It must have been those tapas.
When I arrived home from my spring semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain, my parents thought I had gotten it out of my system.
After all, I had spent nearly six months in Spain, practicing Spanish and taking siestas, in between classes at the illustrious Universidad de Salamanca (University of Salamanca). Surely, that must have been enough.
Not even close.
All I could think about upon returning to the U.S. was how to get back to Spain.
I had fallen in love with the country and there was nothing else for me to do but to go back. So I did, after I graduated college, but I still think about those desperate days when I obsessed over how to make my way back to the land of Picasso and pan con tomate.
If you can relate to this story in any way, teaching Spanish abroad may be something you are looking to explore.
The good news is this: there are plenty of options for us! Whether you are a brand new Spanish teacher or have years of classroom experience, I will show you seven exciting opportunities for you to scratch that travel itch.
Why Teach Spanish Abroad?
- You will learn more about Spanish while improving teaching skills. Whether you are a seasoned Spanish teacher or a new teacher looking to begin a long and rewarding career in the classroom, the fact remains: Teaching Spanish is one of the best ways to reinforce your own Spanish language skills.
Doing so abroad will diversify your experience not only as a Spanish speaker, but also as a teacher and classroom manager.
- Cultural connections are a beautiful and necessary thing. Today’s changing world needs connection more than ever, and Spanish teachers abroad do some of the best connecting out there.
Not only will you connect an international community of students with Spanish language and culture, you will also connect with other teachers as you travel, work and collaborate.
- You will develop a global perspective. Going abroad to work is one of the best ways to develop yourself as a global citizen. You can learn about the local culture from your colleagues, and the workplace is a great place to meet people who reflect the values of the society at large. Whether you decide to move abroad temporarily or with a more permanent future in mind, exposure to a new way of thinking is always a positive thing!
Special Considerations for Americans Teaching Abroad
- Are you abroad already or applying from home? Rules around work and residence vary from country to country. In some situations, if you are already in the country where you want to work, you may have to return home to America and apply for the necessary immigration documents from your home country.
- Work visas and residency: Some countries are rigid in their laws around non-residents and visitors, so research carefully when applying for jobs and work visas. Some companies will not even consider an applicant who does not have the paperwork required to work in that country, since sponsorship can be very expensive for an employer.
If you have a special family connection to a country where you would like to teach, it may help you get the visa you need to be able to teach Spanish, so always mention it when inquiring about visa applications.
- Earning money and paying taxes: Americans living abroad do not have to pay taxes to two different countries, but Americans do have to file a tax return no matter how little or how much they earn. And some international jobs are tax-free, which makes for an amazing money-saving opportunity!
- Health insurance: Travel insurance is important and there are lots of options for students, as well as for adults who are abroad and planning to return home to the U.S. As well, private health insurance or access to your new country’s national health care may be a perk of the job that interests you.
- Salary vs. cost of living: While calculating the affordability of your teaching abroad adventure, make sure you research what is involved in renting a place to live before committing. Sometimes, hidden costs can emerge later—and these can add up.
If you need to be online while you are at home, make sure internet service is available, and check to see if there are minimum lengths to contracts. Do not forget to factor in cell phone bills, hot water and heat to make sure your salary covers the basics before signing on the dotted line.
- Helpful documents: Consider certifications like the DELE, reference letters and transcripts. The DELE stands for Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language).
This certification is earned by passing an exam and it is officially recognized by the Spanish government as qualifying a non-native Spanish speaker to apply for and obtain teaching work in Spain. The DELE is also required to work in other fields in Spain and Latin America.
DELE preparation courses are usually held in Spain with Don Quijote, or in Latin America, so you can go abroad and get a feel for where you might want to work and live while earning an important teaching credential.
While seasoned travelers know that carrying a photocopy of ID like passports and visas is essential, do the same with documents that prove your ability to teach and your educational background. Carry multiple copies of transcripts and reference letters from previous employers. Photocopies are sometimes harder to come by abroad, so run them off at home and carry extras.
Travel and Teach? Totally! 7 Ways to Teach Spanish Abroad
New to Teaching? Looking for On-the-job Training? Check Out These Programs:
Join the Peace Corps for a two-year position.
Education programs are the most wide-reaching of all the Peace Corps programs, offering applicants unique work opportunities like teaching medical Spanish or promoting Spanish literacy.
