By: Cara Chatellier
It’s been six months since the day I left for Spain. Now, I am sitting on a plane bound back to Boston. Six months ago I sat on a plane with a tear stained face and knots in my stomach. There were so many unknowns:
Who would I meet?
Where would I work?
Where would I live?
Would my high school Spanish be enough to get me from the airport to my AirBNB?
Needless to say, I survived. Looking back on that now is a little jarring. It is truly amazing what a difference six months can make.
When I arrived in Spain, I stepped off the plane in a jet lagged fog. It felt like I had pulled an all-nighter, mostly because I had. I swear, I have never been that tired. Sleepy-eyed and trying to hold it together, I walked to the baggage claim. Here I found out my massive backpack was not spinning around the carousel; it was nice and comfy in London. Perfect.
I made a vow to myself, ‘make the most of this.’ I would not let my lost baggage get me in a rut. I would get out and use this as an excuse to buy some new Spanish clothes! I left the airport with a promise of my luggage arriving as soon as possible, and headed to the taxi stand. When I got in the taxi, I realized how terrible my Spanish was. Alas, I made it to my Airbnb and was welcomed by my host who was lovely and kind. It was so comforting to see a friendly face.
After buying a few clothes to get me through the next couple of days, I was ready for my first day at the Madrid Student Visa Lifestyle Program. Here I underwent a grammar intensive for two days. Then I would be beginning my teaching practice in front of actual English students. Wow. I was actually going to be teaching, this was real. I was SO incredibly nervous.
If it weren’t for my TEFL certificate from International TEFL Academy, I would have truly been lost. Without the TEFL course’s English grammar and teaching techniques, I would have been a fish out of water. Even though we are born into the language, breaking down the grammar and logic behind it isn’t as easy as one would think. The TEFL training truly helped to build my confidence, and gave me the ability to create lesson plans.
With my TEFL certification and TT’s guidance, I was tasked with teaching six observed classes. Before my first lesson, I ran through the entire lesson with another ITA grad. I counted my materials 100 times, and even practiced my board work. Despite all these efforts, I was still a bit nervous. My face was flushed and I shook ever so slightly. But, I survived. I didn’t let my nerves get the best of me. I delivered a class, and guess what? The students actually learned something!
I remember feeling such a sense pride and accomplishment after my first class. Wow! I did it. I can actually help people learn. It was truly amazing, I was hooked. After 5 more lessons, I got increasingly better and was finally ready to teach my own class. I started out using LingoBongo, and found a full schedule the day after I finished my course. I was really lucky.
Teaching is unlike anything I have ever done. I used to be someone who was petrified of public speaking. I hated giving presentations and avoided them at all costs. But now? I am much more confident. I have learned the building blocks needed to create lesson plans, create course plans, and manage a classroom.
For the last six months, I have taught countless classes to many students. My students have taught me so much about Spain and Spanish culture. They have given me tips and tricks on everything from the best restaurants to the best Spanish TV shows to watch. I feel lucky to have such an inside scoop into Spain.
Outside of the classroom, I have been lucky enough to improve my Spanish through classes and intercambios. I also opted to live with two Spanish roommates which has been very helpful. I have met friends from the United States, Spain, Russia, Croatia, Venezuela, Portugal, Scotland, England, Indonesia, Peru, and more. My experience thus far has truly been amazing, and I am so happy I took the plunge and moved to Spain. I am most grateful for the personal growth I have undergone. Moving away from home truly changes you in so many ways.
I will be home for a month for two weddings, a bachelorette party, and countless reunions with friends. At the end of the month, I will return to my new life in Madrid, and I can’t wait. Six months down and who knows how many more to go.
Cara Chatellier is 29 from Boston, Massachusetts, with a BA in Communication from University of Massachusetts. She is currently teaching Business English classes in Madrid. She is also a freelance marketing consultant who loves podcasts, baking, and exploring new cities. Next stop: China.