From Spain to Mexico: Harriet’s TEFL story

My TEFL journey began in the depths of a wet and miserable British Winter where, as a lost second year university student, I was struggling to find the motivation for… well, motivation for pretty much anything. Without going into too much unnecessary detail, I was struggling with concentrating on university work, dividing my time between troubles at home in Devon and heartbreak in Cardiff, and stressing about what on Earth I was going to do with my degree in Social Science. In a moment of ‘what the heck’ I bought myself a 120-hour TEFL course and I’ve not really looked back since.

A photo of Harriet

I completed my TEFL course in 2013 and it consisted of 100 hours online and an intense 20-hour weekend course in the Novotel Hotel, Cardiff. A lover of all things languages and even grammar-related (I’m a little nerdy), it was no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed my 100-hour online course, which I completed over a few months (and handed in assignments from several different countries). But the highlight was most definitely the 20-hour weekend course. Our teacher was an ex-TEFL teacher with many years teaching experience in Italy and other European countries. To this day I remember some of the activities that we did under his instruction and the advice that he gave me at the end of the course.

 

The individuals in my TEFL group demonstrated to me that teaching English abroad appeals to absolutely everyone. Among others, there was a young university student with a retro style and passion for photography, a recent graduate from Aberystwyth who was too good looking for me to talk to seriously, a divorcee who was looking for an escape and a prospective primary school teacher keeping her options open. Together we formed an enthusiastic and inspirational group.

I would recommend the 120-hour course to anyone thinking of doing a TEFL. Not only are you completing the basics online but you have the opportunity to speak to likeminded people who will be the first to offer you advice, feedback and encouragement. It’s not the same as real life teaching but it’s certainly a great start!

My first year teaching English as a foreign language took me to the North of Spain. I graduated from Cardiff University in the Summer of 2015 and, after a Summer of being an activity leader for a language school in Devon, I headed to live in the small town of Mungia, just outside of Bilbao. I found a job on the TEFL website with a company called Meddeas. The attraction was immediate for several reasons: I was super keen to go to Spain and improve my rusty A-level Spanish, it was close enough to home that I wouldn’t feel too far away, I could continue studying at the same time as teaching and, most importantly, they offered the opportunity to live with a host family. I jumped at the chance to do this as I thought it would be a fantastic way to spend my time in another country for 9 months. And although it can be a trying experience, living in another family’s house for such a long time, I can safely say it was the best decision I could have made. I had such a great time and I now have another family who I still speak to and who I will certainly be going back to visit very soon.

During my first year of teaching I taught all types of English to soooo many different ages – it was crazy. But good crazy. I taught English conversation skills to teens in the secondary school, played games and sang songs with younger children in ‘fun, after-school English class’, and even participated in baking and playtime with little ones at home. The experience really pushed the boundaries of my confidence and teaching abilities and I often found myself doing activities that I truly hadn’t anticipated myself doing. I played the guitar and sang Christmas songs with my students to nursery school children; I invigilated exams; I went on a week’s residential trip to the mountains and even I ended up half-directing an end-of-year performance.

And finally, I’m now in Mérida, in the South East of Mexico. I am beginning my third year teaching English and I continue to love it. I now work in an academy as opposed to a school and I teach mainly adults. Teaching adults was a terrifying prospect, I’ll be honest. I didn’t know how businessmen and women would react to a 23-year-old English girl attempting to teach them English by using episodes of Friends, playing lyrics to Ed Sheeran songs and showing them pictures of the Devon countryside. My timetable is a little bizarre. I teach at 7 in the morning and then return later to teach from around 4pm. This is definitely made bearable by the other teaching staff and the enthusiasm of the students who come to learn. I am reminded regularly that I am helping to create opportunities for other people by teaching them another language. It’s the most amazing feeling when they pass their exams at the end of the year and a student comes up to tell you that they got their place on a masters course in Canada thanks to your hard work.

Life in Mexico is also wonderful. I live in a beautifully colourful and relaxed city, close to the beach and surrounded by cenotes (clear water sink holes created by the meteor which killed the dinosaurs) and ancient Mayan ruins. Perhaps the best bit is it’s just a few hours drive from the Caribbean. Every day it’s warm and sunny and lovely and I have met some of the most amazing people in this surprisingly safe and friendly area of Mexico.

Everything that I’ve learned over the past couple of years has helped me to become more confident, knowledgeable and also more relaxed as an English teacher. There are more countries on my list to visit and in which I’d like to teach English. So I’m nowhere near ready to go back to the UK yet. TEFL really did open up doors for me and change my world and right now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

To read more about Harriet’s TEFL adventures check out her blog: www.kalimotxoblog.wordpress.com
And follower her on Instagram