Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

Interview with Sharmani Cheng, Madrid Q and A

PERSONAL PROFILE

What is your name, age and nationality?

I am Sharmani Cheng, 30 from Melbourne, Australia.

What is your education level and background?

I have a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance) from Monash University.

Have you travelled abroad previously, and if so where?

I love travelling and working a 9 to 5 made me want to travel at every opportunity I got whether it was a small or big trip. 

I have travelled all around Asia and also did one month in Manila for work. My favourite city in Asia is Hong Kong (this is also where my parents are from). This city never sleeps and the food is amazing! I have also travelled to America and parts of Europe.

What motivated you to teach abroad?

Living abroad have always been my goal. The idea of moving away from my family, friends, my familiar routine and surroundings initially scared me. However, I was eager to take new adventures and emerge myself into new cultures. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone to see how far I could go.

I travelled to Madrid for a holiday and fell in love with the city, the people and their lifestyle. My love for Rafael Nadal, Latin dancing, tapas and sangria sealed the deal.

 I have always been a big lover of languages, in particular Spanish. I wanted to learn the language and at the same time I thought it would be nice to give back and teach English. I did extensive research and TEFL Heaven kept popping up. I literally read all their reviews and forums because I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into. All the reviews were fantastic and I never turned back once I hit the confirm button.

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

I wanted to move abroad and live “like a local”. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and emerge myself into new surroundings. I was and still am hungry for new experiences and I constantly want to expand my knowledge. 

Exploring Europe have always been high on my list and basing myself in Madrid have been perfect. I have been able to visit new cities and countries on the weekend and I have made many new friends along the way, memories that will last with me forever.

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

I applied for the program on own, but everyone who is on the program is in the same boat, you will make friends very quickly.

There are different social groups you can join, such as “Expats in Madrid”, “English speaking people in Madrid”. You will never be alone and there are always activities happening around the

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

I have a few friends who taught English abroad in Asia, not Madrid. However, there were able to share their experiences and enforce that it would be the best experience ever, and I would tell you exactly the same!

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

Many things came across my mind and there were moments where I doubted myself and was not sure if I was capable of living alone in a foreign country. I was nervous about not making any friends, bad flat mates, the language barrier, not having anyone to travel/celebrate holidays with and so forth.

The only way to find out was to give it ago and I can’t be happier. I have met so many great people, my students are all lovely and willing to guide and help me if I needed to know about anything. I can promise you that you are never alone on this journey!

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION:

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

Teaching have always been a passion of mine. My role back at home involved mentoring and training new starters, being able to pass on knowledge to me is a rewarding experience.

 I did extensive research, read many forums and learnt that to teach overseas TEFL certification was required. During my search, TEFL Heaven kept popping up and I had also read many great reviews about them.

I can definitely say the same! The TEFL Heaven team is very knowledgeable and were prompt with their email replies. This gave me a lot of confidence as I wanted to know everything before moving across the world

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

Personally, I am a very visual person when it comes to learning. It was also a great way to settle into a new country and make friends. The TEFL trainers are experienced and knowledgeable, they themselves have done the course so they know exactly what we go through

During the course there were many games and interactive activities which you will not be able to experience if you did the course online. One of my highlights of the course were the “teaching practices”, we got to teach in front of real students. This is where I grew the most as a teacher and I was surprised with what I was able to put into practice.

Which TEFL program did you do?

TEFL Heaven Madrid 2019

What did you enjoy about your TEFL Course?

The TEFL course is a great way to get settled into a new country. Madrid is a very lively yet laid back city. The course was well structured, the trainers were thorough and knowledgeable. You are never alone after the TEFL course, you are always welcome to go back and visit your trainers if you need help or ideas with your lessons. The friends you make from the course is priceless, you become close like family. Without my trainers and my friends my experience would be half as fun!

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

When doing anything for the first time it can be nerve wracking! However, the TEFL course prepares you well! The course is well structured and they cover everything from classroom management, grammar, phonetics to interview stage. A new skill/method was taught each day and the trainers were informative about what to expect when you enter the real teaching world.

When it was time to look for a job, the TEFL trainers are your best resource. They helped me with my CV and ran through mock interview questions. Within one week from graduating I had filled my schedule with classes.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

Your TEFL school will distribute your CV to their contacts but there are always great websites out there where you can apply for jobs.

I have had great success using the following website: https://www.lingobongo.com/madrid/

What does a typical working week look like for you?

The best thing about teaching is being able to plan your classes around your schedule/lifestyle.

 I teach a variety of students, one to one, at a company and children.

 Generally, I will have a morning class between 9am – 10am, then I am free until 2pm in the afternoon. During this time, I will go to the gym, run errands and take Spanish lessons. My teaching then resumes again from 2pm and I will finish around 8pm with a 2-hour gap in between. I generally have around 5 classes a day.

 Fridays are the best, I have one morning class, then I lesson plan for the following week. This frees up my Friday afternoon and the weekend to travel and explore new places.

What age group or range do you teach?

My students range from children (8 to 13-year-old) to adults.

What do you most enjoy about teaching your students?

Every lesson is different! Everyday I am also learning something new from my students. I love passing on knowledge, I love seeing my students’ eyes light up when they understand. I love it when they tell me “this is very useful”.  The appreciation you receive is rewarding and within a small amount of time you have taught your students something that will last a lifetime!

How did you get your work visa?

I applied for a “Youth Mobility Visa (Spain)” from Australia. This allows me to work/study in Spain for up to12 months and I dealt with the Spanish consulate back at home.  

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

TEFL Heaven connected me with the housing co-ordinator from Spain, who showed me a few apartments based on my preference. Alternatively, I found my apartment from Spotahome. They were quick and easy to deal with and they spoke English!

COUNTRY INSIGHT:

The people in Spain know how to live life! I love how it is super relaxed here and not to mention, the weather in Madrid is superb, the sun is always out! Everyone loves enjoying a glass of wine and tapas. You also have many nice museums, parks, traditional dance shows like the Flamenco, you will never run out of things to do here!

Not to mention, travelling around Spain and Europe is super easy!

What are your monthly expenses?

Rent: 480 euros per month

Food: 120 euros per month (approx. 30 euros per week)

Other bills: mobile prepaid 20 euros per month (10GB), utilities and cleaner included in monthly rent

Social life: 200 euros per month (approx. 50 euros per week)

Transportation: 54 euros per month (unlimited travel on the metro/train/bus), if you are under 26 it is 20 euros per month

Phone: 20 euros per month

Other costs: dance class (70 euros for 10 lessons), gym 20-30 euros per month

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

Yes, you usually break even in Madrid.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS:

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

JUST DO IT! The worst that can happen is, you hate it and go home. You honestly have nothing to lose and everything to gain! You will make life long friends and you will be constantly learning every day. I have learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life, slow down and enjoy

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