Jennifer Duffy is one of our talented drama teachers, who has been teaching in Italy, at International School in Genoa now for two years. In this blog she explains how she found the role, and what her life has been like so far in the beautiful city of Genoa.
Where are you teaching and what’s your school like?
I am teaching at the International School in Genoa, Italy. It is a very small school of only 360(ish) students, ranging from preschool all the way up to 12th Grade. I chose this location as I have always wanted to live and work in Italy since I was last working here on a temporary contract 10 years ago. I got to see a lot of the country and fell in love with the culture and landscape. Also the prospect of moving from a large secondary school in the UK with 1400 students to a whole school of just 360 was very appealing!
How did you get your job? What was the process like?
Through Teacher Horizons. I had an initial interview with Alex and then went from there to an interview with the schools Director and a second one with the Head of Primary. It was such an easy process and made me feel much more relaxed come the official interview as I already felt confident after talking with Alex about my suitability for the school. The interview with the Director of the school immediately made me feel at ease and I knew from that moment I would like the school. He even gave me homework to email staff and ask honest questions to see if I thought ISG was right for me. I got so many replies and already felt welcomed before I’d even officially got the job.
What is the city like? Is there an active expat scene? What do you do in your free time?
Genoa is an interesting city. It is not like your typical touristy city in Italy. If you are expecting it to be like Rome and Milan, it is quite different. For one, you need to accept that the locals are not very welcoming at first and they do not speak English widely here compared to other big Italian cities. So you really need to put in the groundwork and learn the language (as you should anyway!). There are expat groups around. However I’ve been very lucky with the staff at my school and I also made friends through Italian lessons which I signed up to as soon as I got here. Genoa is full of historic buildings which are beautiful and there are some fantastic places to go and explore from castles on the hills to palaces and museums in the city. In my free time I go out to dinner with friends or go explore neighbouring towns and villages such as Cinque Terra, Turin, Florence, Pisa, Lucca to name a few. With friends we either go sight-seeing or will go to local food and wine festivals.
Read all about how Teacher Horizons works. Schools can even search for you now (find out more about our explorer service).
What is the climate like? Is there any extreme weather? If so, how do you deal with it?
The climate is very typical of the Italian Riviera. It can get cold in the winter from about November to February but mainly due to the wind chill. But also nowhere near as cold as it gets in the UK. It doesn’t snow but it does rain… a lot… in winter. Genoa has an alert system for rain as it is on a hillside, so if there is a lot of rain we sometimes get red alert days, which means all school close. However from March through to October the weather is glorious. Right now it is really warm and I’ve been warned to prepare for a very hot summer.
What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?
Food and drink is average but rent can be quite high. You need to look around carefully. I’m currently in an apartment in a really nice neighbouring town called Nervi. It is beautiful and the area is stunning, but I may have to downsize next year as it is expensive. My friends who live in the city though have found cheaper apartments. As for saving money, no. That’s mainly due to the wages being lower, but the quality of life is great.
What is the food like? Is international food available? Have you tried any unusual local dishes?
The food is amazing here. As well as traditional Italian food there is also the Genovese cuisine. They specialise in Pesto and Focaccia and the seafood here is fantastic.
How is the culture different from your home culture? Have you experienced any culture shock?
It was quite a culture shock when I first moved and I was not prepared for it at first. It has taken some time to adjust, but now I love it here and feel very settled. The main downside is the cost of living and wages ratio. The wages are not as great (in fact I took a bit pay cut compared to my last school), so if you are thinking of it for money, don’t. However if you want to immerse yourself in a rich and vibrant culture, full of traditions, amazing food and quality wine, with scenery that is breath-taking, historic buildings and easy transport links to the rest of Italy and Europe and want to enrich your life… then Genoa is amazing! This is exactly what I love about being here and what I was hoping for. After getting past the initial settling in period of about 6 months I am now enjoying every moment. Luckily the staff here are very social and I have made some amazing friends. I came back after Christmas with the goal to just try new things, meet new people and take risks with my new found language. Best decision ever, otherwise I may have stayed at home.
Have a read of our Happy Teacher Archives, for more happy teachers in Italy and other locations.
What’s the best thing about living and teaching in your chosen city? What have been your highlights so far?
One of the highlights has been the school itself. It has a great community feel to it and the staff are really welcoming and friendly. From day one I was made to feel part of a family here. The job itself is great. I love it. It’s a lot more relaxed than my job in the UK was and I don’t have half the pressure put on me that I did there. The leadership team are very supportive and have an open door policy, so you feel like you can speak to them about anything anytime.
Another highlight has been the fact that I have made some fantastic friends here. It’s nice to know you are all in the same boat and everyone is very supportive. I also like the fact that I am still quite close to home so people can come visit easily and I can pop back if need be. Being able to take my parents to Florence and fulfill my mum’s childhood dream of seeing the city was particularly special.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of coming to live and work in your current location?
I would say to anyone thinking of moving to the international school scene for the first time, especially in Genoa, is be prepared to struggle a bit at first. It’s a massive life change and can be very daunting. I had travelled lots before, but this was a very different experience as this was more of a permanent move. But persevere and it pays off so much! As long as you are willing to immerse yourself in Italian life and make the effort to start to learn the language as soon as you can you will love it here.