Hi! My name is Gabriela Proietti and I’m an Italian-American from Philadelphia. My paternal grandparents are from Rome, and my maternal grandparents have roots in Napoli and Calabria. I’ve lived in Philadelphia my whole life, even attending university here. I graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with a degree in marketing in May 2019. I always knew from a young age I wanted to live abroad and get back to my ancestral roots. After graduating, I found myself unsatisfied sitting at a desk job 9–5 and knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. So here we are — I started a new adventure as a postgraduate outside the corporate world!
Gabby, I’m so excited to talk to you! I’m Italian-American too and my entire family is from Glassboro, New Jersey — just outside of Philadelphia. The one constant in my life has been wanting to live abroad. And I got a degree in marketing too.
So, let’s start by learning a bit about why you first moved to Rome. How long did you stay there?
As mentioned above, I’ve always had an urge to live abroad and teach English. I read of individuals who took the leap of faith and did the courageous thing a lot of us dream of doing: buying a one way ticket to a foreign country where no one knows our name to pursue an unthinkable dream! Flash forward to December 2019, I knew it was my time to follow my gut and put some trust in myself to do just that.
I visited Rome for my first time a few months prior and fell in love. I loved Rome so much I cried on my way to Fiumicino airport when it was the morning I had to fly back to the United States. There is so much that Rome, and of course all of Italy, has to offer: the food, history, people, language, “la dolce far niente,” opportunity, landscape, chaos, love, beauty — the list goes on.
There is so much that Rome, and of course all of Italy, has to offer.
There are some people who don’t see past Rome’s abundance of carbonara and the Colosseum, but I felt an instant wave of calmness come over me while in Rome. I finally felt like I found the place I had been longing for — a new place to call my home. I told myself I would find a way to return — this time longer than a 10 day vacation!
Yes! I think Rome and all of Italy can teach us Americans so much. La dolce far niente really taught me to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. That has helped me keep from getting stressed out on so many occasions. And about crying on the way back to the U.S. I’ve done that too — many times. I’ve been told that “my stork brought me to the wrong country”. And I think the people who said that hit the nail on the head. What kind of preparation did you do to be qualified to teach English? And would you recommend this to others?
I did a TEFL certification with mytefl.com. Yes, I would recommend it. It wasn’t as expensive as some TEFL programs are, and it meets all requirements needed for a proper and accredited TEFL certification. Most schools in Rome are looking first and foremost for the teacher to be a mother-tongue English speaker, a certification comes second.
Most schools in Rome are looking first and foremost for the teacher to be a mother-tongue English speaker, a certification comes second.
That’s a really important point, that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a TEFL certification. Also, I know a lot of us can benefit from being a mother-tongue English speaker. But I chatted with Marek Kiczkowiak of TEFL Equity Advocates, and I’m pretty sure it’s not legal in the EU to state a preference for a mother-tongue English teacher. Regardless, it happens all the time. I actually wrote a So, where did you work as a teacher, and what kind of classes did you teach? blog post on how to brand yourself so you can get around native-speakerism.
I wore many hats in Rome as a teacher, as most do! I worked at a language school and taught 1:1 lessons helping students prepare for the Cambridge Exams. The language school I worked for also held after-school Cambridge preparation classes in the public schools all throughout Rome. So 3 days a week I also taught to groups at a public high school.
You know, I really like working with high schoolers too. They still know how to have fun and some of them are so creative. I think their influence on me keeps me young at heart. What was your biggest challenge working as a teacher in Rome?
I loved teaching high schoolers! I made so many connections with them. Lastly, to fill up the rest of my time, I found my own private clients and did 1:1 private lessons throughout the city, with people of all backgrounds and ages.
I found my own private clients and did 1:1 private lessons throughout the city, with people of all backgrounds and ages.
My biggest challenge was adjusting to a schedule that was pretty chaotic and all over the place! Most likely, you’ll need to find additional work if you’re looking to make a living in Rome and cannot rely on teaching only at a language school. (Although if you’re really lucky, you may be okay!)
You already answered my next question. I wanted to know how you found private clients. That’s so good to know that there is so much demand in Rome for English teachers. And it’s also good to know that you won’t have a regular schedule. It’s important for people to know how to set their own expectations. When we chatted on the phone, you said something about how to make a successful go at living in Rome, you really need passion and purpose. Can you explain what you meant?
