Alumni Spotlight: Sebastian Wood

Sebastian has been fascinated with language and culture for as long as he can remember. Now that he's certified in TEFL, he hopes to experience all that this wonderful world has to offer.

Why did you choose this program?

I had always wanted to teach English overseas, but due to financial constraints, I was forced to discontinue studying at university. At that time I became a stay-at-home partner and had put my interests on the back burner. It wasn't exactly the life I had hoped for, becoming a university drop-out with nothing to show for it.

Then, during the holiday season, I decided to look into certification programs on a whim. I never realized that you could teach with only a certificate and not a degree, which inspired me to finally pursue my lifelong dream. CIEE was really perfect in that it was accredited, affordable at $1000, and had good reviews. So, I signed up and had started my course within a month.

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

CIEE really provided me with all the tools I needed to become an English teacher. As far as the actual course went, there were no extra purchases I needed to make--everything was included in the program. They gave me so many resources as well that went above and beyond the course material, so I never felt out of my element.

I was warned however that the Murcia program itself is very hands-off, so I will be responsible for all my arrangements come this October, and that they will simply help with the correspondence with Spain and the job placement. This works well for me, as I want the freedom to live where I choose, and to move on my own time.

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

My biggest piece of advice would be to put time aside for your class. They don't say "intensive" for nothing--even as a relatively fast worker as I was, I needed roughly 2-3 hours a day to complete my coursework. Timelines were my only struggle, and while I passed with distinction, it took a lot of self-discipline to make those due dates. Fortunately, the staff at CIEE is always willing to work with you as long as you communicate with them!

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

There are five units due at the end of each week, which can be done easily if you put aside time for one a day. The following Monday, you'll have a video conference, and on that Wednesday (Thursday at 12 am, I believe) you'll have a paper due. My weekends were relatively free while I adhered to this schedule.

Every day you will need at least 2-3 hours to complete your work, and I cannot stress that enough. Especially towards the end of the course when the papers start getting bigger and incorporate more and more of the previous lessons, working can take out a considerable chunk of your day. As long as you treat it with the respect of an in-person class, however, you will be fine.

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

My biggest fear in taking this course might sound strange to you, but it was working with other people. I wanted something that I could do online, on my own--but I was shocked at how much group participation there was involved. However, I was very fortunate to find that my class was wonderful and took their work as seriously as I did, which meant that there was plenty of material to bounce off each other.

Now it seems naive to look back at when I wanted to work alone, because I would have been sorely unprepared for a teaching job (obvious, I know, but hindsight is 20/20!). The group work and especially the video conferences really made me step out of my comfort zone, and I ended up learning a lot more than I ever expected to.

How do I know if this course is for me?

Do you want to become an English teacher? Do you want to learn the building blocks of language, differences in culture, and how to be aware of your own biases? Are you prepared to take your work seriously?

These are some questions I recommend asking yourself if you're still on the fence about doing this program. You don't have anything to lose--as long as you stick to it, you'll come out with a brand new certificate that is absolutely worth the price tag.

When I first started my class, I was scared. It seemed I was the only student who wasn't a university graduate, who had never traveled out of the country, and who grew up in the hood with a family who never got a secondary education themselves. I thought to myself, I am so out of my element here, I can't do this. But I stuck to it, I worked hard, and now I've graduated with distinction.

"Don't worry about where you're from, don't worry about what your situation is, how much you've experienced, or where you've been to--as long as you're prepared to work hard, you can do it. And now that I've finished my course, I feel like a door has opened and opportunity has come shining in."

If you want it, do it. What have you got to lose?