Teaching English in Boadilla Del Monte, Spain - Alumni Q&A with Alicia Faehrmann

Alicia Faehrmann - Madrid, Spain 4

What is your citizenship?
Australia

What city and state are you from?
Sydney, New South Wales

How old are you?
29

What is your education level and background?
Master's Degree or higher.

Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, for business, etc. 

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
New Zealand, Italy, The Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Hawaii, and Switzerland.

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
Teaching English abroad has always been something that I've had in the back of my mind. The first experience I had teaching English abroad was as a volunteer for Best Buddies Colombia, where I taught basic English to adults with intellectual disabilities. It was one of the most enriching and positive experiences I had as a young adult. Since then, I heard of about three acquaintances from back home that had gone to teach English in Spain, and every time I heard that another one had decided to teach abroad, I always thought that one day I'd like to do the same, I just had to find the time. Another thing that motivated me to teach abroad was the opportunity to live in a different culture and to share my culture while being immersed in another.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
A very personal concern of mine before teaching abroad was that my parents, particularly my father, would think that I was wasting my time! Thankfully, when I initially contacted ITA, the admissions advisor allayed this concern and we discussed what transferrable skills I would learn through teaching abroad and how this can contribute to my overall career development plan. I also had some concerns about all the hoops I'd have to jump through to be able to move to and work in a different country, and whether if all the time and effort I'd put into the job search and visa application would pay off. In the end they did.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My friends and family were without doubt supportive and excited. My mum, being my mum was a little uneasy about the move but now that she can see that it's been an experience that I've wanted and that I have support in my new situation, she is more at ease but doesn't miss me any less.

Alicia Faehrmann - Madrid, Spain 1

TEFL CLASS INFORMATION

Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I chose to get TEFL certified as I believed it would better my employment opportunities in foreign countries. This in theory also meant that I could travel while working at the same time, and do it more often. International TEFL Academy was the first to contact me, and to give me upfront and personal advice. They also helped me to choose what was the best way for me to get certified in the circumstances I was in at the time I decided to take the course.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Class.

How did you like the course?
I found the course content so interesting that I was compelled to learn and to put into practice what I had learnt through the assessment tasks every week. The modules were written in language that was clear and easy to understand, and if we had any doubts, the instructors were always available to clarify any misunderstandings and queries. The task instructions for both weekly tasks and the practicum were always straightforward, so I always knew what was expected of me. The only real challenge was the time difference for any advisor calls between Chicago and my home in Sydney, Australia!

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training I did online has helped me, first and foremost, to feel that I haven't come in blind to working as a English language assistant in a bilingual school in Spain. It has helped me to develop a process when explaining things, and to incorporate different practices into each exercise I do with my students. For example, rather than simply giving instructions, I turn each exercise into an opportunity to first revise material previously taught, and to practice, pronunciation, speaking, reading and spelling and finally writing. It has also opened up more work opportunities for me in private language schools.

How long have you been in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been living in Boadilla Del Monte, Spain for 6 months and plan to stay for at the very least the end of the next school year, 30 June 2020. 

Why did you decide o teach English in this location?
On the one hand, I decided to teach English in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, and was placed in Boadilla del Monte by the Community. I chose to teach in Spain as it is where I have extended family as well as decent work opportunities.

What school, company, or program are you working for?
CEIP Federico Garcia Lorca Boadilla del Monte

During which months does your school typically hire?
October-March

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
Yes

How did you interview for this position?
I applied for this position through a third party called ConversaSpain and then interviewed via Skype/phone.

Alicia Faehrmann - Madrid, Spain 3
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Student Visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.
To gain a visa and work as a language assistant in Spain, first you need a letter of appointment from the autonomous community, which states where you will be working and for how long. Then I needed to submit a completed visa application (via mail) with a bundle of documents to the Spanish Embassy in Sydney. These documents included a copy of the letter of recommendation, a passport photo, my passport and a photocopy of my passport, details of my fights and travel insurance, a visa application fee, a medical certificate and a police check with fingerprints. Once this was processed, I was issued a visa, which was stuck into the pages of my passport. The visa provided my NIE details, which is a identification number for foreigners in Spain. It would expire in 90 days after the date of my entry, in which time I needed to apply for the TIE, which is an identification card for foreigners in Spain.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers?
Bachelor's degree and a native English speaker.

What is the best way to apply?
Apply online.

Tell us about your English teaching job!
I teach in a bilingual school for students in infants and primary. I am the assistant to the English teachers in year 1 (6 years old) and year 5 (10 years old). Bilingual schools in Spain teach half their subjects in English and half their subjects in Spanish and students spend half their days in the English classroom and the other half in the Spanish classroom. The children at these ages are very observant and quick to pick up new information, which is fascinating to watch.

I work 16 hours per week and the Community of Madrid pays me 1,000 euros (~$1,120 USD) a month. This monthly stipend is tax free and sufficient for food an accommodation and some social life and travel. The other language assistants I work with supplement this income by teaching private classes for cash in hand. I on the other hand chose to live with a family and help the children improve and practice their English in exchange for food and rent. I have been able to save a little bit of money, which I hope will help me pay to study a Master here starting in September and get me through the Summer holidays!

