Here’s the deal: I never had a burning desire to be a teacher. But I did have a burning desire to live in Europe. Enter…the Central European Teaching Program. Since then, teaching--and my wonderful kindergartners--has grown on me quite a lot. And the affordability, atmosphere, and travel opportunities that come from living in Budapest have made it my favorite place to be! If you’re interested in teaching English as a foreign language in Hungary, here is the info on how you can!
-Native English Speaker
-120 Hour TEFL certificate minimum (no degree in teaching required)
-At least 20 hours of paid or voluntary teaching experience completed before arrival (I got mine done over the summer while I was getting my TEFL certificate)
CETP (Central European Teaching Program): This Portland, OR based program cooperates with the Hungarian government to place American teachers in schools of all levels across Hungary. Once CETP finds a placement for you, you may be required to interview for the school remotely (I had two brief interviews and a teaching video before I was hired).
Also, note that this program is family friendly! Something that I love about CETP is that it’s for people from all stages of life, not just freshly graduated college students. What does that mean? There are a lot of young, single people who do the program, but there’s also families, single mothers with their kid, couples/friends etc. who want to move to Europe together.
Along with a range of grade options (from preschool to university), there are placements all across Hungary. Budapest is a competitive area. The majority of placements are in smaller cities & towns across Hungary. Orientation is in Budapest, but afterwards, someone from your school will come pick you up and take you to your city/town.
Fee: The $2500 program fee goes towards CETP placing you in a school, orientation (and accommodation during it), and *most importantly*, help with your visa (the process is completely in Hungarian and for me, would have been impossible). The fee might sound substantial (it certainly did to me, haha), but you pay it in installments. $500 with your application, and then two $1000 installments. When returning for a second year, the fee drops drastically to $750!
Application: CETP has a rolling deadline, so you can apply any time of the year. Once I emailed the program coordinator, the process went pretty quickly. Mary was so reassuring and friendly over our Skype interview, and she told me what kinds of jobs were available in my requested region (Budapest). Within two weeks I was interviewing with my current school. All that was left for me to do was to complete my TEFL certification and mail in my paperwork.
Orientation: Orientation was a rush. It felt like the city was our playground! All of us wide-eyed Americans were soaking up the new info on Hungarian culture and language by day, and then exploring the ruin pubs of Budapest by night. Our program fee paid for the hostel that was our home base, and there we went to CETP’s sessions about survival Hungarian lessons, teaching methodology, and Hungarian culture.
Salary: Approximately $500 USD/month. It may not sound like much, but it’s enough to live comfortably on in Hungary (although, many teachers say that it’s just enough to live on.) If you want to make any larger purchases, or if you want to travel, prepare to dip into your savings, or to perhaps find some side hustles--[giving private lessons or teaching English online at VIPKid/GogoKid are popular options among my colleagues]. BE SURE TO BRING enough savings for the first few months, as there have been administrative issues in receiving your first few months’ salary. Also, with the low salary, CETP can provide documentation to help you suspend student loan payments.
Accommodation: I love, love, LOVE that CETP provides a paycheck and an apartment! Schools are required to provide a private apartment for the teacher. However, they emphasize that not all apartments are as updated or fancy as one my be used to. But hey, it’s a roof over your head, it’s your own space, and it’s rent free! A lot of schools own the apartments themselves, but some are open to giving you a living stipend which you can put towards an apartment of your own choosing.
Health Insurance: CETP makes sure that you get full Hungarian residency benefits, which include access to Hungary’s healthcare system. You’ll most likely spend lots of time in the waiting room, but visits to your assigned primary care giver are free (your school makes sure to find you someone who speaks English)! Personally, I’ll see that doctor if I need a sick note from work, but I’ve found private providers for everything else (gynecologist, dentistry, etc.).
In Kindergarten: I was placed in a kindergarten, and have a slightly different situation than most of my fellow expat teachers. Instead of teaching different periods, I have a fixed schedule of 25 hours/week, from 8-1. Once a week I work until 5, teaching at an after school program. Required meetings take up another hour, so I’m working 31 contact hours/week. The lesson planning/craft making/research brings it up to about 40 hours/week. But the fixed hours are really easy to plan around! And I love that I can spend my afternoon lesson planning in my favorite cafe or making more money teaching online instead of just staring at the walls of the teacher’s lounge.
In Primary schools and up: Teachers work approximately 25-30 hours in the classroom each week and classes last 45 minutes. Their schedule changes each day based on which periods they’re assigned. For example, you could start your day at 8, have three back to back classes, a long break, and then one more class starting at 2. Or maybe you’ll get lucky and all of your classes will be close together. Either way, you don’t start much earlier than 8 and you don’t finish much later than 3. If you’re placed in one of Budapest’s Bilingual schools, however, I’ve heard that the schedule is much more demanding.
IMPORTANT info about breaks: Not all school breaks are created equal. If you teach primary level or above, you will receive 1 week of fall break, 1 week of spring break, a longer Christmas break, and the entire summer (June 15-August 31st) off of school. Kindergartens stay open all year, and so kindergarten teachers only receive national holidays off and have 5 weeks off during the summer.
Living in Budapest:
Even though its growing popularity with tourists has made Budapest’s prices rise, it’s still considered to be quite affordable (Rent for my central, 1-bedroom apartment is ~$485, a beer at a local pub is ~$3, a meal with a drink + dessert is ~$10). Also, you can find a party any day of the week, especially among all the ruin pubs of the Jewish Quarter in the 7th district. If you want to stretch your legs, know that Budapest’s central location is perfect for traveling Europe. Prague and Vienna are just a train ride away, and lots of budget airlines fly out of Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc airport. Of course, I’ve only experienced life in Budapest, but I know that the rest of Hungary has so much to offer too!
I love my life here in Budapest and am happy I trusted CETP to handle the process for me. If you're interested in living and teaching in Hungary, I'd highly suggest contacting them. Finding a job and getting a visa can be a complicated process without the knowledge of Hungarian, an EU passport and a 3rd party arranging the small details.
Best of luck to you and maybe see you soon in Budapest!