What is your name, age and nationality?
My name is Sasha, I’m 24, and from the United States.
What is your education level and background?
I got my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in psychology and international relations- the perfect major combination for teaching abroad!
Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?
I’ve always been a traveler and wanted to see all corners of the world, so I’ve spent as much time as possible traveling. Other than the U.S. and Spain, I’ve traveled across Europe (the U.K., Ireland, France, The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Greece, and Croatia), throughout the Americas (Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Brazil), to India, and across parts of Africa (Morocco, Ghana, and Egypt). I know this is a lot, but I can’t wait to keep going! I want to visit all 50 states and every continent, at least once! 🙂
What motivated you to teach abroad?
Like I said before, I’ve always wanted to see the world- it’s my number one goal. Over the past few summers, I had also been volunteering at a school to help with summer school programs for ESL students, and I absolutely loved it. Therefore, when deciding which way would be best to make all my dreams come true, I realized teaching abroad would be perfect.
What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you succeeded?
Other than getting my TEFL certification, I wanted to experience a new culture, try new things, make new friends, meet local people who could change my world, and try to help change theirs. I’ve definitely succeeded so far- I absolutely love living in Spain and it has far exceeded all of my expectations.
Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?
I applied by myself.
Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?
No- I took the plunge by myself!
What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?
Like any new experience, I was worried that I would have trouble adjusting, wouldn't make new friends or be lonely, or be homesick. Related to the course, I was worried it would be too difficult and overwhelming, but it actually turned out to be totally manageable and worth it. However, none of these concerns have actually turned into a reality- I’ve loved living in Spain so far and I haven’t encountered any major issues!
TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?
Both during and after university I knew that I wanted to teach abroad, hopefully in Spain. After graduating and saving up as much money as I could, I decided to do a TEFL course to increase my opportunities of finding the perfect job and started researching which program would be best. After a lot of reading reviews, scouring over websites, and making pro-con lists, I finally decided on TEFL Heaven because of its quick (but difficult!) course and guaranteed job after. I felt much more relaxed with my big move knowing that I would have a way to make a living after the course!
What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?
I’ve always been the type of person who needs face-to-face interaction instead of something online. It’s much easier for me to learn and makes me actually focus and want to do the work instead of procrastinating.
Which TEFL program did you do?
What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?
I loved meeting new people (some of whom are now my best friends), the most helpful, funny, and thoughtful teachers imaginable, and the accelerated rate of the course.
How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?
After getting my certificate, I felt (and still feel) completely prepared for teaching and confident in my ability to make an impact on students. I had grasped everything I’d learned and gotten great feedback from my teachers, and I knew that I could always go back to the school if I had a teaching question or needed help with a lesson.
How long have you been teaching in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?
So far, I’ve been in Madrid since March 2017. My student visa lasts for one year, but I’m definitely hoping to extend it longer.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
Since I did the course in March, I didn't start looking for jobs until mid-April. While I still landed multiple interviews and had offers, most academies, etc. end in mid-June. Therefore, it would be more profitable for me to teach private lessons across the city rather than work as a contracted employee with a few random hours for two months.
What type of school or organisation do you work for?
I’m currently only teaching private lessons, but once September begins I will most likely also teach with an academy or organization, depending on which gives the best offer.
What does a typical working week look like for you?
Again, since it is the summer, most people in Madrid go on vacation so finding work is a little more difficult. I currently have a few private students that I teach one-two times each per week.
What age group or range to you teach?
Children ages 4-8 years old and adults.
What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?
While it can be difficult at times to help students grasp a concept and sometimes frustrating, the look on their faces when they finally understand is so incredibly rewarding and makes up for it. They look and feel so proud, knowing that they are truly progressing and confident that they can learn to speak English.
How did you get your work visa?
Since the Spain program comes with Spanish classes included, I currently have a student visa, not a work visa.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
There are several websites in Madrid to help with accommodation. Some are free (individuals post their rooms and you can contact them directly), and some come with an agency fee. I would recommend easypiso.com, idealista.com, and uniplaces.com (all of which are free). I found my current apartment on idealista.com and I absolutely love it. It is inexpensive, has everything I need, and is in the perfect neighborhood! Keep in mind that it’s very difficult to find good housing in September and January as this is when people are returning from vacation, starting as students, etc., so definitely start looking early.
I absolutely love living and working in Spain. The culture and lifestyle is so drastically different from my own. The Spanish people are much more relaxed, and they’re so welcoming and fun. They’ve been helpful to me whenever I’ve had questions, gotten lost, or even needed help with the Metro. The food here is also amazing- I’ve fallen in love with having tapas and wine outside in the best weather imaginable, and it’s usually so delicious and inexpensive! The Metro here is insanely easy to use, it’s super reliable and trains come very frequently, which is always impressive and near impossible in New York City. The best part is that if you are under 26, you can get an unlimited “abono” which gives you access to all of Madrid and the greater area (even to Toledo!) all for the one fixed price of 20 euros/month!
As far as places of interest, there is no shortage of amazing places to go. I absolutely love the neighborhood of Malasaña, known as the “alternative” neighborhood of Madrid, for it’s endless supply of little cute bars, restaurants, and plazas to explore. I also love Retiro Park, right in the center of Madrid, which is one of the biggest and most beautiful parks I have ever been to. I could walk around the different pathways for hours on end, and when I get tired I just love lying in the sun by the lake in the center. Lastly, visiting the Temple of Dubod at sunset is a necessity during your stay here- it’s incredibly beautiful- out of all the places I’ve been to I’ve never seen anything better. While I could sit there forever watching the sun go down and exploring the area around the Temple, there are so many other places to go- museums like the Prado, getting a drink at the rooftop bar of Bellas Artes to see the entire city from above, shopping on Gran Vía and Calle Fuencarral, and exploring the fun and fabulous neighborhood of Chueca.
I promise that’s it’s nearly impossible to be bored in this amazing city! Nightlife and the social scene here are also unbeatable and talked about across the world. There are an abundance of bars and clubs to go to any day of the week and themes that fit everyone’s personality- whether it be a cheap local bar or a seven-floor, insane dance club. If you’d rather stay outside, I’ve been to multiple “fiestas” in the middle of the street where there are mini-concerts, drinks, and a fun atmosphere. I feel like the city is literally always buzzing with people having an amazing time! Overall, Spain is incredible and clearly I couldn't have a higher opinion of it. Don’t miss out on this amazing city and country, I promise you’ll have the time of your life 🙂
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: 320 euros
Food: about 80-100 euros
Social life: about 80-100 euros (but usually less)
Transportation: 20 euros
Phone: 9 euros
Other costs: if I decide to travel, about 100 euros depending on the location/duration
Would you say you are able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?
Since I haven’t officially started working with a school/organization yet, I haven’t really had a monthly salary. However, most schools and academies here offer about 1000 euros/month, which should be enough to live comfortably once I start in September or October.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS
What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and would you recommend teaching English in Spain?
Go for it!! It’s been the best decision of my life so far. I’ve made amazing new friends, met new people who have changed my perspective on life, been able to do some traveling around Europe (and even Africa in October!), and have experienced life and a new culture in a brand new country. I have never felt more independent and excited about my future in my life, and I still feel like my adventure is just beginning! The only thing you should keep in mind is, like I said before, once April/May hits, it’s much more difficult to find work as many schools and academies end in mid-June. I would recommend doing the course either over the summer or earlier in the year; it would make the job hunt a lot easier! That being said though, I’ve still loved teaching my private lessons and making true connections with my students, and I really haven’t regretted coming to Madrid!
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