Q&A Interview with Eliza Mcnamara for TEFL Heaven Spain

Interview with Eliza Mcnamara, Spain Q & A


What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Eliza, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Newcastle, in the very North of England…a very different city to Madrid!

What is your education level and background?

I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BA Hons in History with Spanish in July 2017, just a couple of months before I moved out to Madrid. University really was an amazing experience for me and I loved every minute of it. It definitely taught me so many things that have helped me out with my move abroad and will always be a very special place for me.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

My friends and I took a lot of trips throughout University to loads of European cities; we’d stay in cheap hostels and find the cheapest flights we could and just explore as much as possible in the time we had! Although we didn’t do loads of cities in one trip, we still managed to see the majority of Europe across multiple trips throughout the 3 years of our degrees. I also was part of the choir at the University of Sheffield and we did a tour of Belgium and Germany where we travelled to various cities and performed in concerts and festivals, with lots of free time for exploring!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

To live abroad has been a dream of mine for a long time and since I had studied a bit of Spanish, Spain seemed like the best option for me! I had travelled to Spain a number of times before and loved the culture, the food and Madrid itself, so I knew that it would be somewhere I could live really easily. I also had friends who had lived in Madrid before and they had only positive experiences to tell me about so that was something that really encouraged me to make the move.

In terms of teaching, I had a fair bit of teaching experience at home; I was a Scout leader and a music teacher in a children’s hospital so I knew that teaching was something that I enjoyed and was good at. The idea of teaching adults really excited me as I knew it would be a totally different experience to teaching children, but would be just as rewarding and enjoyable.

Teaching abroad is a really reliable and stable way of living in a foreign country and is a job that you can take anywhere so I knew from the word ‘go’, that it would be decision that would open so many doors for me.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?

Moving abroad, by yourself is something to be really proud of, and I’m not ashamed to say that I am actually really proud of myself for doing something so interesting and exciting with my life at such a young age. I wanted to gain invaluable experience of the world and its cultures and to meet people from all over, of different ages, nationalities and backgrounds. It’s safe to say that I’ve definitely done all of these things and I’ve only been here for two months so I can’t imagine what else I would have to say in a year or two if asked this question again.

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied for this programme on my own and moved to Madrid not knowing anyone here. It felt like a really big deal, until I arrived and spent the weekend exploring the most beautiful city and I immediately felt at home, I couldn’t contain my excitement and was almost annoyed at myself for ever doubting that I could do it. Once I started the course, I had made friends by lunchtime of day one and we were in a bar having a beer that night, getting to know one another and learning about all the different reasons we’d all ended up in Madrid doing a TEFL course. Whether you come on your own, with a friend or a partner, it really doesn’t matter as everyone becomes one big family, literally within hours, and there’s endless amounts of people to turn to for support, to go out exploring your new home and to spend some of the best months or years of your life with!

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

I knew people who had taught abroad in different countries and loved it! I didn’t know anyone who had taught in Spain or Madrid specifically but I knew that I loved the country and the city itself so it was something that would be perfect for me.

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

I was mainly concerned that I would struggle with the move and being so far from home and my family but these concerns disappeared the minute I landed and I realised the amazing opportunity in front of me so all I wanted to do was embrace it! I do miss my friends, inevitably, but Madrid is such a fantastic place for them to have mini-breaks to and after a couple of months, you turn into a great tour guide with a long waiting list of visitors keen to see your new home!


What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

I wanted to live abroad for as long as I could remember, and with my previous teaching experience, TEFL seemed like an obvious choice to me. I knew that it was a qualification that would really open a lot of doors for me so decided to go for it. I did a lot of research online and TEFL Heaven kept coming up, it had great reviews and the team were so helpful and supportive from the minute I showed interest so it just felt right for me.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

I felt the face-to-face experience would be really valuable, I wanted to make sure I could make friends and meet lots of other people doing the same thing and I wanted to do the course in Spain so it made sense to do it face-to-face. I am so glad I did as the centre in Madrid is such an amazing place and I gained such professional and priceless training that has really and truly prepared me for the TEFL world.

Which TEFL program did you do?

I did the September 2017 TEFL course in Madrid.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

Everything…seriously! It was hard work and it took a lot of time management and dedication but it felt so good on grad day to receive my certificate and know that it had all paid off. The trainers are so experienced and not only know everything there is to know about teaching, but about Madrid itself and are there to help you every step of the way. I’ve also made some friends that I know will be there for life, and we’ve all moved to a foreign country together and shared so many amazing experiences that we’ve become really great friends really quickly.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

I felt so prepared! When you start going for interviews and receiving emails with job offers within hours of graduating it becomes clear that the team in Spain have a great reputation in the teaching world. They truly taught us everything there is to know and covered all bases, giving us a strong foundation to build upon with experience and practice.

How long have you been teaching in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?

I arrived in Madrid at the end of August and began my course at the beginning of September. I started teaching two days after my course so I’m into my fourth week now and I’m really enjoying it! I have some great classes and don’t have any plans to go home for the next two years at least.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I received countless emails from the day I graduated, the team had circulated my CV to all the academies and teaching centres on their databases. I went for a few interviews and managed to build a schedule working for a couple of different academies. Already, my schedule has changed since the first week as I have picked up new classes and started working with new academies that seem perfect for me! I am pretty much fully booked now, I have around two more hours per week to fill; the hours really come in once you start teaching for an academy and if they know you’re reliable and capable they will contact you regularly with new classes they would like you to take on. I also created a couple of online profiles on various websites to advertise myself for private classes and managed to secure four students this way within two days of posting the adds.

