Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Advice about getting started in TEFL in Madrid

A recent email from a girl about to join the world of TEFL has brought me out of my blogging hiatus. Let’s hope I can keep the momentum going…

Anyways, here’s part of the email I received:

I'm looking for any advice as far as getting started in a TEFL career. I will graduate from college in May of this year with a double degree in Spanish and English. I have an (unpaid) internship this semester teaching ESL and I love it! I've also studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester and I'm dying to go back. (Actually, I'm headed back to Madrid over my college's spring vacation with resume/cover letter in hand to meet with some of the TEFL certification program directors fact to face.”

My response:

If what you are truly looking for is a career versus a year or two abroad, then it’s worth taking some time to really plan things both here and at home before coming over.

First of all – are you an EU citizen or not? If you do not hold a European passport, you can find work teaching English in Madrid. The problem is, you will not have a contract, you will not be covered by Social Security, you will not be contributing towards your retirement (I know you’re young, but it’s still worth thinking about), and there is always the (very slight) risk that the authorities will find out you’re living and working illegally here. If the latter happens, you can be deported and/or fined a few hundred euros.

So if you are not European, and you want to come over for a year or so, it may be fine. But if you want to make a career of it, you need to find a way to come over here legally. It’s pretty hard to do that as a non-European English teacher, but you may be able to get some sort of internship (I know there are a lot of people here with the Fulbright program). You can use your first year here, while you’re legal, to try to make contacts and prepare for getting a long-term legal job.

If you’re an EU citizen, then it’s easy. You said you’re coming over here during Spring Break, so bring along several copies of your CV and drop it off (in person) at as many academies as you can. You could attach a letter (preferably in Spanish, as many of the academies are run by Spaniards and/or have Spanish receptionists) explaining that you plan to move to Madrid on such-and-such date to begin teaching English. Make sure to give them your email address, since they may prefer to contact you that way closer to the time you plan to arrive in Spain.

You should also use your time here to check out as many Madrid neighborhoods as possible, both in the daytime and at night. That way, when you move here, you’ll have an idea of where you want to live and can really focus your apartment search. Finding a decent place here can be a nightmare, so knowing exactly what you want can at least cut down on the number of worthless places you end up visiting.

Also take advantage of networking opportunities by going to some Irish pubs (you’ll always find English teachers there) or even some intercambio nights. Check out http://www.loquo.com/ – go to the Madrid section and then intercambios. The group intercambios are pretty cheesy, from what I’ve heard, but full of expats. If you tell people what your plans are, they may be able to put you in touch with others who can land you a job.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

Good luck!


Katie said...

Thank you for your advice!! Just to clear some things up. I am American and I do not hold a European passport. That is a big part of my reservation with all of this. I want to be legal. I'm trying to explore all my options. There are some people that say that you don't need a TEFL certificate... would you agree with that? Does it give you and your CV a desireable edge?

Loquo.com is great. When I was in Madrid last Spring I found an intercambio through that site and have kept up with it since.

Thanks again for all your help!!

ErnieLG said...

how much of an effect does handing a CV to a company in-person as opposed to via email?

eslhell said...

I think email is perfectly acceptable these days. Going door to door used to be the norm, but it seems to be shifting (based on what I've heard from others recently). Seeing as it's free to email, you may as well send some out. If you haven't gotten a good response, you can door to door. Personally, I prefer going door to door -- even though it's time-consuming, it gives you a chance to see what the different academies are like (and visit different neighborhoods in Madrid!).

But in terms of which gives you a better chance at finding work, I can't really tell you at this point. Every academy will be different. The most important thing is to write a short, concise cover letter and include a photo on your CV.

Good luck!

ErnieLG said...

thanks for the advice! i've been doing an alright job seeing the city at interviews and meeting random people......

and can i tell you that i got here at the end of july, and wow... things are rough. no work. so i'm gonna go to valencia for the week and hope things're better when i get back.