Spain or Bust – Interview with Desirae Sutherland
Desirae might’ve wanted to be an architect as a kid, but she is absolutely LOVING her life as a TEFL teacher in Catalonia, Spain. And can you blame her? There’s churros, there’s cute kids, there’s adventure around every corner. And let’s just say – she’s hooked. Not only does she want to continue teaching abroad, but she wants to continue teaching abroad in Spain (but the south next time!). There’s a lot to be uncovered during a TEFL internship in España. Read on to find out what!
1. Spain?! You’ve traveled a long way! Tell us about your journey to teaching English in Spain!
So I was working in a hospital and I realized that I absolutely hated my job! “Four years of university for this?” It was then that I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. So I started looking for something else that suited my interests. I decided that I should return to something I love, something I can be passionate about. After being asked about my future career plans every Christmas and Easter and fumbling to find an answer, I realized that I needed a change. For me, working somewhere where I can use my creativity and communicate with people is a perfect environment. So I thought, “Why not travel the world and teach?!”
2. You have a really cool background. Tell us about it, and give us some details about the way your parents/family supported you in your teach abroad endeavors.
Well, initially my mother was very worried about letting me move to a new country. She was concerned about the cost, about the language barrier, and about the distance. I’m thousands of miles from home! But she realized after I was accepted into a program that this would be a fantastic opportunity. I’m being paid to live here, and I get to travel and learn a new language. It’s the ultimate experience. I’ve met so many people here (it’s actually surprising how easy it is to find English speakers). There is a Facebook group for the other interns in my program so we keep in touch and meet up on the weekends to travel. My background is science and my university degree is in Biomedical Sciences. I was actually matched with a school that wanted a science assistant and English assistant, so I can incorporate both areas of expertise in the classroom. I also grew up at a dance studio with mom who was my dance instructor, so I plan to use these skills to help with the school theater production in the spring.
3. Teaching TEFL is tough to get into. What do you think made you stick out as a candidate?
I think the fact that I have a university degree helped me to stand out, and that I passed the Young Learners certification course from Premier TEFL. It was probably a combination of factors, all which showed that I am motivated and disciplined.
4. Tell us about the cost of living in Spain. Do you feel you are financially stable? Do you have extra money for adventures or second (or third) empanadas?
I feel financially stable here. I was able to save money before coming here, but it certainly does help to be receiving a monthly sum to cover extra costs. I am definitely able to use it to travel, as I have already been to Barcelona twice, and I will be going to Madrid and Paris during the Christmas break in December. I think the best part is that since I am already in Europe, there is public transportation that allows me to travel to almost any place I want to go for a reasonable cost. Plus, with this program I am staying with a host family so most of my expenses are already covered.
5. What do you wish you knew before moving to Spain?
I wish I would have known that I needed warmer clothes! I come from Florida where we always wear flip flops and shorts. Right now, as I write this, the temperature is freezing and I’ve had to borrow clothes from my host family! But they have been very helpful to supply me with the things I need.
6. We want the inside scoop on your TEFL experience! Do you feel it adequately prepared you for the job? What were your favorite parts?
So far, my favorite part has been creating an English game that all the students enjoy. It makes me extremely proud of the work I’ve done when I see a student who doesn’t like to participate actually getting involved with the game and having fun. I feel accomplished. The TEFL course helped me with planning activities and knowing what to expect in the classroom.
7. What’s a typical day in the life of an ESL teacher in Spain like?
A typical day starts with waking up at 7:00 am and walking to school. (We live so close and it is very normal for people to walk everywhere here.) I start the day with 16-year-old students playing “race to the board” to answer my English questions. Then I go to the computer lab to help 12-year-old students with their science project about the planets (which is in English).
Afterward I usually have a break to eat a sandwich. (This isn’t even the lunch. The real lunch happens at 2:00 during the day.) When the school day is over I may have some after-school tutoring to earn extra money. We usually go to the park where I hold private lessons. The last meal is eaten at 9:30 at night with the family at the dinner table.
Sometimes at night (especially on the weekends), I go out to meet friends at a little pub that has an English trivia night. During the day we get some gelato or pastries in the old quarter of the town where you can see the cathedral and we walk the old streets marveling at the beauty of such a beautiful city.