My ELA Experience in a small town- Laura Gow

A year abroad is an integral part of a language degree and will provide you with many long-lasting memories. Some of you may be considering working as an English Language assistant through the British Council scheme. This is the option I choice and I was placed in a small town in Austria called Bischofshofen located near Salzburg. The thought of going to a smaller town can be quite intimidating so I would like to give you some advice on how to get the most out of your unique experience.


Accommodation options are often more limited in a small town so it can be a challenge to find somewhere to live. The most helpful people in this situation will be your mentor teachers at your schools. Ask them if they know of any available accommodation or you can also ask them to pass on your contact details to other members of staff as well. Most towns also still have an active notice board so once you arrive you could post an advertisement there as well.

Mentor Teachers

As previously mentioned, your mentor teachers are a great source of information. Before you start work, they should provide you with all the details you need for the school and any questions you have regarding accommodation, visas and so on should go to them first. They act in a similar capacity to your personal tutor at King’s and will have more of an understanding of your situation compared to your tutor.


One of the great things about living in a small town is that you can become immersed into the community and therefore learn lots first-hand about the culture and traditions of that country. One of the best ways to integrate yourself in the community is to join a club. Sometimes at your school the teachers play sport together or there are usually lots of music and sports club in the town for you to join. I for example joined the local Blasmusik club, a traditional Austrian folk orchestra. Although you may not come across loads of other young people in these clubs you will however get more of an opportunity to speak the language you are there to learn as generally people in more remote places are less likely to speak English. While this can be intimidating it is great practice for your language.

Surrounding Area

You are lucky enough to be living in a small town in a foreign country, so you must take advance of this unique experience. There will be also lots to do in your local area, for me this is hiking in summer and skiing in winter. Speak to your mentor teacher and your students for advice on where you should visit as they often provide you with some hidden gems.

A small-town experience for a year abroad is very different from living in a big city but the best part must be the connection you get with the locals. Nothing can beat direct interaction with culture and traditions, and I am certain you will have an incredible time abroad.

Laura Gow (2021-22)