Ohatchee native Amy Nunnelly is a true country girl, having spent most of her life in East Alabama, fishing, riding ATVs and swimming in the family’s backyard creek.
"It was definitely a Southern upbringing," she said. She also has fond memories of her grandmother’s kitchen, where she feasted on fried green tomatoes and buttermilk biscuits.
After graduating from Ohatchee High School in 2004, Amy attended Jacksonville State University, where she received an honors diploma in elementary education.
"I always knew I wanted to be a teacher," she said. She spent the next five years teaching third grade in Gadsden, while taking after-school care and summer camp jobs to earn extra money to pursue her passion for travel.
"I would travel whenever I could," she said. On those occasions when she was unable to find companions to join her, she wasn’t afraid to go by herself, traveling to states such as New York, Colorado, Texas and California.
In 2012, Amy left the classroom to take an office job with Camp Greylock in the mountains of Massachusetts, a very exclusive summer camp where highly trained sports professionals are brought in to coach young athletes. "It was quite an experience being around a group of people with a background so different from my own," she said.
While living in the New England area, Amy decided to make a new home for herself, settling in Boston and obtaining the necessary teaching certification. Once there, however, she couldn’t picture herself staying. Feeling lost and confused — and trapped due to a severe blizzard — she spent two weeks cooped up inside her apartment, thinking about the future.
She turned to the Internet, researching teaching jobs in Europe, and made contact with a representative from the International TEFL Academy. "I imagined myself living on the outskirts of Paris, eating croissants and sipping mini-espressos in cafes while gazing at the Eiffel Tower," she said. But in reality, she was advised to pursue work in the Czech Republic, where it would be easier to find a job.
In the summer of 2014, she made the move.
Today Amy lives in Prague, teaching Year 7 (the equivalent of our sixth grade) to a class of eight students at the Beehive International School, where children take all of their subjects in both English and Czech. With such a small class, Amy is able to bond with her students, getting to know each one through team-building excursions and field trips. She even took them on a tram trip to a Beatles revival concert.
In order to relocate overseas, Amy had to take a serious cut in pay. In the U.S., she earned $45,000 a year. In Prague, it’s more like $13,000. "Money has become much less important in my life," she said.
To earn what she needs for traveling, she offers private lessons on the side, teaching English as a second language. She has adopted a strict budget, eating like "a college kid" and living in a shared apartment with two roommates.
"All of my belongings fit inside a couple of suitcases," she said. "And honestly, I’m really happy about that. I can focus on experiences rather than things."
In the past six months, Amy has taken a road trip through Ireland, attended a music festival in Hungary and spent weekends in cities like London and Brussels. For Easter, she hiked across Liechtenstein, the sixth smallest country in the world.
Her Czech-speaking boyfriend, Vašek Kokeš, works as a music promoter, so a typical night in town usually includes a concert or live music production.
In addition to Prague’s nightlife, Amy enjoys the culture’s relaxed attitudes and neighborhood beer gardens.
As a contributor to the monthly Prague Pulse magazine, she recently wrote an article entitled "Pilsners of Prague," interviewing local beer enthusiasts.
Although she is taking private Czech language classes, communication with the locals can be difficult. "Just going to the doctor’s office or the post office can be stressful and complicated," she said.
She considers the Czech people to be clever and quick-witted, but not very friendly. "They don’t make small talk and are hard to warm up to," she said. "But once you are able to connect with them, they are really a kind people."
Although she misses certain American foods, such as peanut butter and Jack’s fast food, Amy has come to enjoy Czech cuisine. Her favorite dish is svickova, an entree of beef sirloin covered in a sauce made from carrots, parsley, celery and onions, served with bread dumplings, cranberries and whipped cream. "Its basically Thanksgiving on a plate," she said.
Amy has considered moving to South Korea or Spain some day, but since settling in Prague, she’s not in a big hurry to leave. "I don’t know what the future holds," she said. "But I’m happy to stay here until I figure it out."
Contact Donna Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.