Intern Intel: Teaching English at the Czech Technical University

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of our new series, “Intern Intel.” This series is intended to give students with internships a platform to reflect on what they have gained from those experiences. On the flip side, we hope this series will also be informative for future NYU Prague students who are considering these internships and want to know more about what to expect from them before applying.

Working as an English tutor at the Czech Technical University for the International Student Club (ISC) has been a rewarding experience. ISC is a student organization whose purpose is to create an environment where foreign and Czech students can meet and learn from each other’s culture. It is a very flexible organization that welcomes all students living in Prague, who don’t need to be students of the Czech Technical University to be a part of ISC’s programs. One of its programs, the Language Courses, is entirely free of charge for students and no registration is required—meaning that the students enrolled in the Language Courses are not obligated to attend. They are there voluntarily so they can improve their own English.

I chose to do this internship because it gave me the opportunity not only to hone my own teaching abilities, but more importantly to have an impact on students who are eager to improve their own English speaking. When I first started at the beginning of March, I was surprised at how well my students already knew English; after all, I was to teach a beginner’s English conversational course. I was nervous on the first day because I thought there would be a huge communication gap with my students and I would have to depend on my own limited Czech, but fortunately all of them spoke and understood English well enough to converse with me.

It also helped that prior to the first day of teaching, the Languages Coordinator sent a list of tips, hints, and expectations to all interns. Interns were to teach alone since it was assumed that the Czech students knew a little English and that the intern was proficient at it. Also, bringing a list of suggested conversational topics was a very helpful recommendation which I got from the Coordinator’s tips. I was also a bit relieved to see that I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous. Most of the students were attending an ISC course for the very first time; many of these students were too humble in believing their English was not good, but it was quite the contrary. The students were very polite and made me feel at ease to teach them since they were eager to learn.

Most of the students come from technical educational backgrounds like engineering, medicine, and accounting; they see this class as an opportunity to leverage their English skills in these highly advanced professions. My class typically consisted of five to six students, and we would meet at the university every Tuesday once a week for ninety minutes. Because the group was pretty small, it was quite easy to involve everybody in discourse and discussion.

The internship is quite flexible in how to tutor these students. I chose to approach these sessions in an engaging and experiential manner. Many of these students already knew the basic rules of how to speak English, so I figured the best approach was to create a space where they could practice and hone their speaking. For each session, I would suggest topics for discussion, and occasionally I would bring a lesson plan to introduce them to topics which might be unknown to them, such as common grammatical mistakes or common idioms and expressions. For the most part, I would have them converse so they could keep practicing their English since I knew it was difficult for most of them to have a space where they could openly practice.

Overall, the internship has been a fulfilling and exciting experience for me. The students were very friendly, and teaching can certainly be a fun learning experience. For one session, we even played some thinking games that were aimed to test English speaking abilities, like Pictionary and Scattergories. The students and I had a lot of fun together. I highly recommend this internship for future students who are looking not only to gain a fulfilling experience teaching English, but also to be surrounded by a unique Czech student body. I definitely gained a lot of confidence in my own teaching abilities and interpersonal skills from this internship. I also felt like I learned a lot from Czech student culture. These students are highly driven to succeed in their fields and demonstrate an enthusiasm for continuous learning.

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