The application process for the Peace Corps is rolling and it usually takes about 90 days. Be prepared to work hard on your application, as the process is rigorous and competitive, with many Americans applying every year.
If you are accepted to work with the Peace Corps, you will need to train for three months in your host country. You will live and work there for two years after you complete your training.
There are lots of benefits to working with the Peace Corps: your visas and insurance will be covered and you will receive a housing and living stipend. You will also become part of a wider network of like-minded individuals, which can bring future professional rewards as well as personal ones.
Become a language assistant with the British Council.
This year-long program with the British Council invites fluent Spanish speakers to work as language assistants at schools in the U.K. You might teach your own students, but more likely, you would assist the classroom teacher, earning a monthly allowance and gaining important job skills.
One particular benefit of this program is the potential for personal connection, as you will have a close working relationship with the classroom teacher you are matched with. As well, you will learn about teaching Spanish in another English-speaking country, so your deeper perspective into this situation will be useful when you return to the U.S.
Contact the British Council directly by email to learn more about schedules and other relevant details.
Work at a summer camp in Spain with Don Quijote.
Don Quijote is an educational organization based in Spain that runs intensive Spanish learning courses, as well as DELE exam preparation and specialized Spanish programs. Their Spanish language summer camp is one of those specialized programs.
The summer camps take place in eight different areas of Spain, and campers come from all over the world to learn Spanish and enjoy summer camp activities in an international environment.
If you are interested in working for Don Quijote, contact the main human resources office in Madrid in the springtime as they begin recruiting for summer camp staff in April.
They will ask you to send in a CV outlining your educational background and qualifications for the job to start the application process.
Already an Experienced Teacher? Consider These Options:
Participate in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange.
This government-sponsored program invites elementary and secondary Spanish teachers with at least five years of experience to apply for grants that enable a one-to-one exchange with a teacher already abroad.
These grants fund both short-term international collaborations that last two to six weeks and longer-term programs that last three to six months.
The benefits of this Fulbright program are multi-faceted, as you will teach while taking courses and completing an inquiry project yourself. The deadline for applications is in October for the following academic year.
Check the education job boards.
Sometimes it is best to go straight to the source. There are several teacher-focused job boards where schools and other educational institutions advertise their openings:
- Tes Global: A job board specially designed for European and other international teaching opportunities. A cool feature of this job board is that you can create email job alerts to be notified for relevant opportunities as they open.
- JoyJobs: This board also provides CV/resume support and guidance through the application process for job seekers.
- SeekTeachers: If you know exactly where you would like to teach, this board makes it easy to filter options by location.
Sometimes, applying for jobs through these boards can be a bit of an endurance test. You may not hear back from all the schools to which you apply, but the more applications you send out, the more likely you will hear back.
Do not get discouraged—some job postings may sit on a board long after it has been filled, so patience is a helpful virtue with this option.
Attend an international school job fair.
International schools send representatives to job fairs in many major cities in the U.S. several times a year. Organizations like the Council of International Schools, Teach Away and International Schools Services all participate in these popular recruitment events that take place in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco, among others.
Contracts often last one year but sometimes an international school will offer a two-year contract, and depending where you go in the world, you may enjoy a tax-free salary.
Accomodation and airfare to and from your new country are also often covered, or at least subsidized. If you go this route, make sure you know what is involved before signing on the dotted line—breaking a contract prematurely can result in being blacklisted from future international jobs!
Already abroad and looking to stay longer? Visit a local school and schedule a meeting.
It does not hurt to ask!
Ask to have a meeting arranged at the school if you already have a connection there, or send a CV and cover letter ahead of time by way of introduction. The power of a personal reference is immeasurable, as schools rely on cooperation and positive interpersonal interactions.
Consider offering your services as a volunteer, as this proverbial foot in the door may lead to a paid position later. If immigration laws are in place restricting your ability to work, you may not get anywhere, as sponsoring a foreign worker can be very costly to institutions, but you will never know unless you try!
So, there you have it!
Seven avenues to explore to jumpstart your international Spanish teaching career.
Good luck with your applications!
Lynn Ramsson is an educator who enjoys working with students of all ages. She has taught in Virginia and California, and now, she writes from the south coast of England where she lives with her family. She travels to Spain as often as she can, in search of the perfect gambas al ajillo.