[:sk]JOANIE BLAIS was born in a small town Gilmanton Iron Works in NEW HAMPSHIRE. During her life she lived also in Florida, Washington DC and Colorado. She fell in love with the country from the moment she came here for the very first time in 1998. According to her words, the Bridge – English Language Centre is the best language school in Bratislava she could have stumbled upon.
Is this your first visit to Slovakia?
Not at all. I arrived in Slovakia for the first time in 1998 with 44 Peace Corps Volunteers ready to serve in a variety of areas from small business development to teaching English. I spent my time in Stará Turá, Ilava and Svidník with a host family that didn’t speak a lick of English! Those were some of my fondest memories, playing charades and fumbling through my Slovak vocabulary to communicate.
How did you find the country back then?
My first impressions of Svidník were that it felt like the small town I had grown up in but with the added benefit of some amazing wooden churches and a few army tanks. The people took great care of me right away. I would often leave my flat to head off to school and the neighbors would have left fresh vegetables, cakes and in winter canned fruits from their previous years harvest right by my doorway. How can you not love and cherish that in your heart for 16 years? It was only a matter of time before I came back to visit.
When did you next visit happen?
I came back for last Christmas and I didn’t want to leave. It felt like home from the minute I got on the bus at Vienna airport. It just felt right. When my vacation was over I cried nonstop all the way back to USA but I guess that was the motivator to find a job here and begin the permanent relocation process.
How did you get to know about the Bridge?
I found out about it pretty quickly. I have many friends here that work in education and they compiled a list of the best language schools in Bratislava. Funny enough the Bridge was at the top of the list and also the first to offer me a job. Match made in heaven!
What do you like about teaching?
That’s like asking me why I like eating. I just feel called to do it. Maybe because I also love learning so much and the interaction with students. Maybe it’s the relationships that come out of sharing knowledge and how it impacts people’s lives forever.
What’s the best thing about living here right now?
The best part about being here is that I have my Slovak friends all around me and even a few very special American friends. Slovakia has some of the best wine and beer around; I have a great job and wonderful new colleagues from places all over the globe. I have easy access to the most beautiful cities – Budapest, Prague or Vienna. And I’m a princess! I live right below a castle. Close enough!