Q&A Interview with Sheri Orekan for TEFL Heaven Spain

Interview with Sheri Orekan, Spain Q & A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

Sheri, 23 and British! Straight outta London.

What is your education level and background?

I have my degree in Media Prod and as I write this, I’ve just been accepted on a MA program. Honestly, I hated everything about my degree and I didn’t feel as though I went to uni at the right time but now as I’ve been teaching for a few months, I feel like I’m ready to go back to education next term with this new experience in my back pocket.

Of all the compulsory subjects we had to study growing up, English definitely was NOT my favourite but as I got older I began to appreciate the humour in the English language. I never thought I’d want to teach the language but after this TEFL, I’m so glad I decided to do so.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I’m definitely one of those “I wanna travel everywhere” people but at the same time I’m also a “spend all my money on takeout and taxis” person, too. When I do travel, I like to do “champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget”…(where possible of course).

I think my list of travels doesn’t actually stretch that far but it’s coming along… slowly but surely. Instead of just visiting one city in a country, I like to travel around the country a few times before I move on to the next one.

All I can remember is Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, USA, Andorra, Luxembourg, Nigeria and Egypt

…it’s a pretty sad list for right now but it WILL grow!!!

What motivated you to teach abroad?

I honestly just wanted an excuse to leave England for a while. Post university and no clue what to do as with most people and I came across the TEFL options while browsing online and the teaching part was a “meh” but the living in a country where the wine was very cheap was a “why, yes.” The initial feeling of me teaching someone else was humorous as I had no real experience prior and had no idea which way it would go but helping others grow and seeing progress in their language learning in part to you keeps the motivation alive.

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

I wanted to achieve personal growth in myself. I came with such a carefree spirit and knowing nothing of what I wanted in the future but doing this course gave me stability and an idea of where I was actually going instead of just an “escape” from reality at home. I feel like I am succeeding in this, but I haven’t fully succeeded as of yet. Time will tell, and I’m intrigued to see what else this experience holds.

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

All of my friends are boring. They didn’t wanna leave the country but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back, so I said BYE to them and HELLO to sunny Spain! (or at least what I hoped would be sunny…it was freezing and raining for the first month!!)

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

Not at all. I had no one to ask of their experiences prior so I came in just hoping for the best and it was a mix of ups and downs. The intensity of the course can take its toll and I wish I had known this beforehand but not everyone is going to know someone who has gone through the experience and it’s great to experience it first.

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

Getting the hang of learning and teaching grammar. Sometimes you are not even aware of grammatical errors in your own speech because after a certain age you speak by ear and not by reading and get used to your bad grammatical habits that in turn confuse others that have been learning.

Also, teaching group classes where there was a significant age difference between them and myself. I thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously but it was quite the opposite. I have had students who admired my dedication to teaching so young.

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION

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

Not knowing what to do straight after uni and looking for something as a transition into something else (that I wasn’t even sure of at the point of applying). I chose TEFL Heaven because it had the best reviews and when trying to decide whether or not to go with it, the help and information from the staff was great. The Facebook group always had previous and current teachers posting their experiences and helpful tips which was a huge plus, too.

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

I thought it’d be a better experience for me. I learn better through immersion and drawing from other people’s emotions and expressions. It worked out for the best because I met some great people and could share the ups and downs and not feel alone. I did meet some of the people who chose the lifestyle course which is mainly online, and it was more about not having the time to do the face-to-face option. If time was an issue, it would have been contemplated but I’m glad I had the time to spare to choose the other option for preference.

Which TEFL program did you do?

I decided to do the TEFL Heaven program in Madrid because first of all…why not? Second of all, it was close enough to home that I could hop back and forth when I wanted to and third of all Spanish guys are super cute.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

The course definitely had its ups and downs and I think everyone felt this way but it’s a rollercoaster you’d want to go on again. The trainers are so fun and after a few days they really do feel like friends and on top of that you meet some awesome people from all over the world. I enjoyed the teaching practices quite a lot because it was interesting to go from having no approach to teaching at all to finding your own kind of style of teaching in just a matter of weeks.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

I felt just as underprepared as I did prepared. It was very different to come from teaching and having trainers watch you and critique you each week to being completely by yourself and not knowing after a lesson if you did well but at the same time after the first lesson, you realise how much you’ve learnt and were able to get another person to understand.

