Alumni Spotlight: David Mack

Dave is a TEFL/TESL certified English teacher with experience teaching in Spain, Chile and USA. He's currently teaching in Chile and will soon be getting a Masters in TESOL education.

David is an assistant in a public school in the community of Madrid. He is also TEFL certified and an orientation leader with CIEE.

Why did you choose this program?

King's Cross station in London

I chose the program because I wanted to teach English in a Spanish speaking country and CIEE is a very helpful program, and an organization that I wanted to be a part of.

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

CIEE helped me with the visa process, the green card process (called TIE, or tarjeta de internacional extranjeros), strategies of getting a piso, what to expect in my school, and Spanish culture and life.

What I had to do on my own is actually take the steps to secure a piso, arrange any travels, arrange one-on-one English tutoring, and attend an international Spanish school (although being a CIEE alum helped get me a discount).

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

Don't expect to master Spanish unless you take the effort to learn it. While casual conversation is useful, you'll best learn it by taking a class and/or doing intercambios. Watching Spanish TV helps too.

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

You'll work 4 days a week, 16 hours a week. You'll most likely be placed in a pueblo outside of the city of Madrid (although I know several people placed in the city). There will be a main teacher in the class, and you will be an assistant.

While there are certain things we're not supposed to do, such as grade papers or discipline, it's the teacher's discretion regarding what they want you to do. It might be to talk one-on-one or in a small group, it might be to prepare a game in English, it might be to have the students get to know you and your story.

Most people will make some extra money on the side doing one-on-one English lessons. With three day weekends, there is plenty of time for traveling Madrid, Spain, and Europe in general.

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?

My biggest fear was that I had never taught before, and public speaking made me very nervous. I didn't know if I would be adequate for teaching or if I would choke in front of a group of 25-30 students.

The teachers were helpful regarding what I should cover, and the students participated with eager curiosity.

Surprisingly, I overcame this fear easily, eventually I found my niche, and was able to incorporate my own being into my teaching.

How are you different now than when you were before you left?

For one thing, my Spanish is a lot better. Being from South Florida, my Spanish was pretty decent, but now I'm at the point of being able to hold a conversation, know some slang, and able to express problems I have in Spanish.

I've also become more cultured. I've visited 10 countries in the year since I've been here, seen the sites, ate the food, talked to the people. I've also seen a lot of the Spanish countryside and cities outside of Madrid.

I've also become a good teacher. I'm able to understand and connect with the students I teach and present them the English language in a fun and informative way.

And finally, I think I've changed in a way that I can't fully explain. I'm more rounded, I feel a strong sense of purpose, and I'm doing my part to make the world a better place, poco a poco.