An Open Mind & Open Arms in Spain
When and where did you teach abroad? Did you go with a program?
I taught in Seville, Spain as part of the British Council Assistantship twice. The best part about this program is that any native English speaker from the UK can participate. I was firstly part of the program as a Journalism and Spanish student at the University of Chester as part of my year abroad. The second time, I was a graduate going back to my beloved Seville. I highly recommend heading abroad on such a program, although keep in mind that the pay in Spain doesn’t always arrive on time.
What made you want to teach English abroad?
At the age of 18, I worked as an au pair after completing my Abitur (college) in Germany. Going to Madrid for the first time I was welcomed into a loving family, and all of a sudden I felt both useful and grateful. I taught the three children English by playing games, speaking and reading with them. This experience as an au pair made me recognize that I have a natural knack with children and can easily form connections with them, so I began considering teaching.
I decided to teach English Abroad as part of my degree because I already felt pretty knowledgeable in the field. Luckily, I was! The experience was such a success that I’m now a freelance English teacher in Berlin, all because of teaching English abroad in 2016! Who would've thought it? Not me!
How did you conduct your search? How did you select your program/country and/or find an employer abroad?
I selected the program through my university. They gave us several options for how to spend our year abroad. Teaching English seemed the right decision because I loved Spain and children.
What was the biggest surprise about your teaching experience abroad?
The first trip I was teaching both in primary and secondary schools, which was surprisingly challenging – in a positive way! I had to find different techniques to suit each age. There was an extra surprise in store for me: the different attitudes the children had towards learning English. I discovered that younger ones are generally much more excited than the older on, who have often already made up their minds whether or not they are interested in learning the language. (At least this was my experience!)
What made your experience abroad a success?
My experience abroad was a success because I embraced it. Every moment. Every day. Every experience.
If you go abroad, I personally think the best way to be successful is to put your all into the experience. This way, you learn something new everyday about the culture, people, language, etc. I loved every minute because I wanted to be there. Your mindset has a massive impact on your year abroad - make it worth it!
How did you deal with the cultural divide during your time teaching abroad?
It was tricky. Culture shock will always hit you at some point. You might not even be fully aware that it is taking place, but it is. Every culture has its own unique ways, traditions and thoughts. I dealt with the Spanish culture by being as open-minded and friendly as I could. You see, the culture in Spain is very hands-on (meaning that people are very touchy!) So people hug and kiss you. I personally love this, but not everyone does. I dealt with it with a smile, a kiss and hug in return!
What was the most important thing you learned about communicating in a foreign culture while you were abroad?
Firstly, be as honest as you can. Of course, the level of directness varies from culture to culture. For example, in England we are quite polite when being honest, whereas in Germany honesty is pure and raw. One could easily be offended, but it is easier to recognize that this is just the way people are.
Secondly, you have to adjust or you'll end up hating it or feeling offended by a foreign culture. Adjust, accept and be aware. This is very important in settling into a different culture. I learnt this from my first experience abroad and can now. happily adjust to other cultures with ease because of my open mind.
What are your future plans for going abroad and your career?
Further plans for going abroad are in the pipeline. I love travelling, always have. Once you've lived a year abroad, there's an even stronger desire to experience living elsewhere. For now, I'm pursuing my passion for writing. It is my aim to succeed in freelance writing so that I will be able to work and travel (as well as teach yoga!). That's my dream. Let's see. As for Sevilla, I know I will live there again.
Follow Grace on medium @graceygrossmann.
Grace knows exactly what she wants from her future career, and globe-trotting is a big part of it! It's never been easier to build a portable career by working online, teaching abroad and/or picking up short contracts or low-skilled jobs to stay afloat while traveling. Although it's tempting to work exclusively online, we also suggest taking on in-office contracts to develop face-to-face business relationships. Freelancers often find that its the clients they have worked alongside physically who go on to become the strongest online partnerships. In the first few years of building an international freelance career, focus on networking and developing relationships with businesses in your field. Freelance writers also find it useful to develop thematic focuses or specific niches. For instance, Grace might focus on writing about yoga, global wellness retreats, or cross-cultural teaching skills. The world is your oyster. Good luck!
- Work as a Freelance Foreign Correspondent is a great article describing all you need to know about making it abroad.
- Becoming a Digital Nomad discusses the gig economy and building a career in remote employment. Check it out.
- To read about how teaching English abroad can boost your career potential, read Teaching English as a Stepping Stone to Your International Career.