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Teaching English in Madrid, Spain: Alumni Q&A with Kareemah Ashiru
Written by: Kareemah Ashiru
Last Updated: February 18, 2021
What are you teaching English abroad?
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
UAE, U.K., France, The Netherlands, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Morocco, Nigeria, Turkey
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
Teaching English was a means to achieving my goal of living and traveling abroad. In addition, I'm a big language aficionado. I saw teaching English abroad as an opportunity to help students in the host country reach their goal while attaining mine.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My biggest concern prior to teaching was not being able to find a job. I landed in Spain with just my savings and without a job offer. I planned to hit the ground running. After one week of my stay in Spain, I quickly realized that finding a job was the least of my worries (accommodations is!). The moment I applied, I got many job offers from academies, and home tutoring by just being a native speaker and TEFL-certified.
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Most of my friends were excited for my new journey. They couldn't wait to visit me. On the other hand, it took my parents awhile to be supportive, especially my Dad. I have to say, ITA's organization and the questionnaires like this from other teachers gave me the confidence to face my parents. They like to see an organization of resources and a plan. So I created a folder and filed all the necessary information (Salary, Teaching Academies, Interview format, Country Information etc) I got from the ITA teacher's guide and ITA bloggers that taught in Spain. I saw some respite on their faces when I presented to them my folder. I couldn't blame them; they were just being parents after all.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
In many countries, it's not just enough to be a native English speaker. Getting TEFL certified shows some accreditation and authority to employers. I chose ITA because a friend of mine took the same course and had no complaints. ITA's organization and customer support also convinced me that this organization was legit.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
How did you like the course?
The courses were intensive and well-planned. The instructors responded on time and also gave prospective teachers specific feedback on how he/she could improve a lesson plan. The tasks assigned were relevant to the course and informative as a new English teacher. My favorite part of the lesson was the practicum (live practice teaching & observation). I observed an ESL teacher in my home university. It was a fun experience. I made friends with some of the foreign students and even gave private lessons to one of them.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
The TEFL training gave me the confidence to teach. I'm glad the training included lesson plans which I had never done prior to teaching my first class.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Spain in the city of Madrid. I wanted to improve my Spanish and travel around Europe.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I lived in Spain for two years.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I worked a language academy and later The North American Language Assistant Program.
During which months does your school typically hire?
September- October and January- February
Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?
How did you interview for this position?
What kind of visa did you enter on?
None, I'm also British.
Please explain the visa process that you went through.
I didn't go through any visa process as I am a dual American and British citizen.
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 taught in two schools: a private academy (Berlitz) for one year and a government school for five months (Language Assistant Program).
Below is a break down of each school
Hours per week: I taught for 22 hours/week
Salary: I earned around 1100 euros (~$1,343 USD)/month.
Ability to save: I'm a thrifty person but I spend most of my money on travel. I was able to save about 400-500euros (~$488-610 USD)/month.
Student type: All my students at Berlitz were business professionals in financial companies.
Language Assistant Program:
Hours per week: I taught for 16 hours/wk
Salary: I earned 1000 euros/month (~$1,221 USD). I was able to save 400 euros/month (~$488 USD).
Student type: My students were in Primary(Middle) school.
What I loved in Spain was the vacation time employers enjoyed. Something I hope the U.S. would adopt one day. (Probably not but a girl can wish). As a teacher I got two weeks paid vacation in the winter and a week and a half paid vacation during holy week (in the Spring).
In addition, Spain has a lot of "Puentes" which are three day weekends. If you plan properly, you can use this time to travel or do whatever you please. I must add that you get more vacation days if you work with a public or government school with children whereas you have to request days off with a private academy. The private academies pay up to three weeks of vacation time.
*Disclaimer* Part of the reason I was able to save, was that I took some private lessons after work. So it's possible to save even more!
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
In Spain, accommodation could be a hassle. When you come during the peak season (September- October), you are competing for a place to stay with study abroad (Erasmus) students. The best place to look for apartment listing is Idealista. You can also check out easyRoommate.
If you are hustler, walk around the neighborhood you'd like to live and look out for posters advertising a room vacancy. I was lucky to find a room after a week and a half of searching. It took some people a month to find something! My roommate was a lovely Spanish woman and her cat, Pancho.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...
Cultural aspects: Living in Spain opened my eyes to how diverse every Spanish region is. Madrid has its own distinct culture as so does, Catalonia, Valencia, Pais Vasco, Andalusia etc. There were many social cues I had to learn when I moved to Spain. For example; the Midwestern way of smiling at everyone that passes by without saying anything made me seem a bit off in Spain. I found out that instead, say "Hola, Buenos Dias, or Hasta Luego".
Public transportation: Spanish public transportation is very efficient in general.
Social activities & Nightlife: When it comes to social activities and nightlife, you have nothing to worry about if you live in Madrid. There is a reason it's called the party capital. If you are not into partying, there are also a plethora of activities to take part in.
Expat communities: One of the great parts of living in Spain is the expat communities and how they support one another. Take time to look up expat groups in Spain on Facebook and join them. Many of them have lived in the country for many years and most times they are willing to help new expats.
Food: Lastly, Spanish Food is amazing! Try as much of it as you can, you'll be spoiled for options.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
I lived in Madrid, one of the expensive cities in Spain. Rent ranges between 300-500 euros (~$366 - $610 USD) for a decent shared apartment. Expect to pay over 500 euros for a studio. Food, Transportation and Phone bills are affordable here. If you are less than 26 years, you pay 20 euros (~$24 USD)/month for all public transport. Now, that's a great deal! Your social expenses really depend on you as a person. Although Madrid is a capital city, you can survive without breaking the bank. Travel was the best part of living in Spain, Madrid in particular. There were tons of great flight deals from Madrid to other parts of the world. I suggest you take advantage of that while you live in Madrid or Europe.
How would you describe your standard of living?
Sharing an apartment saved me money. If you budget your expenses and spend wisely on social activities, you should be able to live well in Spain
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
1,500 euros (~$1,832 USD) or more for a single person is sufficient enough.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Just do it! Haha but seriously, teaching English abroad is the best way to get to know yourself and learn about the world. You might be taking a path that is not common among your peers or family and that's ok. Do it for YOU and your future. Connect with people who have taught abroad before and ask them as many questions as you can. If I were to do it again, I would teach in Spain. At the end of the day, it's also about your goals as well. If you want to save more money, Asia or The Gulf countries might be a better option.
Kareemah is originally from Ohio and took ITA's Online TEFL Course before taking the plunge to teach English in Madrid, Spain.
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