Home » Member Spotlight – Teach English in Spain!

Member Spotlight – Teach English in Spain!

Every week we highlight women from the She Hit Refresh community who have courageously left a life of routine to start a life of travel. We are excited to feature not one inspiring woman, but seven women today! These are women who left their former lives, hit refresh, and moved to Spain to teach English. If you’d like to learn more about teaching English in Spain for women over 30 check out our last post.

Karrie Brandt 

Teach English Spain

¡Hola!  I am Karrie and am from the United States.  I was born in Columbus, Ohio but as an adult I have lived in Boston, MA; Winston-Salem, NC; and Seattle WA.  I am currently working as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain through the North American Language and Culture Assistant program.  I am 39 years old and this is my first year in the program.  I have applied for renewal for next year in the same region.  I am lucky that my partner, Mike, had the same aspirations to live abroad as well as our best couple friends.  So the four of us all came to Spain together!  (We have a blog called thequadabroad.com) All of my friends were very supportive of this decision.  My parents were not understanding at first, but the more we discussed it the more they accepted it.  Before moving to Spain, I had worked as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools for the past 11 years. Working in the public education system in special education in the U.S. right now is a very stressful job.  I was working 50+ hours a week and only getting paid for 37.5 hours each week.  I was feeling very disillusioned with the whole system.  I realized I did not believe in the rhetoric that was being pushed on teachers more each school year.  I knew I needed a change.  Living in Spain as a 30-something has been a dream come true for me.  We wanted to live in a place that had more of a “work to live” mentality as opposed to the “live to work” attitude.  We now have time to pursue our passions and interests. My work here consists of the best parts of my former job—working with students on language and articulation skills—without the parts I disliked—endless amounts of paperwork and meetings!  Our short-term plans are to continue teaching English for the next few years.  Our hope would be to find something more permanent in Spain so that we can continue to live here.  I would highly recommend the program to anyone wanting a fairly easy way to come to Spain.  I can safely say that now we are happier than ever living in Spain, but when we first arrived we had our fair share of doubts and difficulties.  But living with regret would be far worse than any difficulties we experienced!  So far we have not felt pressure from loved ones to leave Spain and return to the U.S., but it is only our first year here.  Presently I have no plans to return to the U.S. any time soon!

Kelly Flowers

Teach English Spain

I moved to Spain the first time in 2013 from Brooklyn. The plan was to stay one year then return to NY and my career as a Retail Buyer. I initially moved here to fulfill a high school dream of living in Madrid. I had a toxic workplace and decided that since I was single and only had a cat depending on me it was time to take flight. So with my cat and 3 bags I left NYC. I stayed a year returned home to Ohio and worked until I could save money to move back to Madrid for an extended period of time. I returned in 2017 as an auxiliar with the Ministry of Education program. At the ripe age of 35 I began working part-time in a colegio in the suburbs of Madrid. I am older than many of the full time teachers at my school and 10yrs older than my fellow auxiliaries, but I think this has been beneficial because the students respect me and the teachers rely on me a bit more. I absolutely love my school and the people I work with and am hoping to stay for three years. The difficulty with being here is that I know teaching isn’t my long term (5-10yr) plan. Each year I’m here it’s harder to return to the US. Sadly, many industries/companies don’t value international experience and I’ve lost touch with some connections to help transition back. Also, I can’t imagine only having three weeks vacation! Additionally, my friends back home are more settled and having families which means they’re not as likely to visit nor do they have time for regular chats and updates. I also miss my family, especially my nieces. They’re young and I fear they’ll start to lose interest in our WhatsApp videos and I’ll miss out on important things in their lives. My remedy to missing life back home is traveling and creating new memories to share and inspire others. I definitely recommend the ministry program as it’s free (unlike other programs) and the hours, vacations, and easy lifestyle Spain offers is worthwhile.

Danielle Lyon

Teach English Spain

I’m from Scotland and I am participating in the British Council Language assistants programme. I’ve only been in the programme for about a month now as I started late (yes – it is possible.)  

I’m 33 years old. I was already living in Spain when I started the program. I had been here teaching for 3 years but due to my boyfriend’s work we decided to come to Madrid. My family supported the decision as I think they are used to my crazy decisions. I’ve been abroad teaching now for 9 years in various different countries such as China, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

Being 30+ in Spain is different from being at home because most people my age here are still living at home, single and still living quite free lives. In contrast, in Scotland most of my friends are married and have mortgages and kids. Teaching in a public school for me is fine. I’d say the only thing you might feel is a little out of place. For example, most of the auxiliaries in my school are about twenty and here to spend a year away from home. They are lovely, but it can be difficult to find common ground. Also, I’d say that you will have an easier time if you speak Spanish as you can connect with the teachers (who will probably be around the same age as you.) Also, you can easily connect with other expats outside of the school.

At the moment my plans are to stay in Spain. I will probably continue teaching but I want to focus more on teaching online as the industry in Spain treats teachers quite badly. I’m about to launch a website to help other teachers move abroad. At the moment I want to focus on carving out a more long term career plan and Spain is quite a difficult place to do that – but there are always ways around it!

