What is your name, age and nationality?
Faye Johnson, 23, British.
What is your education level and background?
I am from Hertfordshire in England which is a county most people have never heard of so I usually just say ‘I am from London’ because it is easier! My highest level of education is A-Levels in which I studied Sociology, Politics and Film Studies. I really enjoyed these subjects but was unsure about going to university as I did not have a set career goal in mind. Also annoyingly I was the first year to have increased tuition fees (£9000 per year is a lot of money). I worked in retail for a while and most recently in a number of temporary office roles. These positions were fine and I met great friends but I cannot say either of those industries were my passion.
Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?
I have travelled on many holidays with my family to different places in Europe and America. I have always loved going to new places and have been lucky enough to go away a couple of times a year when I was growing up. After I made the decision not to go to University I decided I wanted to go travelling. So I worked and saved up the money, then my boyfriend and I had an amazing couple of months visiting Venice, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. These were 2 fun filled months and I was gutted when I had to return home due to lack of money. I had itchy feet and only a matter of months after returning home I was planning another trip with one of my best friends. So then a year later after my first travels I was off on another adventure for a few months.
This was a brilliant time in my life and I got to experience so many beautiful places. On this second trip we decided to incorporate volunteering in Sri Lanka for a month. We got to work with elephants, on a turtle conservation and taught children English. One of the best things we got to do was release baby turtles into the ocean which was an extremely emotional experience! After Sri Lanka we visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore and then I went onto to Australia again as it is my favourite place in the world! I hope to one day do a longer trip. Me and my step-dad would love to travel around America together, so hopefully one day that dream will become a reality!
What motivated you to teach abroad?
It was my travels which led me onto teaching English abroad. As I got to teach young children English when I was in Sri Lanka it led me to look into different options where I could combine teaching along with living in a country I love. Spain has always been a country I have liked as I have family who live in Mallorca. My goal is to become fluent in Spanish and I hope with a year in Spain I can make a good start and be on my way to achieving this! Spain is somewhere that I have always seen myself living at some point and I thought to myself that this would either be now or when I retire.
What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?
Through this experience I wanted to put myself completely out of my comfort zone and do something different. I wanted to improve my confidence and experience living in another country. I also want to learn Spanish. I would say I have achieved the majority of these goals. The week before I came to Spain I was extremely nervous and honestly I was wondering if I had made a mistake. But after my first week was finished I knew I had done the right thing. By the end of the course my confidence had increased and I felt more comfortable living in Spain. I have not yet achieved my Spanish goal but this is in progress.
Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I did this course on my own as none of my friends wanted to do it. I think this has been a great thing to do on my own and I've really challenged myself.
Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
One of my best friends has lived in Germany in the past and taught German. This same friend was recently in Germany teaching English as a foreign language and she was helpful giving me insights into the experience as a whole.
What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
I had many concerns before teaching abroad as I am definitely a worrier and I overthink about everything! I was worried I would be homesick, wouldn’t make any friends, wouldn’t like my flat, wouldn’t like/pass the course and wouldn’t find a job. Any possible worry you could have the chances are that I thought about it! Luckily my worries did not turn out to be realities!
TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
I decided to do a TEFL course because I thought it was a quick and affordable way to become employable and allow me to live in Spain. In addition, I thought it would be a great way to see if teaching was for me without the long expensive process of university. I decided to choose TEFL Heaven because they had good reviews online and had a link with a popular/well-known TEFL school in Madrid.
What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
I felt a face-to-face TEFL course would be better for me as it suits my preferred style of learning. I enjoy classroom based learning with interaction with a teacher rather than online independent study. I like being able to ask the teacher questions if I don’t understand something. I also wanted to have the experience of immersing myself in Spain to see if the whole ‘living abroad’ experience is something I would actually enjoy. It was more appealing for me to be in Madrid for a month rather that the more boring option of studying online in England.
Which TEFL program did you do?
Teach abroad Spain - Madrid
What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
I enjoyed learning in a big group of 15 and making friends with people from different places around the world. I thought it was great having such fun trainers who made everything (including grammar) interesting. We had so many laughs along the way and I feel like the trainers really cared about us and I hope to stay in touch.
