TEFL Student story: Samantha, Bournemouth, UK

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My name is Samantha. I am 26 years old and I come from Bournemouth in the South of England. I consider myself an outgoing and curious person and a lot of people have told me that I have a teacher´s personality.

I liked going to school and studied very hard to get into the best university in my region. I graduated with a degree in Business Studies two years ago and I was working for one year as a trainee in the financial department of one of the biggest banks here in Bournemouth.

Since I was a child I have always been fascinated by pictures and photos from foreign countries. They really made me curious and I could sit for hours just dreaming away. My favourite pictures would be the ones with long, sandy beaches, palm trees, sunny, lazy villages and an unending summertime.

When I was about 11- 12 years old, one of my aunts married a Spaniard and moved together with him to a town in the South of Spain, called Malaga. This was late October, and I remember that we left cold and foggy London in the morning, and arrived in Malaga in the afternoon, and it was full summer. I could use my t-shirts and shorts again, and I could be outdoors playing all the time. The day after the wedding, we could even go to the beach.

Malaga city

Up through my adolescence, I visited my aunt almost every summer, and I started making friends there, had a few heart-breaking bits yet very innocent love affairs when I was between 15 and 18 years old. Some of these “Iberian machos” taught me some Spanish words and expressions, but they soon got lost when I finished secondary high and entered university. The financial studies were hard and took all my time. In the summers, I used to have part time jobs and couldn´t go visit my aunt in Malaga, but once in a while, and especially in winter, I would find myself dreaming about sunny beaches, lots of people in the streets, nice summer outfits, when I was supposed to study the mechanisms of the international stock markets, and the competitions between Chinese and American businesses.

Just before my trainee period in the bank finished, I met this old classmate from secondary high. At that time, he was a bit of a hippie, not my style, and used all his money and time travelling to music festivals all around Europe. He had straightened up a bit now but was still on the move. I asked him how he could afford this lifestyle, and that was when he told me about the Trinity College CertTESOL course in Madrid.

The more he told me about this teacher training course and all the possibilities you would get afterwards, the more engaged and interested I became. He gave me the website of this course and as soon as I got home, I looked it up, read and started daydreaming again.

Dreams

Some weeks afterwards my mom asked me what I was going to do when my trainee period in the bank was over? Maybe they would offer me a post in the bank, and I could start working there “for real”. I said that I hadn´t heard anything, but rumours said that they were not going to hire any more people this year. I could see that my mother got a bit worried, and she opened her mouth to say something, when all of a sudden I remembered the websites about the Trinity College course, and words like SPAIN – SUN – TRAVELLING – SPANISH – NEW PEOPLE – NEW CULTURES – NEW EXPERIENCES- MEMORIES FOR LIFE came to me.

Without thinking, I just said,” I think I will go to Madrid in July, take a teacher training course, teach English in Madrid for a while, probably learn some Spanish, and travel around from the money I earn.” My mother stared at me with a bewildered look in her face, and it took some time before she said, “but what about your studies and your future career in business and finance? Are you just going to throw all that away?” “Look mom”, I said, “I am only 27 years old, and I graduated with good grades last year. If I do this for a couple of years, I can come back to England and settle with a job in finance. Maybe it could be beneficial to speak a foreign language, like Spanish.” She was still far from convinced, so I told her to sit next to me so we could have a look at these inviting and promising websites together.

That same night I took the final decision, and I couldn´t get soon enough home from work. In the afternoon I went online again, studied carefully all the information, and next day, during lunch break I applied for the course, starting in Madrid, on Monday the 8th of July.

Decision

Having been accepted on the course, I bought a one-way ticket to arrive in Madrid on the 5th of July, and found a place to stay, through some friends of my aunt. I had signed up for Spanish classes as well. Nothing could really go wrong.

I arrived in Madrid on Wednesday the fifth of July, in the early afternoon, and it was quite hot, so I took off my jacket, and found a taxi to the flat. Easier said than done. I realised why they needed English teachers in Spain. Nobody spoke English, and definitely not the taxi driver. I tried to say the direction in “Spanish” but I’m sure it wasn’t proper “Castellano” because the taxi driver shook his head and looked at me in despair. For a while, none of us knew what to do. At the end I had to write the address down on a piece of paper and show him.

I was quite exhausted from travelling, the heat and a new environment and a language I didn´t understand, so I had a good nap, and later on that evening I found a nice terrace to sit down, look at people and let Madrid sink in to me. The temperature was lovely not a chill in the air, and I really enjoyed it.

Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid, Spain

The next days I went around in the city centre and to some of the cosy central neighbourhoods, like Malasaña, Chueca, La Latina and Lavapies. I even took a trip up to the EBC centre, to find out how to get there.

On Sunday, the day before the course was going to start, I went to some of the famous museums in the city, and afterwards I had a perfect walk in the park just behind the Prado Museum, called El Retiro.

On Monday the 8th of July, at 09:30 in the morning the course started. I was a bit early, so while the other seven students arrived, I had a chat with our trainer. I will never forget that Norwegian class on the first day. It was crazy trying to squeeze your brain and imagination to understand a foreign language.

The course went so fast! Four weeks of intensive work and a lot of new experiences. The teaching practice classes at the end of each week were nerve wracking but our practice students were so nice that most of the nerves disappeared towards the end. I made a lot of new friends, most of them from the USA, the UK and Australia. I share a flat with two of my peers from the course. We work a lot, but we´re having a great time.

Good experiences

I finished the course in the middle of August, and I had a few interviews towards the end of the month, but my job offers were for the first weeks of September. I lost out on some jobs because I didn´t pay attention to the appointments for the different interviews. Later, I just made myself an agenda with all the appointments and classes. I work for two academies, all together 26 hours per week. I had to do some travelling to get to the classes. Some days I worked from quite early in the morning until 9 or 10 at night, with a lunch break in the middle of the day. Other days, I went to the academy and taught 5 classes, and had a free evening.

I had the same classes throughout the first year in Madrid, and I managed to do some travelling around Spain at the weekends, and during holidays. I even went with two friends to Marrakesh in Morocco at Easter. Great fun, good food and exotic bazars.

Yesterday was my last class in Madrid, and it was a bit sad to say goodbye to my students and also my friends. I have spent 1 and ½ years teaching English here in Madrid, and I have had an unforgettable time. My Spanish has become quite good, I am able to keep a conversation with most people.

I am returning to Bournemouth and in the next week I have a job interview in a bank in London. They wanted somebody with international experience and some knowledge of Spanish. It is kind of back to reality, but with a lot of energy and inspiration to start working and getting settled – maybe in London, in Paris or maybe back to Madrid. Who knows?

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