What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
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, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Only to Italy with family when I was 15 years old
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I had such a passion for learning Spanish and also living in another country/culture which is why I chose Spain. Also, I had two friends that did it and loved it. I was a social worker previously and felt that teaching was always something I wanted to try that I had never experienced.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
Not having consistently practiced Spanish over the previous nine years made me nervous as I wasn't sure how much of an issue this would be with communication, getting things done etc. Also I had NEVER traveled abroad by myself nor been to another country (excluding Italy as a teenager), so all the cultural differences were overwhelming to think about. In addition to not knowing anyone in Spain, I did not have previous teaching experience (besides the TEFL course), so a career change was also in the mix. Everything was completely new!!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Everyone was extremely supportive; however, my parents were a little more nervous than supportive at first. Mostly people felt proud and excited for me and many of my friends said they wished they had done something like this; as we were all 30 or older and everyone was more or less "established" in their personal/professional life.
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
International TEFL Academy is based in Chicago where I lived at the time; and although I ultimately decided to take the course online, it was good to know they were close to home. And turned out to be helpful when I went in to the office.
I also knew being TEFL certified would provide me with an advantage over other non-native speakers. I chose ITA because it had a great reputation; it offered flexible schedules and was much more affordable than other programs. In addition, they have an incredible amount of resources, which is really important as a new teacher and for someone moving abroad.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
I liked it, although because I wasn't the best at motivating myself, it might have been better, honestly, to do the course in person. However, given my two work schedules, that was impossible. I loved Megan as a professor!! She had such a wide range of experience and was always very responsive in her emails and provided good feedback. Not only that but she was encouraging and gave good ideas.
The tasks were interesting and built upon the material we learned, including grammar and also working with a variety of different students. I liked the practicum as well because I was able to teach adults, which was my age preference, in a community center close to my home. I also was able to start slow and then build upon my experience; meaning that I didn't just get thrown into teaching. I observed the teacher and was assisting him and then had more independence toward the end.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
It helped me feel more comfortable knowing about the different types of teaching and students. It also taught me about teaching methods such as TPR that I'm using in my current seasonal teaching position. I also really liked the webinars that were provided with such a wealth of information about different countries and hands on activities.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I decided to teach English in Spain in the city of Valencia. I chose Valencia because I didn't want to live in Madrid or Barcelona where it seemed the majority of teachers were focused. Valencia was the perfect size and also located in the south, where I had heard the culture was more relaxed and easier to adapt to. I also talked to a few previous English teachers through social media sites that had lived there and highly recommended it due to it's variety of culture, ability to be an expat but also learn Spanish as well as things to do in the city itself.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been in Spain since Dec. 28th, 2015, and am only staying until the end of August. I actually moved to Toledo, Spain, in October 2016 through a program that sponsored me and finished teaching at a high school May 31st, 2017. From the end of June-mid August, I'm in Italy teaching at an English camp and then will only be back in Toledo for a few days before I return to the US at the end of August for several months. I don't know if I will return to Spain to live but I would like to!
What school, company, or program are you working for?
I just finished working for the Auxiliar program though the Ministry of Education. I also worked at a private academy called "Juniors."
During which months does your school typically hire?
The application closes in April
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.
I moved to Valencia on a tourist visa and overstayed it about four months. However I did QUITE a bit of research before moving to Valencia, and I say this because I did not just randomly move to another country without knowing anything in advance. I knew the risk I was taking, and I talked to many other teachers who had lived in Spain. I did not want to study Spanish as it was very expensive to get the student visa, and I was already 30 years old. Most au pair positions don't accept people 30 or over, and I wasn't sure about living with a family.
My desire to move abroad outweighed the risk of being caught, which didn't happen. I had never been to Spain so I decided to move and if I liked it, I would take the steps to become legal which I did. I applied for the Ministry of Education program in March 2016 (although recommended you apply as early as possible); was approved in June and then started visa process in Chicago in August 2016. The visa was very similar to the student visa in many ways except there is a specific visa for this program (North American Language and Culture Assistants).
