Why did you choose this program?
I chose the CIEE Teach Abroad program in Madrid because I really wanted guaranteed placement in that region of Spain as well as support with the moving process (like the visa assistance). Additionally, I was traveling alone so I wanted to be connected with other people who were going to teach abroad making the in-country orientation another important factor so I could meet new people right away.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
CIEE assisted me with the visa application process and helped guide me to get all my paperwork in order before leaving the US. After arrival in Spain, I attended orientation with CIEE Staff where they covered information like what to expect for the teaching position, how to get your residency and metro cards, insurance and safety information, as well as planned cultural activities. Throughout my 2 years teaching in Madrid I was also invited to various events with CIEE staff. I didn't have to organize much on my own- CIEE was great about keeping me informed each step of the way on the tasks I needed to complete to successfully teach abroad in Spain. The most work I did was to find housing once I arrived in Madrid, but CIEE did offer advice to help me navigate that process as well.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One thing I would tell people that are going to teach abroad in Madrid with CIEE is to do your research and plan your trip with adequate time. The earlier you apply to the CIEE program the better, as it allows for more time to save money, apply for your visa without stress, and to be able to source information about Madrid that will make your time in Spain easier. The research process should be thorough- what are the different neighborhoods and what do they offer? Where is your school placement and how would you get there on public transportation? What are the biggest national holidays and what are the local customs? What are cultural differences between US and Spanish schools? These are just some examples, but they are things that are important to know beforehand so that you can show up to your first day at work cool, calm, and collected.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
When I was teaching in Madrid I worked Monday-Thursday and I had 16 classes (all 1 hour each). I was usually at school from 9am-3pm and when I wasn't in class I was either prepping class materials in the staff lounge or in the cafeteria having a coffee and tostada with the other language assistants and the teachers that I had befriended at the school. After school I usually gave private tutoring lessons to make some extra cash and then weekends were for going out with friends, traveling throughout Spain and Europe, and time to relax.
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 when going abroad was about being able to make friends. Having been abroad before, I knew that having a good support system of friends is important to avoid being homesick and to really make the most of your time living overseas. To overcome this fear, I decided to go through a program like CIEE because I knew that they would connect me with others who were going to teach in Spain. And from there I tried to take advantage of every opportunity I had to meet new people: I went to a meet-up in my hometown in the US with people from CIEE who I met on the CIEE Facebook group, I made plans to go out for drinks with people at orientation in Madrid, made sure to friend/follow people on social media to stay up to date, made an effort to get to know the other language assistants and teachers at my school placement, and attended all the events that I was invited to throughout the year by CIEE and other organizations.
What is the most important skill to work on if you want to be successful when teaching English abroad?
The most important skill is to be proactive. The process of moving abroad requires you to pay very close attention to various tasks and not doing so can delay or even terminate your plans to move abroad to teach English. Once you arrive, it's really important to be proactive about integrating into the culture and into your job, because you are a visitor, not the protagonist. This means you need to be the one to initiate learning the language, the cultural norms, the social interactions to help build trust, etc.- all of these things can help you to give a good first impressions and set the tone for a positive experience.