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Home  > Insider profile
Suzie Elkin
Teacher of English in Madrid Spain

"Teaching in a foreign country has been a major defining moment. The students teach me more than I think I can ever teach them."

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

Teaching in a foreign country was a major defining moment. The students teach me more than I think I ever teach them.

How did you get your big breaks?

I had backpacked after graduation and loved Madrid. I wanted to go back. I had a friend who had gone over and was teaching English. She was my role model. I contacted a language academy in Madrid. They provided teacher training, which was free. They instructed me to never speak Spanish in class, just English. That was the proper way to teach in their opinion. They gave me only 1-2 classes to teach a week. One was in the Mint of Spain, where I was teaching wealthy businessmen/politicians. The head of Budget for Spain, for example. Then I met a friend of a friend, who was doing the same thing but started his own business. I hooked up with him and took on more classes and got more money. Also, I decided to freelance and put an ad in the paper (a common practice), advertising my teacher services.

What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?

Alot of the business people in Spain prefer American English teachers because of their American accents.

What have you learned from your experience?

There is a thriving English community abroad who connect and welcome new people into the group. It helps to have people from home around. Even strangers! It's just nice to have someone who understands where you're from and what the traditions are back home when you're homesick.

What most excites you about your job right now?

It's a great experience. You get to interact with Spanish people. My students tell me where to go, what to see. I like the fact that I get to interact so much with the people. I have a friend who is working in international trading and only works with Americans.

On a scale of 1-10, how relevant was your academic major to your career? (1=not at all, 10=absolutely essential)

5. Your major is not that important. Most jobs provide training in teaching. I really only needed to be able to speak and communicate well.

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