Case study

English language assistant — Thais Menendez

American graduate Thais Menendez spent a year in Spain teaching English as a foreign language with Meddeas, before landing the role of conservatory apprentice with Studio Theatre

How did you get your job?

In the final few months of studying the BA English and Theatre Arts at Boston College, USA, I'd no idea what I wanted to pursue. I have a varied set of interests and aspirations, but no one job or career path felt right to me. What I was most certain of was a sense of adventure.

I found Meddeas through my university's recruitment centre and decided that taking a year to teach English in Spain was exactly what I wanted to do. I didn't want to become a teacher as a career choice, but loved working with children, and couldn't turn down the opportunity to live and work in another country.

What did you enjoy most about your job?

Each spring, the school I was placed at dedicates one week to a special cultural event. This year, the school decided to try a new activity - la semana de jornada deportiva (or sports week), in which I was delighted to participate. Much like 'field day' back home, the school took part in three days of organised physical activities and games. Afternoon classes were cancelled, and both students and teachers alike headed outside to get involved.

What were the challenges?

My personal philosophy evolved throughout my time in Spain. As an English teacher to those aged 3-16, my patience was constantly tested. Nonetheless, I grew attached to all my students - saying goodbye was a challenge, even to the most unruly students. As an inhabitant of a small Andalusian town, I adapted to a standard of living much different from what I was used to. Spain has dealt with many economic issues in recent years, but the locals still found reason to celebrate life and spend time with friends and family. I learned the importance of a work-life balance, and now accept that we cannot define ourselves by our 9am-5pm routine.

How has the experience benefited your career?

My decision to leave Spain was a very difficult one. I strongly considered staying with Meddeas for another year, but was offered a position with Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. Working in the theatre's education department is an interesting way to combine my love of the arts with my recent teaching experience.

When I tell people about teaching English in Spain, the reactions are always positive. Of course, it's an impressive feat to list on your CV - employers understand the importance of life skills that can only be acquired from leaving the comforts of your home town and country. Additionally, the independence and professionalism gained from work experience through a private agency is remarkable.

What advice do you have for other graduates who are planning on teaching abroad?

Keep an open mind and immerse yourself. Say yes to everything - every invitation for a coffee or a beer, every spontaneous trip, every school activity. You'll only regret the things you didn't do.

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