Katerina Choutkova had always wanted to work with children. From days spent babysitting for friends and family, to time volunteering at summer camps, she knew from an early age that caring for children was where her passion lay.
“I have had so many inspiring teachers myself in school and I knew I wanted to work with children, but I also knew I didn’t want to train in the Czech Republic,” she says. "It was always my dream to study in England as I thought it would make me a better teacher.”
Katerina set about researching universities in England and settled upon five to apply to – one of which was the University of Worcester.
“After I made my applications, I wanted to visit the universities, so I packed a bag and in October 2019 came to England for a weekend on my own and visited London, Portsmouth and Worcester,” she recalls. “Worcester just felt right for me and so that was it.”
Katerina chose to study on the University’s Primary Initial Teacher Education (PITE) – Early Years pathway – degree, which gives Qualified Teacher Status – or Early Career Teaching status as it is now known.
“The course is very practical and hands-on,” she says. “Back at home, there would have been more theory – which is important – but you need to get the practical experience too. The theory I learn here is then applied in practice and that is what I like.”
Katerina started the course in September 2020, amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic. “I had to isolate for two weeks when I arrived, but that was OK,” she says. “And at the beginning of the course we were face to face. But then the lockdown came in in January 2021 and teaching moved online. I did find that quite hard. All of my flatmates who had gone home for Christmas in the UK stayed at home and so I was on my own in my halls, doing online learning. I did go home for a month and then came back before going on my placement in a school, but it was a challenge.”
“This year has been so much better,” she added. “Because we’ve been back almost completely face to face and I’ve managed to do all my placements, which has been fantastic.”
As well as two school-based placements, Katerina has also undertaken a placement at The Hive, the University’s shared public library, which offers opportunities to engage in community activities.
“I’ve been running the ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ and ‘Wacky Wednesday’ sessions for parents and toddlers. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d love to continue as a volunteer after my official placement."
“I’ve had so many opportunities already to put what I’m learning into practice, and that’s what I love about the course,” she adds.
Katerina is hoping to continue her learning journey with a Masters’ degree, before deciding on her career choice.
“Studying to be a teacher within the English system is quite challenging as I have no experience of my own to draw upon,” she says. “It’s all new to me and is all quite different to how it is in the Czech Republic.
“But I like the fact that the English school system is so much more inclusive and is child-centred. It recognises that all children learn differently and have different needs. It makes so much more sense to me. I really want to continue to learn more about it after I have finished my undergraduate degree.”
For Katerina, moving away to study was always on the table. “My parents were always aware that I wanted to come to England to study,” she says. “Moving away to study has been an incredible experience for me and I would recommend that everyone should spend at least a semester studying in another country. It really broadens your horizons. You get new perspectives.”
Find out more about studying at Worcester