lessons go smoothly, and to find ways to fit some fun into the relentless and unceasing barrage of material.

My other major source of stress is that I haven’t quit the online teaching job that I had before leaving the USA. I teach online for thirteen hours every Sunday, and then for about two more hours on most weekdays. I don’t get paid much at my school in Poland, and I’m hoping to save some money to travel over the summer, so it’s necessary. Already, my online teaching allowed me to afford an amazing trip to Warsaw, in which I saw and did everything that could be packed into one weekend.

Plans for the Future

With the New Year quickly approaching, I find myself focused on how I want to end 2023, and what I want to make of 2024.

I’m going to spend Christmas in Kraków. I’ll be on my own, but I have a very full sightseeing schedule, so I doubt I’ll have time to feel lonely.

In January, I want to focus on developing a better work-life balance. I’m going to remain primarily work focused, but I want to carve out an hour each day to learn Polish, and another hour to work out at the gym.

I can’t travel outside of Poland for several months, because my residency paperwork is being processed. This summer, I’m hoping to travel by bus and ferry from Warsaw to Helsinki, stopping in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia along the way. I also desperately want to see Romania.

For the time being, though, I’m satisfied with just being here. I’ll throw myself into work for now, and satisfy my wanderlust when the time is right.


About the Creator


This is just a hobby.

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Comments (10)

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  • Esala Gunathilake20 days ago

    Congratulations on your top story.

  • Huwaida Ishaaq2 months ago

    Looking forward to the follow up stories!

  • k eleanor5 months ago

    Oh, I love reading stories like this!! The whole passport drama and choosing between all those countries sounds like a rollercoaster. And the description of your new city with its European charm and ice cream shops is making me want to pack my bags too. Congratulations on the new job and Good luck!!❤❤

  • Test5 months ago

    Emjoyed reading this so much- very relatable. It always takes a little while to settle into a new country. I'm sure you'll get there 🤍

  • Test5 months ago

    Well done! Keep pushing forward with your excellent work—congrats!❤️❤️

  • Stéphane Dreyfus5 months ago

    This is a great tale of your current Polish situation. Well done and thank you for the lovely story!

  • Babs Iverson5 months ago

    Wonderful wander story and sharing your teaching experiences!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Shirley Belk5 months ago

    I found myself relating to you throughout your story. The first was the ancestral pull. Through DNA, my siblings and I found we had Swedish roots...and further research found that our ancestors had come from Poland to Sweden many, many decades prior. That was what captured my attention to your story, Then, as I read more, I saw myself in the fact that we prefer smaller groups in which to interact. I was a Nursing professor and loved teaching, as you do. I can tell you invest above and beyond with your students, too. I really enjoyed your story. I thought it was very well presented. It's a wonder you have had the time to write with your busy schedule. I hope 2024 brings you to many places you've longed to visit and that you make lifelong friends along the way! Subscribed to you so I can read about your journey and live vicariously through you! Merry Christmas

  • This is a very interesting read. Congratulations on the new work!!

  • Manisha Dhalani5 months ago

    Always love stories about people moving to another part of the world. Congrats on the move and all the best!

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