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April 16, 2021

Living and working in Romania : Interview with Karen and Stephen Willoughby, exceptional teachers of International School of Bucharest

Karen and Stephen Willoughby joined International School of Bucharest (ISB) in August 2013. Karen is Primary Deputy Principal and Stephen is Secondary Deputy Principal. They are both from Ireland and they previously taught in countries including the United Kingdom, South Korea, Libya and Jordan. Karen’s qualifications include a PGCE in Primary Education and a Master’s in Education. Stephen qualified in Electronic and Computer Engineering before moving on to complete a PGCE in Mathematics and more recently a Master’s in Education. Karen and Stephen have a beautiful three year old son, Darragh. They have a passion for teaching and travelling and all things outdoors which is the reason why they were drawn to the opportunity of moving to Bucharest.  They happily and openly answered our questions about their life and their experience of teaching in Romania.


Why did you choose to work in Romania?


To be in the Paris of the East.We have been working in the Middle East for the last five years and we wanted to come back to Europe and experience the four seasons and live in the heart of Europe. We read many good things about Romania and its beautiful landscape. We wanted our child to experience snow and for all of us to learn to ski and roller blade .


How would you describe your working environment?


We are very fortunate to be surrounded by such a wonderful mixture of personalities. We have made close friends with many of my Romanian colleagues and have gotten to know personally lots of fellow expatriate teachers who share the same interests as us. The students we work with and their parents have been hugely supportive of our family since we arrived to this country. We feel very much part of a close family with lots of family members in it. Even though our school is quite large we still always make sure that we have time to listen and support each other and have time to smile and laugh together too.


Did your son, Darragh,enjoy his time spent at ISB?


Our son is turning five years old this summer and if asked if he likes Romania, he will proudly tell everyone that he doesn’t just like Romania, he loves it.  Darragh quickly settled into Romanian life and Romanian culture. He has enjoyed playing in the snow, throwing leaves in Autumn and sunbathing in the hotter months. He quickly developed a love for pretzels and going on the subway trains.  I think also at this stage if anyone needed a tour guide to show them the best parks in Bucharest, Darragh could do the job. Certainly the parks of Romania have been a true pleasure for us to enjoy as a family.


What are the places in Romania you visited and you liked the most?


We really enjoyed our first holiday here in Romania. We visited Brasov and Bran Castle. We were very interested in learning about the history of Bran Castle and we enjoyed walking through the very picturesque village of Bran. The people we met were friendly and we enjoyed the pace of life there. The food was very tasty too.


What do you think about Romanian hospitality and culture?


Since coming here last year we have made many friends that I would consider to be life long buddies.  Romanian people in my opinion have proven themselves to be very hard working and dedicated people and I admire these qualities in a person.

We think Romanian culture captures both the old and new. The country is lucky enough to be able to hold on to some old traditions in terms of the different arts and crafts here and the landscape of different villages but at the same time it offers all the most up to date facilities of a busy European city.  It is nice to be able to step forward and back in time.


Did you encounter any difficulties in your day-to-day life in Romania?


Some minor language problems but nothing too major to report luckily.  The city is easy to get around and most people can speak a little English and if not, I now know a little Romanian.


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