Want to teach English upon moving to Spain?
An American couple’s tale on how they had to make ends meet after they realised no language academy in Seville wanted to hire them because they are non-EU citizens.
To move abroad: to sell a house, a car, quit a job, give away cats, bid good-bye to friends and family - in March 2006 that was just what Audrey and Aaron Hill did.
Like many young people in the US, they had long dreamed of living abroad, but were worried about leaving secure jobs.
Audrey explained: “Since we’ve been together, we have always talked about living and working in another country someday. In college we both travelled to Europe, and fell in love with it. After I studied for a semester in Segovia, Spain, I knew I wanted to come back in the future. Somehow I convinced Aaron that he would love it too.”
TEFL certification programmes
The couple, who hold degrees in English and Communications respectively, decided they wanted to teach English and researched TEFL certification programmes in Spain. They choose EBC International in Madrid because of its good references, job placement assistance, location and price. “The course certainly lived up to its reputation of being intensive and time-consuming, and when we finished we felt well-prepared to begin teaching English,” said Audrey.
It was with optimism that the couple bounded off to the sunny, orange tree lined streets of Seville and began their job search. They crisscrossed the city visiting language academies only to find that, unlike some academies in Madrid, the ones in Seville were unable or unwilling to hire non-EU citizens.
Creative problem solving
This forced them to do some quick creative problem solving, and they decided to advertise private English classes around the city. Although the Hills were worried, they had made room in their budget to support themselves for a few lean months of little or no income. They began classes with a few students, and by September 2007 were supporting themselves and able to take time off to travel.
“We teach private classes, the largest with three or four students. Our students range in age (6 and up) and level (beginner to advanced), so every class is different. We even landed jobs at the Sevilla Futbol Club, the local soccer team’s stadium, who won the UEFA Cup in 2006. There we taught English to some people in administration, professional soccer scouts, agents, and even the coach, an international celebrity!” said Audrey.
While teaching English the couple also learned to operate on a daily basis in Spanish. Although the first few weeks in Spain were difficult, Audrey and Aaron were enamoured with the language and faced daily challenges with optimism. Audrey minored in Spanish in college, but, having been out of college for three years, felt out of practice. Aaron had studied Spanish on CD-Rom before coming to Spain, and arrived with a basic vocabulary.
“In the beginning we certainly felt a small sense of achievement every time we completed even a menial task like making a deposit at the bank. In a foreign language even these small errands can seem like a challenge, but it also forces you to use and practice the language, until eventually things become easier,” recounted Audrey. The couple learned quickly, because, as they confessed “we had no choice because we needed jobs!”
They also have had the opportunity to travel to cities like Barcelona and Toledo, as well as to neighbouring countries Morocco and Portugal. In Spain they enjoy the relaxed pace of life, sunny outdoor cafes, museums like Madrid’s Prado, and the social Spanish culture.
Audrey’s personal favourite city is Seville where you can find families or groups of friends having a drink at a café or bar at any time of the day.
“If the weather is nice (and it usually is) people sit outside in the sun or in the shade of orange trees which line the streets. People are always outside walking—along the river or through the city centre, and they seem to truly enjoy life.”
Tips on moving to Spain
1. Research the country, make a realistic monthly budget and estimate how much money you will need to make to live there.
2. Be sure to include extra money for the first few months in case something goes wrong with your plans.
3. Don’t get discouraged while planning! If you have to work for a year or two to save money to make your dream come true it will be all the more rewarding.
4. Find out what the employment requirements are for the particular country. What qualifications will you need to secure a job?
5. Decide where you want to live and begin making arrangements for housing through internet. To find housing in Spain internet sites such as loquo.com, segundamano.com, pisoperfecto.com, and mundoanuncio.com, compartepiso.com and pisocompartido.com are good if you’re looking for a shared flat.
6. Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Start studying the language of the country before you leave home. Once in the country you might be able to find an affordable private teacher or someone who wants to exchange language lessons (for example English for Spanish). In Spain you can find people interested in language exchange on web-sites such as loquo.com and mundoanuncio.com.
7. If you are planning on taking a TEFL course in order to teach English, contact former students of the programme before you make any decisions because most language academies look for courses with certain accreditations. You also want to make sure you’re prepared to teach English after the course, because just being a native speaker doesn’t make you a good teacher.
8. If you want to make a living teaching private English classes be prepared to put up posters and advertise your services on sites like loquo.com and mundoanuncio.com
9. Be prepared to invest time and energy in lesson plans and teaching: English, especially without the support of a language academy, is a job that requires tons of energy, creativity, and adaptability.
10. Take advantage of every opportunity to travel!
Alice Driver / Expatica
Alice Driver is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic Studies at the University of Kentucky. Her travel writing has appeared in Cultural Survival, Abroad View and travel guides To Vietnam With Love and To Thailand With Love. Follow her gastronomic adventures at http://www.alicesgastronomicadventures.blogspot.com/.
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