How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
I felt quite prepared for my teaching position because through the course I taught 6 teaching practices to students of different levels. I had the opportunity to create my own lesson plans and materials. Before I started the course I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get up and teach in front of a group. However by the end of the course I felt less nervous before teaching a class.
How long have you been teaching in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?
I have not long graduated as I did the August TEFL course but I have been teaching private classes for a couple of weeks. I plan to stay until summer next year (2018) as long as I am able to secure a work contract through an academy/agency/company.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
I secured my private English work through posting an advert on a couple of Spanish job sites (lingobongo and tusclassesparticulares) and through ‘word of mouth’ from people on my course. I am going on holiday in a couple of weeks but when I return in October I will be applying for jobs through the school where I completed my TEFL course. The school send out job alerts every week and also send out CVs every Tuesday/Friday to companies that have vacancies.
What type of school or organisation do you work for?
I am currently only doing private classes for a family. I am also hoping to do interviews for academies as I think that would be my ideal organisation to work for.
What does a typical working week look like for you?
At the moment I have private classes in the evenings. However I am hoping to secure work at the end of October, ideally working in the afternoons.
What age group or range to you teach?
I currently teach a 4 year old, two 6 year olds and an 8 year old. They are two sets of siblings. I enjoy working with children but would also like to secure some work with adults through an academy as "variety is the spice of life".
What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?
The thing I enjoy most about teaching my students is being able to bring lots of fun to classes. Children can be very imaginative and keen to try different activities. I enjoy helping children learn and it is great when they enjoy the games/tasks. For my first class with the little 4 year old boy he really enjoyed songs with different animals!
How did you get your work visa?
I don’t have a work visa because I live in Europe but I do have a NIE and social security number which allows me to work legally in Spain. For both of these we had to go to different offices and fill out forms. The trainers at our school advised us on the process for this which was extremely helpful.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
Me and two friends I made on the course are currently in the process of searching for a flat for the month of October. This is a struggle as September and October are the hardest months to find flats in Madrid. We have been checking websites such as FotoCasa, Idealista, SpotaHome and facebook pages. So far we have not had any luck but things move fairly quickly with flats in Madrid so we are looking daily and hopefully we will be able to find something soon. Although we are going to view a flat on Wednesday so fingers crossed!
Madrid has a relaxed way of life which is quite different from England and things seem to move at a slower pace. Everything happens much later over here, for example with dinner, going out and staying out later. There have been a couple of occasions where I have got home at 6am and I am not really a party animal! Some shops close in the afternoon for a fiesta! I noticed a few restaurants/cafes during July/August had signs saying closed until September 1st. This just shows how seriously Spain take their holidays!!
The food is fairly cheap here and there are so many restaurants to choose from, some of my favourites include:
Tommy Mel’s (American)
Tierra Burrito Bar
Moharaj 18, Calle del Ave Maria (Indian)
Cereal Hunters Café
100 Montaditos (sandwich place)
The transportation is cheap here, if you are under 26 it’s only €20 for a travel card that includes metro/buses/trams for the whole month – what a bargain! Uber is also a good way to get home cheaply after a night out because strangely the metro stops around 1.30/2am even though clubs stay open until all hours of the morning.
Places of interest/nightlife:
The grand Palace
The Grand Via (many shops)
Parque del Oeste
Anton Martin – food market
Plaza Mayor – restaurants/people watching
For social activities I would recommend downloading the meetup app, and joining Facebook pages such ‘Auxiliares de conversacion en Madrid (the original)’ and ‘Girl gone international Madrid’ as these are great ways to meet people.
What are your monthly expenses?
Other bills: included in rent
Social life: €120
Transportation: €20 metro/bus card
Other costs: yoga class €35. Weekend trips (variable)
Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?
N/A as I have not currently secured a contracted position. However I believe with around 20 hours work a week I will be able to live comfortably.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Spain?
I would definitely recommend teaching English abroad especially in Spain if you love the culture and want to learn the language. Although having said that I have met many people who live in an English ‘bubble’ and socialise with only English people and don’t speak very much Spanish at all. So it really just depends what experience you are looking for! I am glad I decided to move abroad to teach in Spain, so my advice to anyone unsure is to go for it. I personally think that the only way to know if something is for you is by trying it. It will either work out or it won’t, but at least you know you tried. The worst thing is to look back thinking ‘what if…?’ The chances are you will enjoy as much as I have!
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