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My Story of Teaching English in Spain: A Great Experience and a Foundation for a Great Future
Written by: Ryan Franco
Last Updated: January 18, 2021
"What's next?"...that bitter sweet question, it always seemed to resurface during my senior year of college. My studies and internships had situated me with two avenues, either to move back home from school at UC Santa Barbara to Sacramento or teach abroad. I could move home to save up money for a graduate program, likely in School Psychology, or on the other-hand, I could teach English in either Prague or Madrid which was an idea I had been toying with throughout my time at UCSB; "maybe I should just go for it" I thought. Envisioning myself getting the chance to teach and to gallivant around Europe gave me goosebumps of fervor, but also nervous churns in my stomach. My parents' views on the topic paralleled with my own, moving home and pursuing a graduate degree was a solid plan both financially and for the progress of my career, but they wanted me to have the excitement of living abroad as well. Up to this point, my entire life had been very structured and planned, and it was starting to dawn on me that I wanted a break from this pragmatic structure and do something different.
The day had come, I graduated a quarter early from college and it was time to decide my fate. That voice inside of me that desired to have the 60 year old version of myself say "Hell yeah, I did that" took over, and I am glad it did. I finally worked up the courage to make the decision to teach abroad after graduation. I think it was the obvious plan I had all along, and now, Spain was in my sites, more specifically Madrid. Overcoming my fears of making the decision was the hardest part.
My next move was to choose a program to get my TEFL certification. There were a handful of different models and options to get the certification, but seeing as I finished college, everything was officially on my dime. Thus, my goal was to find a respected academy that was affordable. I also wanted to stay in Santa Barbara until the end of my school year, so I needed a course I could take online. I requested information from a few programs, but when a representative from the International TEFL academy called me and patiently answered all of my questions for over an hour on the phone, I became immediately very fond of the organization. It was time to turn my deliberations into action. I signed up for the 11 week online TEFL 150 hour class with 20 student teaching hours. The course was insightful and helpful, and so was the job search guidance manual. I minored in education during my studies at UCSB, so it helped me to hone in and solidify what I had learned throughout my years. The final 20 hours of in-class teaching, for me, was the most important part. It also helped me to solidify my confidence and methods in front of a classroom.
August was rolling around, it was time to pack my bag and embark on my journey. I chose to teach English in Madrid Spain for a number of reasons, the vibrant culture, the soccer teams, and their laxness on Visa policy. I couldn't afford agencies that charged for work visa or a year of classes to get a student visa, so I went without a work visa and knowing that I only had 90 days to stay in Spain legally until my tourist "Visa" expired. I heard mixed things about the Visa policy...some people said you just have to leave the "Schengen Zone" and come back to get another stamp on your passport, others said that I was betting against the odds not having a Visa. The truth to the policy, which I found out on about day 87 of my stay, was the real law stated that in order to renew my tourist visa I would have to leave the "Schengen zone" for 90 days before I could come back for another 90. Time to live life on the edge I told myself, I decided to just go for it.
(See article on: "What Type of Visa Can I Use to Teach English in Spain?" and "What Is Teaching English Abroad "Under the Table" Without a Work Visa?")
Once I stepped foot in Spain, all bets were off, I was too excited not to succeed. Getting hired was my next goal, and through forums like Daveseslcafe.com and LingoBongo.com I learned that it is more difficult to get hired without a visa. It was no matter, it was time to take the streets, to mix it up with the locals, and to find other English teachers to learn the best ways of getting hired. I started to realize all the reasons why I decided to come on this adventure were starting to play out, and I became enthralled on the experiences that I was gaining. I ended up getting a teaching job at The English Group, in Madrid, Mondays and Wednesdays, then teaching private lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a nice way to mix up the schedule. I moved over there without a job, apartment, or mastery of the language; but the TEFL academy more than adequately helped me prepare properly and I built a successful life in no time.
When it came to traveling, I was like a child about to meet Michael Jordan, supremely excited. Through teaching and leading a pub crawl for the Cats hostel in Madrid, I made enough to live comfortably and "hop on a flight" every third week. You want to make sure to research hostels to find the best deals as to go as far as you can on your budget. While there, I was able to visit London, Marbella & Malaga, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Lisbon, The Canary Islands, the East side of Ireland, and finally Rome. My stay in Madrid was 6 months, I planned to stay longer but I got an attractive offer from a start up software company back in Santa Barbara that was too good to refuse.
All in all my trip was amazing and was loaded with great experiences. Upon returning home to California, both sad to leave and happy to reunite with my friends and family, I found myself to be far more resourceful than ever before. I also found myself reassured with confidence, fulfilled with experience, and ready for whatever challenges lay ahead of me. Since my return stateside, I have worked at two successful start-up tech. companies in Santa Barbara California. During the interviews typical questions like: "What is one accomplishment that you are proud of in your life?" or "Tell us of a time you overcame adversity" always arise. Having the answer "My experience moving to a foreign speaking country with no visa, job, or apartment, and starting up a a successful life that I was proud of" is like having an ace in the hole.
What is one of my favorite parts of it all? I went outside my comfort zone and did it, and the experience helped to shape my character positively.
Ryan Franco is a graduate of International TEFL Academy who went on to teaching English in Spain after getting his TEFL Certification.
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