Alumni Spotlight: Catherine Oliver-Smith


Catherine is a global entrepreneur, mother of three, published author, professional writer, and now TEFL certified by Maximo Nivel in gorgeous Antigua, Guatemala, her hometown for the past three years. She is planning on opening an English language theater program in Lisbon, Portugal to teach advanced English language learners through performance and playwriting beginning in 2017.

Why did you choose this program?

Maximo Nivel is a well known leader in Education in Latin America and having owned a global English language learning mobile technology company, I have experience in the field from a operations and business development perspective.

I chose Maximo Nivel for the proximity and reputation. My choice was justified in the training, which was outstanding.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I had to manage the time demand of the program, which is intense, and for me was more challenging as I was not in Antigua only to study but have a full life with three children in school, a traveling spouse, birthday parties to host, first days of school, and after school activities to chauffeur. Therefore, it was wonderful that I had so little to figure out on my own for the program. The support staff was incredible. The program flexible enough when I needed.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

It is going to be an incredible amount of work, it will require your commitment and focus, and you will think you cannot possibly do it at least once during the time.

Be assured that the support staff and your instructor are fully engaged in your success.

You will be able to do it. It is possible. Don't try to be perfect. Work on your weak points. Figure out what you're good at and focus.

There are so many people who can be resources for you. Ask where to go and what to do and then do it. Don't just go where everyone else is going. If you get the opportunity to talk to an expat, take it. They will have experience and know hidden gems and special things that would interest you more than your also visiting housemate and often more than a local person.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

9 am start time and 4 pm end time, but expect two to three hours of homework. Expect a few half days. Realize you will be teaching starting week one. Learning to get up and lead a group, write on the board, use the pens, guide the students. There is no slowly dipping in your toe to test the waters. You will be plunged in. By the time you are done, you really will be trained as at teacher.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I already live abroad. This was not an issue for me. However, I do recall when we did first move to Antigua. We had visited three times over ten months. But moving with our children was a bit nerve-wracking.

Be careful at night. Watch your things. Don't make yourself a target. However, Antigua is a fabulous place, it is magical, gorgeous, with amazing places to relax, meet other people, and have a wonderful time. The people are friendly. Embrace the chance.