We Call it Fun, but You May Call it Madness: Summering in Italy

21 Feb

Hannah Brownlow

Tuscany, Italy

Ten immortal words: ten words that will either strike fear into the hearts of individuals, or usher in an overpowering and joyful nostalgia. I am wholeheartedly with the latter. I learnt the above by way of an organisation called ACLE. But what is the fun and what is the madness to which my title refers? Simply put – learning and teaching English.

ACLE is a non-profit organisation that teaches English to children across everyone’s favourite boot-shaped country, Italy. The founder, completely fed up with the hap-hazard way in which Italian children were taught English, decided he could do a lot better himself, so founded the company that, during the summer, teaches English at summer schools and, during the academic year, puts on English shows in schools nationwide. Bravo!

But where did I fit into to all the brouhaha? I, readers, was a tutor. I was one of the lucky few to be chosen to bring the English love into some of the most beautiful places in the world. Hard life, I know.

I first came across ACLE before I embarked on my year abroad in Italy. To me it seemed the perfect way to get a little soft-exposure to Italian – living with Italian families, teaching Italian children – without doing anything scarily intense. And that part was great fun. I did one two-week camp (after one week of Orientation at ACLE HQ) and loved my family. The other part, the whole teaching thing, well, that didn’t go quite as planned. What do you get when you throw seven novice tutors and a bored veteran together? A disaster. A catastrophic mess. I was so disheartened by the shenanigans that I resolved upon never doing it again.

The following summer arrived and I hadn’t found a job elsewhere in Italy and so I trudged back to ACLE with my head bowed low and my returning tutor application in my hand. What then ensued was probably the best seven weeks in Italy I ever had. I travelled the country; I met scores of fantastic people; I stayed with amazing families; I saw amazing sights; and, most importantly, I taught English to a whole pile of great kids. Oh, and did I forget to mention, I got paid handsomely.

So where do you sign? No, no, no, not so fast, my friends. Let me send you off on your whirlwind summer with a few pieces of advice.

First of all, make sure you want to do it. ACLE is all about teaching English in Italy, not being in Italy, teaching English: they are very different. Each year a whole new raft of people apply to join those that are still doing it year-in year-out. ACLE can afford to be picky; therefore, if you don’t think you can do it, don’t apply because you probably won’t get in.

Make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. A summer in Italy yes, but spending a summer in confined quarters with people you don’t know is always a risk you have to be aware of. I have some amazing ACLE friends; I also have a whole list of people I would like to throttle.

Make sure you like pasta. Do you think I’m joking? Not even remotely. I was on pasta twice a day, something to which my hips will testify. Your body will take a battering. One week I stayed with a family that liked to fry things, the next week I was with health-food junkies, the week after that I was in the mountains having pasta three times a day. Different routines + different families + different locations + a lot of travelling = fun, and a screwed metabolism.

To wrap up, ACLE, for some, is immense fun, for others it is just madness. If you’ve always wanted to teach English, however, and travelling in Italy is something you might want to do, I can strongly recommend that you give ACLE a go.


All applications have to be in by April 15th


One Response to “We Call it Fun, but You May Call it Madness: Summering in Italy”

  1. katiekat86 November 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I was an ACLE teacher once-upon-a-time as well!
    I do seem to remember a great need for organization- but I remember my obsession with pasta, gelato, wine, and pizza more! Something my tooshie remembered for a full year after I returned to my humdrum….
    No regrets 🙂

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