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European Adventure: TESOL Grad Tells All

European Adventure: TESOL Grad Tells All

There are a hundred different reasons you might want to teach English as a foreign language. Sometimes it’s just a small idea that snowballs into something bigger. That’s the way it was for TESOL graduate Meghan McBain. In 2010, she was about to complete her degree in fine art when she signed up for a weeklong volunteer program helping international students acclimate to the new culture. She loved it.

“The volunteer coordinator told me about the TESOL certificate,” she said, “so when I graduated and moved back to Atlanta, I decided to sign up for the program at Kennesaw State. I knew it would open a lot of doors related to international education.”

The market for English teachers is as big as the world. You can teach English in a small town in South America or a bustling city in Asia. Europe is one of the most competitive markets for TESOL instructors, but it’s where Meghan wanted to go. After successfully completing our TESOL Certificate program, she set her eyes on Spain.

It was a journey in itself to get there.

Fountains at Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

Fountains at Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

“I did a lot of research,” she said. “I was feeling a little stuck, so I contacted some of my teachers from the TESOL program. One pointed me in the direction of the Footprints Recruiting website. There, my program had posted an advertisement saying they needed Conversation Assistants to start in January. I applied, had a Skype interview and was accepted the next day. After about a month of running errands to apply for my visa, I was on my way!”

Now, she works and lives in the walkable town of Sant Vicenç dels Horts, just a 40-minute train ride from beautiful Barcelona.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria, a popular food market in Barcelona

Meghan said the TESOL Certificate helped her land the job. It wasn’t required for this particular program, but it put her at the top of the list of applicants, she said.

Ready to begin your own international adventure? Here’s Meghan’s advice:

1) Start your search early.  The peak hiring times are November and December or mid-summer.  I was very particular about what I wanted from my program, so it took me a little longer to find the right fit.

2) Don’t procrastinate on your visa.  Each country has different requirements, and Spain’s requirements make the whole process fairly time-consuming.  It took me about a month and a good chunk of money to obtain my visa, but in the end it was worth it.

3) Get the necessary training. I found the TESOL classes to be beneficial because we actually got to practice teaching. We developed lesson plans and used our classmates to practice teaching. We had group discussions about ways to make it engaging for students. I learned about new teaching methods, and all of the students in my class exchanged resources we found online that have also been really helpful.

4) When you arrive, remember you’re a guest. It is important to be respectful when living in another country. I am living with wonderful host parents and their two children, who attend my school. When you live with a host family, you need to participate in family gatherings and events, offer to help out around the house, practice English with the children and be accommodating. Even if you don’t stay with a host family, you have to be open-minded.  Everyone you meet — students, parents, other teachers and people in your town — has a background different from yours. It’s best to try to adapt and learn.

Meghan said she’s had a wonderful experience so far and plans to keep in touch with her new friends long after she returns to the States.

“Time is passing quickly here,” she said. “It will be over before I know it, and I’m not ready to go home yet!”

For more TESOL advice, hear from a grad currently teaching English in Japan.

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