As you will find in many other blogs and websites, the visa process in Spain is a HUGE pain in the butt!! And that is a major understatement. I knew going into it, it would be long, complex, and frustrating, but I had no idea how much. All I can say without going into extreme detail, is be PATIENT, be STRONG,, and know that it will take a long time and the Spanish government is not efficient. Do not have expectations that things will happen in the manner that they do in the U.S. or in an straightforward manner.
What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply
- Bachelor's degree
- Native English speaker
What is the best way to apply?
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I have worked in two different cities in Spain. First I had a PRIVATE teaching job in Valencia from January-June 2016. I taught in family's homes from the ages of 3-17, and consistently had 7 families. I found this job through an English woman who had a very small business and about 3-4 other native speakers. She paid me 12€/hour for 1-2 children and an extra 4€ for three or more kids (which was only one family). She was supportive, but like everything else in Spain, very relaxed about everything which at times was difficult as a new teacher, but I eventually got used to it. I came with about $1000 USD to Spain so I didn't need to budget until probably May, however I only got paid every three weeks. It's actually very common that in most jobs in Europe you get paid only once a month, which is different than the US.
I applied for the Aux program and was placed in Toledo, Spain, 45 min away from Madrid. I worked with all age levels, from 12 years old to 20 year olds that were in community college or vocational type classes. The teachers at the high school could not have been more helpful, friendly, or warm. I was placed at IES Alfonso X in Toledo, 10 min outside the city center. The diversity in experience was such a great learning opportunity and I LOVED being able to share my culture with the students. I was paid €700/month ($835 USD) for 12 hours of work a week as an assistant teacher which is more than enough to live on with roommates for most parts of Spain, except for maybe Madrid, Barcelona or San Sebastian. I sometimes did not have to go to class, if the students were required to take a test and most teachers were pretty flexible about lesson plans. Initially it was a little difficult to adjust, since I had never worked in a high school before, and the standards are different in Spain. Everything is way more relaxed, and I was not given as many resources. In addition, you could be teaching three different levels in one class, because they do not separate students into categories like honors or advanced. This was very challenging at times, especially teaching a language, but I got a little more used to it as the year went on.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
When I lived in Valencia, I found an apartment on my own through a site similar to Craigslist; lived there with two roommates for three months, then moved in with friend of a friend. In Toledo I did a similar thing, friend of friend and then lived on my own for most of the year.
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent by myself in Toledo-450 Euro/$53 USD (350/$416 + 100/$120 USD for internet and electric)
Food-€20 ($23.75 USD) a week in groceries
Transportation-€30/month ($35.75) For unlimited bus card. I didn't really use cabs and walked everywhere else.
Phone-€20 ($23.75 USD) when I added WiFi it was about €45-50 ($53.50 - $60 USD)
Travel-really depends on where you go and how high maintenance you are. You can easily go three hours in bla bla car for €20-25 ($23.75 - $30 USD), and if you buy AVE train tickets in advance, can travel within the country cheaply and quickly.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I think it changed when I moved abroad. I was used to living on my own, spending more money. I had to budget my money better when I moved to Toledo.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
In Spain, I would say an additional €300-400 ($355 - $475 USD) extra a month is good.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I think most importantly be open minded and be adaptable; can't stress that enough. Also, moving abroad can be very challenging emotionally, so don't be hard on yourself especially when you first move. Also, do your research prior to moving to the country on the language, customs and other people that have lived there. Expats are very happy to share information; you just have to ask!
For Spain, the people are some of the friendliest and most welcoming, relaxed people you will ever meet. Also some of the most fun! I would recommend teaching but be prepared that the educational system is different and the level of English is lower than in other European countries. Also unfortunately many people can be stuck in old methods and ways of living (Spain is not the most modern or advanced country, not that's it's close to being 3rd world or anything). But you have to get used to the slower way of life, and stores and shops not being open all the time and everyday; unless maybe you are in a very big city. This might sound like a minor problem, but when you're an expat this things can make a big difference!!