I had to find private clients, and did so by posting advertisements around the city, at public schools, and online. Lucky for me, residents really want to learn English, and perfect their English. Soon enough, I was working with the same individuals weekly.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you will not have a 9–6 working schedule Monday-Friday. Again, it’s pretty much all over the place, which was fine for me because I knew this was something I had invested my full heart into.
When I first embarked on my TEFL journey, I read countless stories of how teaching in Italy, and especially in Rome, was not the easiest thing to do. Yes, there is a strong demand for English teachers and natives wanting to learn English. However, there is tons of competition.
Also, living in Rome isn’t a walk in the park either. There are flaws in the city: crazy bureaucracy, unreliable public transportation, trash, expenses, navigating a big city, juggling multiple jobs, not having working papers.
Teaching in Rome isn’t a vacation, or an extended study-abroad program you are hoping to relive from college. It requires a lot of dedication. If you want to live and teach in Rome, you will be put in situations that are uncomfortable and test your patience, especially as a foreigner and expat.
Oh my gosh, you describe exactly what I remember about my own experience living and teaching in Rome. That’s one of the strongest reasons why I’ve created the Teach English In Rome site and resources. I really hope that they will make navigating Rome a bit easier. Also, as for the strict competition. I’ve faced that in my own branding business. So for those who want to figure out how to quickly stand apart from the rest, I offer this guide called Anyway, moving on to a lovelier topic. What’s your favorite thing about living and working in Rome? Yeah, I know what you mean. Growing up in an Italian-American home, I knew a lot about the culture. And actually being in Italy is kind of like coming home. But it’s also an education in what to value the most in life. Is there anything else you would recommend to someone who is looking to move to Rome?
Say yes to everything! Be open to any and every opportunity. You have no idea who you will meet or what the experience will bring you. . I also offer a course for building your own unique brand by using your personal memories. It’s called Discover Your Unshakable Brand Story
Teaching in Rome isn’t a vacation, or an extended study-abroad program you are hoping to relive from college. It requires a lot of dedication.
You have to want to be there more than anything, and will do anything to make it work. For me, that was spending a week swallowing my pride, and posting hand-made flyers across the city’s streets in hopes someone would call me for a job. Or not being able to travel to other cities because I needed to save every penny to pay my monthly rent. Going door-to-door at every language school I could find inquiring to see if they had an open position. However, through all the chaos, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.
Rome is Rome. It’s historic, beautiful, chaotic, messy, and everything in between. I loved living in a place where my family originated from. Also, I love the Italian lifestyle. Growing up in an Italian household, I got a glimpse of it but nothing compares to the real experience you will get in the motherland! Italians know how to live a life full of meaning — family, love, food.
Yeah, I know what you mean. Growing up in an Italian-American home, I knew a lot about the culture. And actually being in Italy is kind of like coming home. But it’s also an education in what to value the most in life.
Is there anything else you would recommend to someone who is looking to move to Rome?
Say yes to everything! Be open to any and every opportunity. You have no idea who you will meet or what the experience will bring you.
That’s a really good point too. Rome has so much culture to offer. If you’re open to it, your life will open up in ways you could never have dreamt of.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
Not specifically about myself, but a piece of advice. If you have the itch to do something like this and are able to — do it!
If you have the itch to do something like this and are able to — do it!
I spent so many hours going back and forth on the decision to stay in the United States or take the risk and go, it made me crazy! I finally trusted my gut and took the plunge. I know if I didn’t, I would’ve spent the rest of my life wondering what it would have been like. Now, I am counting down the days until I can return.
The experience gave me so much more than a teaching job. I met so many beautiful people from all over the world, I learned things about myself, fell in love with a country, experiencing delicious food, and found a new place to call home. A presto, Roma :)
Aaaaaw, it gives me the chills to read this. Honestly, I’m on a journey to plug into my own intuition too. I’m so glad that you made the leap. And I’m so excited for us to both go back!
Okay, if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: gabby [ dot ] proietti [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com
Thank you so much Gabby! I’ve really enjoyed this conversation.