What type school or organisation do you work for?

I mainly teach for a language academy to a range of levels and class sizes. It’s a really great academy with a nice feel and a supportive atmosphere. There are also opportunities to teach in the academy itself which a number of my colleagues do, so you don’t always have to be travelling around the city to different companies and students, there are opportunities to be based primarily in one place, but I quite like the travelling as your day is so different hour by hour and you really get to know the city, its people and work life so well! 

What does a typical working week look like for you?

I tend to start around 8 or 8:30am each day and teach until 10 or 11 and then have classes again from 2/3pm until 4/5pm. I usually have a couple of hours break, and then I will teach a private class at 6/7pm for one or two hours, four nights a week. I have no classes on Fridays and like to keep this day free for planning, to see friends, explore Madrid or travel elsewhere for the weekend!

What age group or range do you teach?

My youngest student is three years old and my oldest student is seventy-eight so I really do have a great range and variety of students, something that makes the job so interesting and diverse!

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

I have really loved getting to know my students and creating a good relationship of trust and understanding so they feel comfortable around me and with me. I like to make sure that I really get to know what they feel good at and what they want to work on, as well as their interests and hobbies to make sure the classes are perfect for them. It's really nice at the end of a class to see students using the vocab or grammar you have just taught them and being able to feel their pride and sense of achievement as they understand things more clearly and confidently.

How did you get your work visa?

As an EU citizen its really easy to work abroad. I just needed to pay a tax fee of €10, fill out a form with my personal details and take these alongside my passport to an office in the North of Madrid and wait in line to be seen by a member of the police. They then take all your details and give you a NIE (Numero de Identidad Extranjero/Foreign Idenitity Number) and you’re all set to work.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?

I used a website called spotahome which is a really good way of finding somewhere here in Madrid, there are a variety of other websites and agencies that are very similar as well that I know a few of my friends have used and had no problem with! I love my apartment, I live very centrally, just next to Atocha (the main train station) and Retiro Park, with people from all over the world. The apartment is clean and modern and the agency that owns it are really helpful, easy to contact and efficient at responding to any issues or queries.


The Spanish culture is so interesting and unique; it’s such a vibrant city with something going on at every minute of the day! The food is fantastic, there’s a tapas bar everywhere you turn for some real Spanish cuisine alongside a whole bunch of international options at really cool bars and restaurants all over the city. For some trendy, fun bars, we always head to Malasana or Chueca and I can genuinely say we haven’t had a bad night out here; and we’ve had a lot…trust me! I still have a lot to explore but there are always so many interesting things going on in Madrid and there are so many museums, galleries, parks and exhibitions to fill your weekends with that you can’t ever be looking for something to do.

It’s a big city but the transport system is so well connected it feels a lot smaller. I can get a metro or an overground train from the end of my street and be at the opposite side of the city in less than 30 minutes. You can even get outside of the city to the surrounding areas and countryside using the transport card and usually within an hour which is a great thing to do with friends on weekends if you fancy visiting an old town or going for a hike in the mountains!

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: €500 /  588 USD (I think that this is a really reasonable price, my apartment is really modern and well kept and only 3 stops from the city centre. There is no chance you could live this centrally for this price in any other major European capital)

Food: around €80 /  94 USD  (I’ve managed to really budget my weekly food shop and still get lots for my money!)

Other bills: My utility bills are included in my rent so there is no chance of them changing each month; this is something really handy to look out for when you’re looking for apartments!

Social life: I try to budget my weekly living costs to be €65 / 76 USD  which is totally do-able. This includes around €20 / 23 USD a week on food, which leaves me with €45 / 53 USD to spend on anything else I want to do that week, I’m usually finishing the week with a bit of this money left over as its so easy to eat and drink out cheap with friends and there are so many great attractions and things to do in Madrid that don’t cost a penny!

Transportation: €20 / 23 USD (the Abono gets you anywhere in Madrid for only €20 a month)

Phone: €20 (I still use my English phone primarily as I can have the same contract in Europe as at home. I have a Spanish phone that I receive calls on and can top up for as little as €5 a month if I need to use the internet or anything on it.)

Other costs: I tend to try and keep my spending to a minimum but I do tend to spend around €10-€20 a month on printing for my lessons. I can buy printing credits at the centre for €5 per 100 copies so, depending on how much I plan resource-heavy lessons, this cost varies.

Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

Definitely. It’s a nice hourly rate and as long as you’re prepared to fill your schedule, you can definitely make enough money to support yourself, and after a couple of months, start saving too. I would advise trying to save as much as you possibly can before moving out here as the first month during the course, there’s no income coming in but the initial start up costs of moving to a new country, your weekly living costs and then all the beers in the plazas can add up quite quickly. It’s definitely something worth saving for.


What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Spain?

Do it! It’s the best decision I have ever made, so grab it by the horns and go for it, as you really won’t regret it. You have to work hard and it can be quite tiring but it really pays off and you settle in with a great big group of likeminded people so quickly that you forget you were ever even contemplating whether you should apply or not!

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