3 Things I Learned About Myself Since Living and Working Abroad – Faye Johnson, Madrid

It’s Faye here (23 years old, from Hertfordshire, UK, currently loving life as an English teacher in Madrid!) - I thought you might like to know what I have learnt while living abroad – here are three things which have been the biggest surprise/learning curve for me.

Don’t you just love how little children make friends with people so easily? They just go up to someone and decide they’re going to be friends and that’s it, simple. If only it were just as easy for an adult...

1. The first thing I learned about myself having moved to Madrid is my ability to make friends with people.

Before I arrived one of my main worries was not being able to make enough good friends to fully enjoy my experience. I have always been someone with a wide range of friends, built up over long periods of time (starting with school). During the TEFL course I learned that I could develop strong friendships in a very short space of time and now I am sharing a flat with two of my fellow trainees. I was quite lucky to be part of a large group of 30 people on my course meaning that I was optimistic about finding at least one person that I clicked with! Please note all the pictures included demonstrate that I did actually make friends haha! At the moment my group of friends are from the TEFL course but I want to make friends with my Spanish peers and in the process improve my Spanish.  My first step was to join a local Yoga group and I plan to use the Meet Up socialising app to build on this.

2. The second thing that living and working abroad taught me was how self-sufficient I am.

Before I did my TEFL course I lived at home with my parents so although I pulled my weight (my mum might disagree with this) I had a step-father who did all the washing and a mother who did all the cooking. I had travelled away from home before with a friend but it wasn’t really the same as living abroad. I proved to myself by living in Madrid that I am very much capable of cooking, washing, and surviving on my own in another country. I do hope my mum isn’t reading this or her expectations when I return home may be too high (awkward).

I wanted to put myself completely out of my comfort zone and I coped better than expected. I really enjoyed living abroad from fairly early on after the move.  I find it difficult to make big decisions by myself without lots of consulting with friends/family so living on my own in Spain has helped me think for myself a bit more. Everyone says ‘go with your gut’ but I never really know what mine is trying to tell me apart from when it is hungry! Haha. I still like to talk over things with my mum on Facetime but I have had to make solo decisions which have been good for developing my character.

3. And finally one of the most important things I learned since working as a teacher in Spain is I have the confidence/ability to undertake public speaking quite well.

A huge part of why I wanted to do the TEFL course was to help with my nerves when speaking in public, which I think will be vital in my future career (whichever direction that may go).  I thought I would find this extremely difficult but practice makes perfect. Or as my mum likes to say ‘fake it till you feel it’ - never been too sure where she got that one from…  I did find this to be one of my biggest challenges from the whole experience-actually standing up and talking to a group of students while people observed and graded me. Having said this though I learned that I had more confidence than I thought I had and actually once I started I didn’t make too many mistakes. I now feel comfortable teaching my students and do not feel nervous before a lesson, I actually look forward to it.

There is always more to learn about yourself whatever stage of life you’re at. Overall I am happy with what I have learned so far but my learning journey continues. To recap, I have learnt: 1. I can make friends easily 2. I am self-sufficient and 3. I can tackle public speaking. It is interesting to me that I have ended up teaching others whilst learning such a lot about myself!

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