If you're interested in teaching somewhere in Europe but just can't find a job in Spain or Italy, how about going a little further east on the map? Or in the case of Hungary, smack dab in the center. Without ever having visited prior, moving to Hungary stirred thoughts of going from my hometown, San Francisco, to some place behind the former Iron Curtain. That couldn't be any farther from the truth.
Hungary has become an ideal choice for those looking to get into the ESL market, as there are plenty of opportunities and a strong desire from students of all ages, from primary to university, to learn and improve their English language skills. While some people have never heard of Hungary, the country of ten million makes up for it with the lively capital of Budapest, quaint countryside towns, and plenty of culture to go around.
Although Hungary is part of the EU, schools are not selective in hiring mostly EU citizens and many of the current teachers originate from North America, Canada, and Australia. In Budapest, there are both American and British International Schools, as well as many other English language schools for ESL teachers to find employment. The minimum requirement is an undergraduate degree and a TESOL certification.
Hungary is one of those places that is often overlooked for a visit, but once you're there, you already start dreaming about when you'll be back next. There are plenty of thermal baths to soak up, hearty foods to indulge in, and a rich history that will keep you wanting to learn and explore more about this country that Hungarians consider to be the heart of Europe. However, one of the big worries when teaching anywhere in Europe is whether or not you can make enough money to live comfortably enough and enjoy all that Hungary (and the neighboring countries you'll be able to travel to) have to offer.
If you're a little intimated about trying to find placement on your own, one program that takes some of the stress away is the Central European Teaching Program (www.cetp.info). Now, many of you reading this are wondering why anyone would choose to pay for a program when you could find placement your own. Speaking from experience, working with CETP takes a lot of the pressure off having to set everything up on your own. While the fee for one year is steep, consider that it includes the preparation of your paperwork (including your visa), housing, utilities, health insurance, and local taxes are even waived for the first two years. The bureaucracy of Hungary can be a headache, so it's nice to have support.
Going through a program like CETP is not the only way to find a job in Hungary, so don't fret! There are plenty of opportunities that you can find on your own. Students are constantly in need of exam prep, and through word-of-mouth, you'll end up having a waiting list of students ready to learn from you! As a teacher, don't expect to be making the same kind of money you would in Japan or Korea. Private lessons generally range from 2,000 to 3,000 Hungarian Forints (HUF), or about $10 to $15 USD. Renting an apartment in Budapest can range anywhere between 150 and 400 Euros, depending on what you're looking for. This price can be drastically lower if you plan on living outside the capital. Many of the apartments have that old Communist Bloc look, but once inside, most of the flats are well kept and modernized. Some of them have central heating, while others may not.
Getting around the country is also easy. Public transportation is (mostly) reliable in all of the cities, and usually consists of trams and buses. In Budapest, there are also three metro lines to take you beneath the city. The city of Budapest is relatively safe, with a very low crime rate. Just use common sense and be smart about walking around, as you would in any other place. I've walked around Budapest at night, both alone and in groups, and have never had an issue.
Speaking of nights, the nonstop nightlife will have you looking forward to every weekend! From wine festivals to dance and karaoke clubs, Budapest has a little something for everyone. And when the weather's warm, you'll find yourself scrambling for a seat at one of the amazing garden pubs around the city. In the winter, make your way indoors to one of the ruin pubs. These are old buildings that have been transformed into bars/works of art around the city. One of the most exciting parts of living in Hungary is the gastro experience. Hungarian food includes classics like guylas, chicken paprikas, and deep fried bread known as langos (lawn-goesh). You'll find it hard to stop indulging in such amazing food. A dinner for one typically costs between $12 and $25 USD, including a drink. For alcohol, a beer will run about $2.50 for a half liter (pint), and wine can be anywhere from $3 on up for a glass. Hungary's own local wines are some of the best around, and don't forget to try Eger's own Egri Bikaver “Bull's Blood” (but don't worry, that's not an ingredient!).
If you choose to teach outside the capital, you may find yourself in some rural areas, but there are also main university towns that are always looking for teachers, such as Debrecen or Szeged. Because of it's size, Hungary is relatively easy to travel around -- just don't expect to always arrive at your destination on time! That said, you can pretty much go no more than four hours in any direction from Budapest before arriving in another country.
One of the most intimidating parts about living in a place like Hungary is not speaking the language. Although it's considered to be one of the most difficult to learn in the world, once you're here, you'll pick up enough to survive a trip to the grocery store. There's definitely a lot more English spoken in Budapest than in other parts of the country, but I find myself using what limited Hungarian I know almost every day!
What makes Hungary a unique choice in Central/Eastern Europe is it's location. Trains and buses connect the country to nearby Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania with ease. For many of us, these are places we would never have dreamed of visiting. But with teaching in Hungary, these locations are within easy distance for a weekend trip, and are as affordable as Hungary. Local airline Wizzair also flies all over Europe at affordable prices if you'd like to venture a little further, such as to Paris, Brussels, or Istanbul. If you're willing to unroll your map a little bit more, you'll see that there's a lot more to Hungary than meets the eye. It may be a small country, but there's enough to keep you busy all year long -- and maybe even another one after that!