We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with CIEE TEFL alum Nikki L. to chat about her experience as a CIEE TEFL student and teaching English abroad in Madrid, Spain. Thanks, Nikki!
How did you hear about CIEE?
I first heard about CIEE from my sister, who worked with CIEE to help students come work in the US for the summer. She would tell me about all the places I could go, and how great it was to have a place like that in Maine. I tried to go abroad in high school with CIEE, then again in college, but I was never able to make it work. However, once it came time for me to figure out my next step after university, I found my way back to CIEE. My mentor at college had a friend who taught abroad in Spain with CIEE, and she said that if I was interested in teaching, that I should look into the program.
Can you tell us about how you completed your TEFL practicum?
The practicum was by far the most challenging part about my TEFL course. Since I enrolled during COVID, most of the programs in my state were closed, and since I enrolled in the summer, school was not in session either. I truly just did not time it very well in terms of options for practicum. I had to ask for an extension after several rejections, and I even tried looking for online programs. Since I was going to teach abroad in Madrid with CIEE, we decided that due to the pandemic, and a lack of opportunities in my local area, that I could complete my practicum during my program.
Would you recommend other teachers coming to Spain to get TEFL certified? If so, why?
YES! Look, I don't know about everyone who joins the program, but for me and my friends that I made through CIEE, teaching was not originally the plan. We all majored in other things, I studied art, my friend Nina studied Psychology. Even though teaching is what I wanted to do with my art degree, I still had no clue how to teach, and how to teach these students things like grammar. I felt 100 times more confident in my ability to teach an English class after getting my TEFL certificate. I learned a lot about how I like to learn, how I can help others learn, the basics of lesson planning and received a crash course on English grammar. My schools growing up never taught me grammar, and without my certification, when asked in Spain to teach the kids about zero conditionals, I wouldn't have known exactly what to do. It was an investment into my future, I can now work freelance as an ESL teacher, and work at schools in my state too. Spain is an incredible place, filled with some of the kindest and welcoming people. It is a country everyone should visit at least once, and I have been beyond blessed to have been able to live there for a year, learn the language and embrace the culture. The students are so happy to have people from outside of Spain come and share their language and culture with them. It really is an experience of a lifetime.
What advice would you offer to future TEFL students / Teach Abroad participants?
To future TEFL students, this is an investment into yourself, into a career that can really make a difference in the lives of so many. If you're considering getting certified, just know it'll be worth it. The certificate never expires, and there are several countries for you to go, and so many opportunities! I received a job offer to go to Greece for 6 months through the CIEE TEFL Facebook group, and I see people post cool jobs around the world every day there. To Teach Abroad participants, know that wherever you are going, you're making a difference. While something as simple as speaking your own language to others may seem like nothing to you, these students are so appreciative of your presence. I will miss my students with all my heart, and I am so thankful for taking this opportunity. Teach Abroad has given me incredible job experience, great references, contacts, options for future jobs, and friends for life. If you are scared to move to another country to teach, just know that you will always have a support system. My advice to those considering it: Seek Discomfort! Say yes! To my fellow recent grads with no clue what comes after graduation: apply to CIEE. Teach abroad gives you the option to travel, make money, make a difference, gain job experience, network, and for some of us, figure out what we truly wish to be. I ended up falling in love with teaching, and am now pursuing teaching as a career. Thank you Spain, my kiddos, and CIEE.
What’s next for you? Any further plans for using your TEFL certificate?
I am currently applying for 2 conditional teaching licenses in Maine, one for TESOL (thanks to CIEE's Teach Abroad experience and my TEFL Certificate), and one for Art. In a few days I start teaching a film class at a summer program for ELL students, and in August, I will be working at my old high school (an international school) as a dorm parent! I hope to gain some experience in the field before getting my masters degree in Education so that I can teach in Europe again someday!