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

I’ve been teaching since February and I am planning on staying until the school year is over, so I can enjoy my summer before heading back to my next year of education

How did you secure your English teaching job?

The connections that the team have all over Madrid are crazy. Just by having the organisations name on your CV gets you so much attention you’ll have to be turning down jobs no faster than you apply for them. When it came to applying for jobs though, I was a little stubborn. I wanted to do it all myself, I did my CV and picture and online ads myself but really just by having a qualification from such an established organisation on my CV gave me so much attention and I got a job 3 days after applying for my first one.

What does a typical working week look like for you?

My working week changes all the time. It can be frustrating, but a lot of my students are working adults and other priorities come first before their English classes. Cancellations, lateness and lack of motivation can be seen in most weeks but when they are ready to work…they are ready to work!

The transition of using one preparation template to another for planning classes is quite irritating especially when you prefer the old method but it’s all part and parcel of being a teacher in a new environment.

What age group or range do you teach?

My youngest student is 6 and A1 and I was teaching up to C2 proficiency, but it proved more difficult than expected so I keep my students up to C1.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

No two days are ever alike. My younger students never fail to make me laugh each class, but it doesn’t stop them from paying attention and showing growth in their English skills. I enjoy the challenge of teaching the older and higher classes because although they may have stated they are 1 level as a whole, their individual skills always need some extra work and it’s always a challenge to find what work stimulates their mind without boring them every class.

How did you get your work visa?

I didn’t need one although with Brexit, you never know what will be needed soon…

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

I was VERY last minute with my accommodation, I kept on changing my mind on where to live, in regard to the course and then after the course if I wanted to be in the same area or not. I ended up finding a place about 10 days before my flight to Madrid through UniPlaces and it was fairly simple, and I haven’t had any issues with them at all. I ended up living with a landlord and their family and to be honest, it wouldn’t be a choice I’d go with again. As much as they are lovely people, I feel so uncomfortable at times with respect to working hours and coming home late and certain rules of the house that just makes my time inside really awkward.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

You can see all of the touristy spots in a few days and as great as it is, once that’s out the way there is SO much more to see. Depending on where you live and work, you can find some really nice hidden spots all over. One of the great things about Madrid is that there is something to do every night. There are clubs and bars everywhere, so you are not short of options on a given night. Social life can be difficult especially when you’re a teacher and all of your friends are teachers. Where possible, branch out and make as MANY friends as possible. Age shouldn’t play too much of a factor and of course you want to make Spanish friends.

There are many cultural events all over Spain and national/international trips throughout the year with many companies that organise group trips to said events for a really low price. I would definitely say to go to a few of these events alone because it’s such a different but lovely experience and a lovely way to make new friends and experience different cultures.

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: 350 eur p/m bills included

Food: 60-80eur

Other bills: Everything is included in my rent cost 

Social life: pretty non-existent for me at the moment 

Transportation: 20eur

Phone: 10eur

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

Currently, I’m working part-time (only in the evenings) and making between 720-930 EUR a month depending on hours given to me and after rent, and transport costs I can still live comfortably but I really just do not have the same time schedule as others to go travelling and spending.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

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

You won’t know until you try. Every experience will be different for each person, but it’d be better to try than to look back and say “what if?”. Teaching abroad can be so much fun but also a huge challenge and a real blow to social life so these are things that need to be factored in before to decide to take the plunge and move to another country. Teaching is Spain is a whirlwind. Everyone here is so direct but not necessarily in a horrible way, but it does take some time to get used to. Mannerisms here are also quite different and for a Brit, it comes across as rude but that’s just because we’re too nice (most of the time…)

I would recommend teaching abroad and specifically here as there is so much demand and students always seem so grateful.  My main advice would be to go in with an open mind because as much as you can follow someone else’s experience, it all boils down to you and how you decide to go about your decisions.

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