International TEFL Academy expands opportunities for recent graduates


Image via Sean Hobson, Flickr

A United States passport.

By Gabriella Garvin, Staff Writer

Over the course of four weeks, Pitt alumna Rebecca Cohen went from not knowing what she wanted to do after graduation to establishing a life in Costa Rica with the help of the International TEFL Academy.

The International TEFL Academy started in 2010 to help people learn to teach English as a foreign language. The academy offers four-week sessions that enable participants to partake in a series of educational training sessions. The courses are available in person and online in the U.S., as well as internationally in Latin America, Asia and Europe.

Cohen said the International TEFL Academy allowed her to explore new options after feeling burnt out as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I graduated from Pitt this past spring. So I was there all through the pandemic and online courses. I just got really burnt out,” Cohen said. “I knew I didn’t want to go work in my major or go back to school for grad school so I started looking into how I could live abroad and make money because I was supposed to study in Spain in 2020. So I looked up jobs and learned about TEFL certification and teaching English abroad.”

Cohen said she plans to stay in Costa Rica for some time as a result of the jobs she obtained through the Academy.

“I stayed after the course and I have two different jobs teaching English with two different schools,” Cohen said. “I’ve been loving it. I’m planning to stay for a year or two, maybe, and then come back to the U.S. eventually.”

Seamus McMahon, a digital marketing specialist at the International TEFL Academy, said the Academy is so passionate about travel and spreading that passion, that there is a mandatory requirement for all employees of the Academy to have lived abroad.

“I think I always wanted to dive into a space to use my passion for travel in a way that can help others find that, ” McMahon said. “I think International TEFL Academy is a great place to do that … We’re all people who are super passionate about travel, and also passionate about getting people to travel and experience the world.”

Cohen said her favorite part of the community is the shared passion for travel within the Academy.

“You know, you move to a new country, you’re taking a very intense course and it can be very overwhelming. But you get very close with the students in your program. One girl who was in my class is one of my best friends now. And then there’s just a great community with students and locals that the Academy helps you get in touch with,” Cohen said. “They organize soccer games every week and they had a local who gave us dance classes.”

Sienna Dalessandro, Pitt alumna and recent International TEFL Academy graduate, said in the month following her certification she has met people from all over the world.

“In the month that I’ve been certified, I think I’ve met people from every continent. They have been the nicest people. I’ve been working with people from Haiti, from the Middle East, and even the teachers that I’ve been meeting who have been teaching the programs have been all over the world and know so much,” Dalessandro said. “They’re all so extremely helpful.”

Dalessandro said the course offered a wide range of work that prepared her very well to go abroad to teach English.

“[For homework] they would give you a chapter of the book, and then there would be one portion that was kind of a quiz. It was a review of what you read. And then there would be more of a project based piece. So if we were learning about lesson plans, then they would say OK, now we’ve shown you the guide on how to do lesson plans, so your project is to give us a lesson plan by the end of the week,” Dalessandro said. “It was extremely helpful.”

McMahon said the Academy is committed to helping its students for their entire lifetime.

“We pride ourselves in making sure that folks are ready to go. I think what sets us apart is that we offer this lifetime job search guidance,” McMahon said. “You could take our class right now and be like, ‘Ah, I don’t want to teach this yet.’ You can come back to us in five years and it’d be ‘Great, what do you want to know. When do you want to start?’ There’s no pressure because we’re always going to be there to help you.”

Cohen said although it may seem daunting, people should take the opportunity of exploring what the International TEFL Academy has to offer.

“Take the chance. I was scared to just finish college and then move abroad and start a new career and life separate from my family,” Cohen said. “But you know, try it, go take the course, do the month and see if you like teaching. The worst thing that happens is you spend a month in a beautiful country and meet some amazing people.”