Additionally, many people at home treat me as if I’ve been on a permanent holiday for the last nine years and ask me when I will get a “real” job. It can be quite frustrating sometimes but you have to feel confident that you are choosing a life that suits you! I love that I get to spend almost every day in the sun, eat amazing food, enjoy another culture and of course – have three day weekends!  

I would recommend this program for anyone looking to come to Spain and test the waters or who want a supported way to travel to another country. The program gives you just enough money to survive but you can supplement it with private classes. It also gives you time to consider what you want to do if you are considering a career change.

Heather Haines

Teach English Spain

My name is Heather and I am a 30 year old from Columbus, Ohio. My husband and I moved to Spain this past September, at the age of 30, to teach English with the BEDA program.

Most of the jobs I have held since graduating from college were not remotely related to what I studied. I bounced to a new job every few years, because I didn’t love any of them. In life, I had previous experience with English language learners and was volunteering at my church teaching ESL to adults. I really enjoyed this, so one day I proposed the idea of moving to another country to teach English to my husband, and he said “ok.” After doing research, we decided we wanted to teach in Spain. Our parents weren’t thrilled that we were moving away from home (nor was this the first time we had done this), but they supported our decision. And we jumped in with both feet, we sold our house, cars and and most of our belongings, then moved to Spain.

We applied and were accepted into BEDA, which I definitely recommend. My husband and I were placed in schools that are close together, BEDA does a lot of your Spanish paperwork for you (residency), they teach classes at the beginning of the year on how to be an auxiliar, and the winter classes are Spanish (or culture if you are fluent). The downside is that you have to attend most of the classes in person and they are required (for your student visa). BEDA places you in the semi-private Catholic schools and most of their placements are in Madrid. As many people will tell you, your experience entirely depends on the school you are placed in. I teach primary children and really like it. I am around the same age or younger than the teachers I work with. My advisor appreciates that I am older, because I am more mature than some former auxiliaries.

My husband and I have decided that we are going to teach again next year, hopefully at the same schools, but haven’t made any long-term decisions about our lives. Moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language well and don’t know anyone can be challenging. Making friends can be a little difficult, especially for introverts like us. If you want to make friends, you have to make an effort or find a way to meet people. If you don’t, make an effort and you will begin to learn. Knowing the language is very helpful.

Amanda Whitten

Teach English Spain

Hi, I’m from Muskogee, Oklahoma. I came to Madrid through CIEE’s program but now I am here via Up International Education. I’m now 30 years old and moved to Spain when I was 28.  

Like many people my family was concerned about my move, they were concerned for my safety and asked me not to go. I guess they watched Hostel one too many times. Not to mention the United States News. I came here on my own, however, I wanted to come with my cat but was strongly encouraged not to. I still have mixed feelings about that.

Before coming to Spain I worked in social services for about a year. Before that, I worked retail at a store named Dillard’s for about two years. Before that I worked at Lowe’s Hardware store designing kitchens and selling cabinets and flooring for about six years while and after obtaining my bachelor degrees. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel and live abroad for at least one year. Approaching 30 and starting to feel like I was ready to settle down jolted me into the panic that I would never achieve my dreams and it catapulted me here.

Compared to my life in the U.S. everyday living is about the same. I get up, go to work, go work out, go home, eat and sleep. The travel is the biggest non daily difference. It’s cheaper to fly here and it’s fun having access to so many cool places like islands or other countries.

Thinking about my future, my conscience says I should start a career back home and save for retirement and any inevitable health problems age may bring. My heart says to go home because I miss my family and the land. Obviously I should stay in Spain. Healthcare and groceries are way cheaper. And I will always have work even if I don’t get paid quite as well here. Also, there’s the travel aspect. Do I ever have doubts about being here? Soooo many doubts. It’s like being a small pressure cooker and every once in a while, I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I have too many things I want to do in this too short human lifetime of ours. At the same time I still feel like I am part of the “real world.” At first living here felt like a dream. But I live with Spaniards/Ecuadorians and love a Spanish/Ecuadorian man so I’m fairly rooted here now. Would I recommend this program? CIEE, no. Too expensive. Up International Education, definitely. Or just go directly through the Spanish ministry of Education.

Julianna Camus

Teach English Spain

I’m Julianna. I’m 31 years old, Los Angeles born-and-bred. I’ve been living in Madrid since September 2016 with my husband. I’m currently in my second year of the BEDA Program here in Spain, which I started just two weeks before my 30th birthday.

I graduated from university in 2009 with a degree in biological psychology. At the time, the US economy was abysmal. Upon returning temporarily to my parents’ house and fruitlessly looking for a job for days on end, I started giving up hope and the notion to just say “F-it” and go teach English overseas until the economy impediment blew over was becoming more and more alluring. Fast-forward to ten months later: I got a job in my field, started dating my husband, and then I moved from LA to San Diego to be with him. I worked as a behavior therapist for over four years. At the end of those four years, I felt completely burned out. As rewarding as it was to make a difference in the lives of people with developmental disabilities, the logistics of the job were exasperating. It demanded I had wide flexibility around my clients’ schedule as well as extra time to commute to them, which I wasn’t always compensated for. Session cancellations were common and unpredictable, so I took on a large caseload for the security of being able to earn enough on my paycheck to live comfortably. (Southern California ain’t cheap!) Thirteen-hour work days without even having time to eat a proper lunch was starting to become the norm, and was taking tolls on my health. A big life change was no longer a fleeting daydream, but something I HAD to do.