Spain has a lot of public holidays as well as school and work holidays. The school holidays we have are generally two weeks and coincide with other festivities. The Christmas holidays were for two weeks from December to January and the next holidays we will have are for two weeks in April over Easter. After that come the Summer holidays starting from the first of July to the end of September.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I found a place to live through friends and acquaintances. I found it difficult to find an apartment before moving to Spain as I couldn't physically see it or meet the people I would be living with. Luckily, a good level of English is highly sort after by parents for their children, and I was able to find a family who were willing to take me in in exchange for help around the house and with the children while speaking English. It has been a very valuable experience, where I have been immersed in Spanish home culture, which has taught me to both live with children and to better myself by thinking more of others.

COUNTRY INFORMATION

Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    
Spain has challenged me to come out of my own world and to view myself and others in a different light. To be honest, I have never felt more different culturally than ever before, and I'm a bi-racial person from a multi-cultural society! Culturally, Spanish people are very communal focused and open. So open in fact, that they share details of their health and personal issues with anyone, including those who they are not particularly close to. And so communal that children live with their parents well into their 30s and grandparents run around after their grandchildren almost as much as their parents do. Moreover, most people live in apartments and with so many people in a such a small space, there is not much room for privacy, I suppose! Spanish people are also loud, although not noisy. A street full of apartments could still be a quiet street, while within those apartments, parents could be yelling at their children, children yelling at each other or football fanatics at their TVs while they watch the football match of the day.

Food is a big part of Spanish culture, and eating times are important for both their social and nutritional value. Mealtimes are sacred, and shops usually close between 2 to 5pm so that their workers an have lunch, which is the main meal of the day. Restaurants and cafes will stay open during this time and offer their 'menu del dia', a two course meal which includes your drink of choice, bread and dessert. Spanish food doesn't usually have many elements, but its basic foundation is quality ingredients cooked and prepared well. Spaniards know their way around meats, and the most common found here is pork.

Alicia Faehrmann - Madrid, Spain 2

Public transport within Madrid city is great, as well as transport from Madrid to the surrounding towns. The transport also runs fairly late and when the normal services finish for the day, the night buses takeover once an hour. Traveling between towns however can be a bit of a misadventure. Different buses that pass the same stop may be ultimately traveling in opposite directions, which can be confusing. Also travel between towns sometimes requires various transits and modes of transport. Once you're used to it, you get there eventually.

Maybe it's my age, but it could also be my location and living situation, but I have been going out less than I normally would back home. I've also been spending a lot of time with my extended family, more than I would with my cousins back home. I suppose it's because in Spain family is very important and because my extended family is quite social. For that reason I'm not too familiar with the nightlife in Madrid, however I have gone out, had a sunset picnic in the Cuartel de la Montaña Park, where the Temple of Debod is located and gone to dinners and bars. I've gone with friends on hikes in the snow up in El Escorial, a vermouth expo, done an escape room and listened to the inspiring testimonies of public figures once a month in the social club of my urbanizacion. I've been on one date through Bumble. There are a lot of expats and travelers on Bumble. In the town where I live most of the expats are from Africa and South America.

What are your monthly expenses?
As a general rule, I try to save whatever little income I have. This sometimes means going without or finding solutions to stretch my earnings. This attitude towards spending is thus reflected in this response. I realize that this is not for everyone and thus would suggest that readers not take my response as the general standard.

As part of my living arrangement, I currently don't pay for rent or utilities and only pay for some of my meals. I spend between 10-20 euros (11-22 USD) on food and other personal items during the week and on a weekend where I eat out or do some socializing, I usually budget for approximately 40 euros (45 USD). I pay for a public transport card which costs me 72 euros (81 USD) per month, which allows me to travel anywhere and on any mode of transport within all travel zones from Madrid (A) to the zone surrounding my town (B2). I pay between 5-10 euros (5.5-11 USD) per month for my phone, depending on where I will be and what I'll be doing in the month. I tend to use Whatsapp for calls and texts, for which I use the wifi at home, school and on most buses. How much I spend on travel will depend on where I'm going and for how long. The most I've spent on travel was approximately 450 euros (507 USD) on a four day trip to visit and stay with a friend in Switzerland.

How would you describe your standard of living?
I would describe my standard of living here in Spain is quite high. Food and social activities are fairly inexpensive, public transport is good and the town where I live is fairly safe and green. My only complaint is that income is low in Spain and it is difficult to save.

Alicia Faehrmann - Madrid, Spain 5
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
In order to live comfortably here in Spain, I think someone would need to earn between 1,500 to 2,000 euros.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
For someone planning or considering teaching abroad, I would tell them to do their research and encourage them to find the best options so that they can achieve their personal and career goals through their time and experiences abroad. I would also encourage them to say yes to more things than they usually would, don't let cultural contradictions discourage them and expect anything and everything. I would recommend Spain as a place to teach abroad, as it has such a variety of culture and beauty in each of is different parts, so it has a lot to offer to any person.

 

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