Teaching English in Queenstown

girl in queenstown

After leaving Yorkshire and moving 11,523 miles away to live in New Zealand, my good friend Becca fills us in on what life is like living in Queenstown teaching English in a night school. 

So this is your second trip to NZ… what inspired you to go there in the first place?

Initially, I came here to visit my friend for a holiday… she was coming back for a second season and I fell in love with the atmosphere of Queenstown life, and decided to throw caution to the wind and get a working holiday visa to come here. I’d never lived away from the UK and I think, for me, it was a push outside of my comfort zone and an opportunity to develop myself and redevelop my life. I left to come home in December 2016 and literally one week went by and I knew I needed to get my second working holiday visa and come back. The thought of missing out on living in Queenstown for one more year broke my heart, so here I am again!

What course did you have to do to teach English in New Zealand? 

To teach English as a foreign language in any commonwealth country (NZ, Australia, Canada and UK) you need a full CELTA qualification.

What is the CELTA course like? 

I did the 15 week online part-time CELTA course. It’s very intense and requires a lot of motivation and hard work!

Are there many other English people teaching with you in Queenstown? 

In my college there are 4 other native English teachers. The rest are Kiwi, Czech, and Brasilian.

What are the students like? 

The students are mainly Latin-American and they are the reason I teach. Their personalities are amazing, their drive to learn natural English is admirable, and watching them develop and use the language properly after they have tried hard to learn it is my drug: teaching is so rewarding when you do it right.

So glad you are loving your job! How did you go about getting it? 

I already had a job at my previous place of work in retail, which I arranged prior to coming out here again. Once I was settled I went to the college and enquired about teaching and got my job pretty much immediately.

If someone was thinking of going to teach English in NZ what advice would you have for them? 

Definitely get a full CELTA qualification and make sure that teaching is what you want to do. I spend 5 hours a day getting paid to teach… but I spend at least 2 unpaid hours researching grammar, planning writing comprehension, grading language, and compiling grammatical structures for my students to use.

How easy was the visa process? 

For UK residents, getting a working holiday visa is easy, you just apply online.

queenstown scenic

How do you get around Queenstown? What’s the public transport like?

I have a car here, which is really useful. Otherwise, I walk…. But that’s a huge effort considering everything’s up a hill! There are no trains in the south island of NZ so there are buses here around town but they are infrequent and rather expensive. If I need to go more than 5k away, I hitchhike, which is very common in Queenstown.

How did you go about finding accommodation in Queenstown?

Our accommodation is through an estate agent. It is the same price as living/renting in a city in the UK. Travellers looking to live in QT should arrive ahead of the seasons, though, because QT is a tourist focussed and therefore seasonal town and so accommodation fills up fast in the winter and summer months.

What’s the cost of living like in Queenstown? 

It is expensive because it a tourist town. We do have locals discounts pretty much everywhere though, and you just have to know where to go at what time to get the deals! Our equivalent of ALDI is Pac n’ Save which is awesome.

yoga queenstown

What is an average day like in your life?

I go to the gym, get coffee (NZ do Flat Whites like they should be done, not like the excuse for a flat white we get in the UK!) and spend a couple hours planning lessons. I’ll maybe meet a friend for food in town or walk up a hill.  I teach every weekday evening.

What do they have in NZ that they don’t have in the UK, and vice versa?

Here, everyone is active. It’s normal to go out in your activewear, usually because you’ve either just been to the gym, or probably you’ll end up unintentionally hiking up some mountains or walking by the lakefront. There are a lot of raw food, organic cafés because energy-filled fresh food is what’s preferred here. Anything goes- there’s no need or pressure to impress people or show off your new flashy car… because no one bothers with that here. The ‘flashy cars’ are massive new Hilux’s that will make it up the mountains with no chains. So, in essence, what they have here is more freedom to just be whoever, and do whatever, you like.

What have been the 3 main highlights of living in Queenstown so far?

  • The natural beauty
  • The coffee and the variety of cuisines
  • It’s not overcrowded and full of idiots

Is Queenstown a big enough place to not get bored?

Queenstown is all about the active outdoor life, but it can be pretty expensive. I love hiking, so for me the walks up to the gondola and being able to drive to nearby glaciers is the best thing.

Have you been able to explore other areas of NZ? 

So far I’ve been working every single day… so my aim is to travel more when I get time off!

The south west coast, however, is beautiful. It’s called the fjordlands and is surrounded by mountains. There are no towns, no villages, for miles and miles, and when you do pass a ‘town’ it is almost like a hamlet- blink and you miss it. The trips to Mackenzie, Routeburn, and Milford tracks are said to be incredible and well worth the trek. If you’re doing any serious walking or hiking, make sure you research the best crampons and microspikes before you go so that you’re safe on your adventures!

new zealand

Do you know what you’ll do when you return to the UK?

If and when I return to the UK I will teach at an English school. The good thing about teaching here is that this is the career path I want to invest in, this is what I want to do with my life, and CELTA means that I can do that anywhere in the world.

Whats your favourite shop in Queenstown?

Definitely Bespoke Café, so much fresh yummy great food!

Is Queenstown good for vegetarians? 

It’s excellent for any dietary requirements.

Have you got a New Zealand accent? 

No, but occasionally I use the phrasal verbs and idioms they have here: sweet as to mean good stuff, how you going to mean how are you, and yea nah to mean no I disagree.

Whats the nightlife like in Queenstown?

There are no nightclubs here, the town has loads of bars and pubs though. You can dress up (in QT style that means a decent dress with tights, chunky boots, good makeup and an oversized coat or jacket) and no way would I ever fake tan, get my heels on and wear a tight skirt. It’s just so chilled and friendly, you can’t help but have a good time!

Do you think your time in NZ has changed you as a person? 

I hope that it has made me more aware of, and accepting of, other cultures and other people. It’s certainly given me connections to people and other countries that I’d never ever have made in the UK. I think I’ve become more welcoming in inviting people into my life- I’ve realised that it doesn’t make sense to feel like you have to own everything, when really sharing everything you have is a much better use of your possessions. Sharing your home, your car, your food, means that everyone comes together so much more. I used to care a lot about having material things- and I of course own things that I love and mean a lot to me like my grandmas jewellery- but other things, like your home, I now feel more comfortable sharing. In the UK I would never invite a stranger to crash at my house if they needed a place to stay. Here, I do. I picked up a hitcher from the airport last month and he thought he couldn’t get into a hostel. I have a spare sofa and a duvet. So I said he could stay at our house, and here that’s normal and accepted.

living in queenstown

Thank you so much to my good friend for allowing me to share this with you. If you’ve been to Queenstown or have any questions do feel free to leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.

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