Early in our relationship, I talked to my husband about my desire to move abroad for a sabbatical year away of travel, self-discovery, and all that other soulful, fluffy stuff. It was something he said he’d be on board for, but we didn’t end up revisiting the idea until 2014, after a series of financial setbacks and stresses. We both seemed to hit a wall where we weren’t feeling fulfilled with our day-to-day lives and the pressure of “settling down” was becoming real. We applied to teach English in South Korea sort of half-heartedly, but we ended up getting job offers. At the time, most teaching contracts for native English teachers included perks such as paid airfare, rent-free housing, 50% off medical, and a month’s salary bonus at the completion of the contract. How could we resist? Before we knew it, we were packing up our lives, frantically gathering Visa documents, and telling our friends and family, “See ya in a year!” Oh, yeah. We were only supposed to be away for a year, but we got a little distracted along the way…

The nice thing about being over the age of 30 is appreciating the smaller things. I feel more carefree, healthy, and vivacious than ever before and I’m far less concerned with what others think about me or my life choices. Also, the disposable TIME has been a gift! I actually have time to have hobbies again, and try new things. Like right now, I’m training for my first half marathon in April. 

I have had many friends tell me that they were/are thinking of doing so-and-so in another country, and my question to them has always been, “What’s stopping you, other than yourself?” I think that anyone who is seriously considering moving abroad should just take the plunge, and go for it. Even if it ends up not being what you expected, you’ll still have had the experience of finding out first hand. In the words of Eleanore Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Kristen Woods

Teach English Spain

Hi there! I’m Kristen from Chicago, but have also lived in Michigan and Arizona. I am in the middle of my second year with the MECD. I started the program last year at the age of 35. Before working here as an auxiliar I worked as a social worker, focusing on mental health. I was working toward becoming a fully licensed clinical social worker, which means that I could provide therapy, diagnose, and theoretically have my own practice. I found it difficult to find work that paid what I found to be a fair salary. So many jobs required use of my own car or hours that included nights and/or weekends for like $26,000. And of course they wanted someone bilingual. I kept running into roadblocks, so I decided to put all of that on hold to travel and learn Spanish. It was a “now or never” moment.

Most of the people who participate in this program are younger, so there definitely is that difference. But for me the biggest issue I run into is that I don’t feel like what I am doing is of any real value. I’m just a walking translator and teaching English is not my passion. When you’re 23 that’s much less of an issue, but at 36 it is. I feel very lucky to have been placed in a school with friendly coworkers who genuinely care about me. Most of the teachers I work with have lived abroad, so they know how hard it is. Because of that I am hesitant to leave my current school. However, for the next school year I have requested a different region (Canary Islands). I am eager to experience island life, which is something I wouldn’t be able to have in the U.S.

I was really hoping to be one of those people that move to Spain and fall in love with the country, or just fall in love. Neither of those things have happened, but I’m not ready to leave just yet. My spanish isn’t where it needs to be (C1) and I’m not done travelling. In the coming years I’m really hoping to find some sort of work outside of teaching English, ideally location independent. Another important factor in my decision to stay is that treating my chronic illness (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is affordable. I don’t have to stress about whether my insurance will cover a test or appointment with a specialist.

I would recommend the program to someone, regardless of age. But I would want to make sure they are fully informed about all the pros and cons. It’s not for everyone, but overall it has been a good experience for me.

Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh community. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen.  There is no one way to live a life, just your way.

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4 thoughts on “Member Spotlight – Teach English in Spain!”

  1. Cepee, great job putting together these seven stories! I may not be a woman, but I am almost 30 and I can relate to many of these stories. Packing up and leaving the states for a year abroad which then turned into a couple years. I too came with CIEE my first year and they have now doubled their prices. So I too recommend other programs.

    Warm regards!

  2. So enjoy this group. Cepee, you reached out and asked me to join and I am so glad I did! I can’t contribute right now although I have refreshed or recalibrated many times. I am about to retire in a couple of years and I plan to do it again. I have been looking at teaching overseas for many, many years. I have a BA in English that maybe will be useful. One of the refreshes – ended up with a BSW and have worked in Child Protection for the last 11 years! Compassion fatigue and it’s now time to look at another refresh! Would love to hear any stories of even older women going overseas to teach! Stay healthy everyone!

    1. She Hit Refresh

      Dwyn, we’re so glad you are a part of the community! Love that you have a history of hitting refresh, no doubt you will be able to again soon once you retire. I’ll keep an eye out for stories of “older women” teaching abroad. I believe some of the Spain teaching assistant programs have a cut off of mid 50s? However, teaching at an international school or maybe even university is probably different. Best of luck and let us know if you hear anything!

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