Dave Mack - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Of all things, it was a web ad that appeared, informing me about teaching English overseas. At that point, I was stuck in my life and I felt I needed a new direction. Originally I wanted to go to Argentina, but didn't find a program that I found suitable. I knew I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country, so I could use all that Spanish that I learned for seven years in an applicable way.

Why did you choose CIEE?

After doing more research into teach abroad, and checking various programs, I came across CIEE’’s teach in Spain program. I was very impressed by their staff and support. I was also excited about moving to Spain, which interestingly didn't occur to me at first as a Spanish speaking country to teach English in.

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

What is your favorite part about Spain?

I'd have to say the Spanish people. I was so fed up with Americans who seemed to enjoy ruining people's day and making negative contributions to society that it was refreshing to communicate with helpful, positive, passionate people.

What has made your experience abroad unique?

Travels. Although almost everyone travels throughout Spain and Europe in this program, I made a point to see as much as possible, and to see countries with a common link to another. For instance, I went to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden last year during Christmas time, to get a feel for Scandinavian life. This Christmas, I went to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. During Easter, I went to England, Scotland, and Ireland. I've also seen a lot of Spain, including Barcelona, Segovia, Toledo, Seville, Malaga, Costa del Sol, Gibraltar. And, I’m going to Galicia and Ibiza in the upcoming months too.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were very helpful for all legal, teaching and housing assistance. CIEE also had fun workshops and social events. All the times I needed advice, the program coordinators were quick to respond and eager to help.

Ham market in Madrid, Spain
Ham market in Madrid, Spain

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish that I was more prepared for teaching. I had never taught before, and when I was planning to go abroad and had accepted my placement, it was the aspect I gave the least amount of thought about. I get nervous with public speaking, and I figured that teaching was going to be the part of the experience that I would have the hardest time with. I was very wrong. I love teaching! I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I'm not nervous to stand in front of a classroom at all, that went away quickly.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

I take the bus to a town about 20 kilometers away from Madrid. I teach English, either in small groups or in front of the class. I interact with the students on their level, in a fun and patient way. I communicate with the head teachers, in order to assist in the best way for the students to learn English. I have a 30 minute coffee break during the day, which is a great opportunity to both interact with teachers and improve my Spanish. I go home later, and then I go to university for Spanish classes.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I take classes at the university level to sharpen and improve my Spanish. I also participate in intercambios. I still check sites to see what Madrid has going on, such as art, music, and food festivals. I'm always planning a trip somewhere.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

What is your accommodation like? What do you like best about it?

I live in a furnished one bedroom apartment near the bus station. I like that it's walking distance to the bus that takes me to work, it's in a fully Spanish neighborhood where English is not commonly heard, and that it's comfortable.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Know that it's not going to be a constant travel and party scene. After a month, you'll probably start to get a little disinterested in your city. You may even start to miss your creature comforts back in the USA, such as your car, a dishwasher, or reality TV shows. But know this:

If you're looking for personal growth, professional experience, and to be challenged, then teaching abroad is for you. Don't take this opportunity for granted.
Gondola Ride in Venice, Italy
Gondola Ride in Venice, Italy

How has your program abroad impacted your life?

I'm still teaching in Spain, in my second year, and planning to stay for a third year. In fact, it doesn't make much sense to me that people only did this program for just one year and then left. I don't feel one year is enough time to really get a feel for teaching, the language, the culture, and the travels. The longer you stay, the more you see, the more you experience.

Would you recommend your participating in your program with CIEE to others? Why?

Absolutely, it's the best decision I've ever made in my life so far.