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Teaching English in Madrid, Spain: Alumni Q&A with Christina Bates
Written by: Christina Bates
Last Updated: April 7, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
Las Vegas, NV
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Ireland, Vietnam, South Korea, Peru
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I always regretted not studying abroad while in college, and I’ve always wanted to live abroad. I’m fascinated with travel, meeting new people, and discovering new cultures. Plus I love education, so it was a no-brainer for me.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I was concerned I wasn't going to like it. Since I've never been an actual teacher before, I felt like I had no idea what I was going to do. Obviously I can speak English pretty well because it's my native language but I had no idea how to teach English. Thankfully I completed the 4-week TEFL course and I graduated feeling way more confident in myself and my newly acquired teaching skills.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
They were mostly super supportive of me, some even envious, but overall they felt really excited for my next adventure. I'd be lying if I didn't say they felt nervous for me, but they knew I was up for the challenge.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
I did some extensive research and majority of the advice recommended to get TEFL certified. The benefits just outweighed any possible negatives. Once I started researching where to get TEFL certified, I came across ITA and I was amazed by their years of experience in the industry, their reviews, and how organized and simple they made the process.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Spain - Madrid
How did you like the course?
I loved the four week onsite TEFL course in Madrid. When they said it would be “intensive”, they definitely meant it. To be honest, it wasn't hard stuff, it was just A LOT of stuff! You really have to stay on top of it all. It was crazy, stressful, long hours, and late nights, but it was also super fun and rewarding. I met so many great people, and the staff were beyond incredible. It truly felt like a family there and looking back at it, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to teach English in Madrid.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training has helped tremendously in my current teaching position. During the course they taught us everything from how to teach using the PPP method, lesson planning, grading, grammar, phonetics and so much more! Plus you have to teach six onsite classes to real Spanish students that range from various levels; some are group classes and some are one to one classes. So it definitely prepared me to understand how to teach English and it increased my confidence level.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I chose to teach English in Spain in the city of Madrid. In 2016 I took a spontaneous trip to Peru and spent two weeks exploring the beautiful country. It was then when I discovered two things:
1) My love for travel and
2) How terrible my Spanish was.
I knew in that moment that I wanted to move to a Spanish speaking country. I chose Madrid, Spain, because other than Ireland, I have never traveled through Europe. Plus, learning Spanish is a top priority of mine.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I moved to Madrid in July 2016, I am now approaching one year teaching in Madrid. I plan to renew my visa and teach another year, if not more.
During which months does your school typically hire?
September - March
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of Visa did you enter on?
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
Surprisingly the student visa process wasn't half that bad. Compared to all of the horror stories I read, mine was pretty easy. Basically ITA linked me up out here in Madrid, and they both helped me with the process. They give you a step by step instruction sheet, and you just have to complete everything on the list. I was nervous because I only had about a month and a half to get everything done before my TEFL course was supposed to begin. Luckily, I was able to expedite everything and I was able to get my visa within a month! I had to travel to my nearest embassy which was in San Francisco, so I just made a fun weekend trip out of it. Overall, it was a pretty painless process.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- TEFL Certification
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I have been working at a Language Academy called Chalmore Language Solutions for the past 9 months. Basically they are partnered with various businesses, and as a teacher you get assigned to some of those businesses to teach in company. I was fortunate enough to get three really great businesses where I love my students (Web Financial, Chanel & Cartier). I
I work around 20 hours a week, depending on cancellations, and make roughly 1,000 euros ($1165 USD) per month. Since I teach business professionals, a lot of times they cancel last minute. However, if they cancel with less than a 24 hour notice, I still get paid so it's definitely a perk! But on the flip side, your salary can range depending on the holidays / cancellations. As we do not get paid for holidays.
As for vacation time, I believe I'm allotted up to 17 vacation days plus whatever sick time I need. One of the benefits of working with this academy is that I'm on contract, so they legally have to honor vacation/sick time plus provide health insurance and a couple other things. As for saving in Madrid, it's quite difficult because it's really a break-even city. You'll make just enough to live comfortably in Madrid because cost of living is low but not enough to travel and save.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I originally moved into a shared flat when I first arrived here in Madrid. I found it on a Facebook group through one of my future TEFL classmates. Her and her boyfriend were going to start the four week TEFL course with me in August, so we communicated via Skype and found a temporary shared flat near our school for the first couple of months. I'd highly recommend doing this. Just find something temporarily so you can give yourself some extra time once you arrive to explore the various neighborhoods and look for more permanent housing.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Madrid in a nutshell is a very vibrant fun-filled city. It has everything you need minus the beach, hahaha. But technically the beach is only a few hours away, so you could easily make a day trip. The people here are super nice and willing to help if you just ask. They love the outdoors, just hanging out in a park with their kids or going for a stroll during the day/night is very typical. They also love their nightlife. I experienced my very first "traditional Spanish night" and didn't come home until 7:30 in the morning!
The food at first was very different for me, but now I've grown to love it. You'll see a lot of fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh bread & sweets, olive oil, jamon (ham), coffee, fresh fish, and so much more.
Madrid has a large expat community since it's centrally located. You'll find a lot of diverse cultures and people living here. I'm not too sure about the dating scene; there are a lot of young attractive people here so I'm sure it's lively.
As for travel opportunities, this is one of the top reasons why I love Madrid. Again, it's centrally located, so it's easy to access any city within Spain or in Europe.
The public transportation is amazing here. It's super easy to use the metro, the buses, or even the bikes/car rentals. Overall, Madrid is a city you'll fall in love with. The lifestyle is super easy going and it's a beautiful country.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
- Rent / Utilities - 400 euros ($465 USD)
- Food - 300 euros ($350 USD)
- Social activities - 150 euros ($175 USD)
- Transportation - 55 euros ($65 USD)
- Phone - 15 euros ($17.50 USD)
- Travel - 50 euros ($65 USD)
How would you describe your standard of living?
Standard of living is very comfortable. The neighborhoods are really nice and you feel safe. It's easy to walk to wherever you want to go, and the people are super friendly. Cost of living is really affordable too. It's honestly a very easy lifestyle here in Madrid.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
At least 1,000 - 1,200 euros ($1165 - $1400 USD).
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would advise everyone to absolutely do it; it's a life changing experience. I would suggest doing some research and really make sure that where ever you go, that it's a place that you'll want to get something out of it. For me that was Spanish; I chose Madrid because I really wanted to learn the language. And I'm happy to report that I've definitely increased my Spanish speaking skills. Madrid is a great city to learn Spanish because it's the local language; pretty much everyone speaks it (with minimal English so you can practice) and there are many language schools to study the language.
Just a small town girl living in a lonely world, Christina Bates decided to leave that small town of Las Vegas, NV in search of a city boy born and raised in South Detroit. She hasn't found him yet, but she's found fun and fulfillment in her job as a TEFL teacher in Madrid. Christina is one of ITA's awesome Alumni Ambassadors and this is her first time living abroad!
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