Cody Meuser graduated from the University of Redlands in 2012 with a B.S. in Environmental Business. While in school, Cody spent a semester in Salzburg, Austria and traveled to many other places during this time abroad. I guess he liked what he saw because after graduating he was determined to find another way to get back to Europe.
When he heard about the BEDA (Bilingual English Development & Assessment) program from a fellow University of Redlands student, he jumped at the opportunity.
He is now the Auxiliary of Conversation/ BEDA Spain – Escuelas Católicas de Madrid in Madrid, Spain.
The BEDA program
The BEDA program was created by the education system in Spain. It is a way to reinforce the use of English in primary and secondary schools. For some students it’s optional to learn English and for others it’s mandatory. In order to work through the BEDA program, you have to be a native English speaker. Even if you have a high comprehension of English you will not be considered unless it is your first language. Thus, 99% of the other teachers are from English-speaking countries like Ireland, Australia, the UK, the United States, and Scotland.
Cody has found that there are an incredible amount of work opportunities for native English speakers in countries that have English as a second language.
When in doubt, turn to the internet. Cody found that there are a lot of blogs out there written by people who have done this program and programs like it. He says that “most of [his] questions were answered with just a bit of research and a few selected Google searches.”
- “The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You’re Broke“
- The “Traveling to Spain” page from the Embassy of the United States
- And his favorite blog: Lady in Spain
The BEDA program also has a Facebook profile for new and existing assistants. Whenever he had a question concerning visas, housing, etc., he would post it on the wall of the group. The response rate was pretty quick. Within 24 hours at least one prior assistant would have an answer for him.
Cody also describes himself as a “list person.” When BEDA sent him the visa requirements, he immediately made a list and then worked his way through checking each item off. He made sure to get all of this done prior to his visa application due date.
It can be a pain to get all of the paperwork completed and to jump through “all of the bureaucratic hoops” but Cody feels that this is how the program can weed out anyone who is not determined.
He says that “the process is quite confusing and stressful. However, if you’re a person like me, you simply attack each day and each document list with a prowess to succeed.”
As for housing, Cody turned to the internet once again. There are a bunch of websites that help with international housing and apartments. He found what worked best for him was to explore possibilities online and then wait until he reached Spain to begin actually finding a place to live. That way he could see the apartments in person.
When dealing with transportation, Cody says that he found solace in discussion boards. Via those conversations he identified the Metro as the best form of public transit. “And I haven’t looked back since!” Cody says that the Metros in Madrid are clean and timely and allow you to travel anywhere within an hour radius with no problems.
Cody is currently working at two schools in different suburbs of the city.
On weekdays he usually wakes up at half past six, jumps onto the Metro by seven, and has started teaching by eight. Sundays are for lesson planning.
The school day usually goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during which time Cody is teaching alongside the main professors in the language departments. As a native English speaker, he is able to facilitate the speaking activities.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays he also does private lessons with several students. That extends his days from eight hours to ten to twelve.
First-Time Teacher Experiences
Cody may have caught the travel bug as a student abroad, but teaching in Spain is different than traveling as a student. He now has the responsibility of a job.
“As a student you have the responsibility of yourself, of completing YOUR homework, etc. However as a teacher, I have to take the responsibility of captivating EVERYONE in my classroom. Not just myself. I have to be the driving force of the lesson. I cannot just sit back and listen. I’ve learned that as a teacher, there are no days off.”
Initially he was somewhat shocked by the amount of work that he actually had to do.
“Unfortunately, I think that as Americans, our idea of a ‘working day’ is around eight hours. In Spain, it’s usually double.”
Cody has never had any teaching experience prior to this experience in Spain. Each day is a learning experience and he has to admit that some are better than others. In general though, he is very interested in the exchanging of cultures. Every day offers him some new lesson to be learned and he really appreciates that aspect of being a teacher.
It’s also pretty thrilling to be “captivating” 30 students at a time on a subject that many of them fear. It can be challenging to encourage students to speak up in Spanish and even more difficult to ask them to speak in English.
But that doesn’t discourage him. Cody loves to stir, facilitate, and prompt thought. He loves asking questions and seeing “lightbulbs” go off in his students’ minds.
“I live for that ‘ohhh yaaaaa’ moment in class.”
On Living in Spain
Despite the economic crisis, Cody has noticed that the people of Madrid are strong and work hard. “The streets are clean and the coffee is hot,” he says. Even though the people work hard they still encourage a slow lifestyle when they can. Cody is really enjoying himself living in this new environment.
The most challenging part of living in Spain is the fact that he feels alone a lot of the time. Even though he has awesome roommates and he’s made some really good friends, he still feels alone. Technology may have hypothetically made it easy to “close that distance” but in reality he is still across oceans from the people he feels closest to.
“Oh and I miss my girlfriend a lot, too.”
Cody’s Advice to Students Considering Teaching in Spain
“Be patient. Be ready to work. You must be motivated to succeed every day and you must strive to operate at your highest level. There are many people, especially in Spain, who see English as an ‘out’ of poverty and despair. If you’re ready to take on a challenge of such magnitude then I encourage you to join the race. You’ll be paid for your work, trust me. Oh and yes, siestas exist.”
Working abroad can be a tremendous opportunity. But don’t expect it to be a walk in the park. It is not the same as studying abroad. From the start—handling logistics—to the actual teaching, there will be many challenges to overcome. But if you’re determined it can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Homework time! Think you might flourish and benefit from an experience teaching abroad? Take some time to read over some of the blogs Cody recommends. And check out some of our past posts about others who have chosen to go overseas.