GoAbroad Interview

Regina Cardenas - Careers & Visa Support Officer

Regina Cardenas - Oxford TEFL Careers & Visa Support Officer

Regina has been teaching since 2006 and has done so in her home country, Mexico, and Spain. She moved to Barcelona in 2010 to obtain the Trinity CertTESOL at Oxford TEFL, and has since then been part of the teaching staff. Due to her experience moving to Spain as a non-EU citizen, she was also offered the post of Careers and Visa Support Officer.

What is your background in teaching and TEFL?

I first got into teaching while I was still in college. I taught two or three groups of students at a language school in Monterrey (Mexico) to earn some money for myself. When I graduated from university and got my degree in Psychology, I wanted to save some money to be able to get a Masters before establishing myself as a practicing psychologist. I took up a full-time teaching job at an elementary school, where I taught both English and Science to third and fifth graders, and eventually fell in love with teaching as a profession. I taught there for four years and then considered moving to Spain. In spite of my teaching experience, I heard from employers in Barcelona that I would need to have an internationally recognized teaching certificate so that they could consider hiring me. I registered for the Trinity CertTESOL course and was fortunate enough to find a full-time job the month after I completed the course.

Woman at Gaudis Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain

Regina at Gaudí’s Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain.

How did you decide to get involved with Oxford TEFL?

When I researched TEFL qualifications, I originally decided to do the intensive course with another provider in Barcelona. However, that center let me know that they were unfortunately not going to run the course during the dates I wanted to do it, and recommended Oxford TEFL to me as professional provider of the course. Once I completed the course, I was very lucky to be hired with them!

What does a typical day look like in your role as Careers and Visa Support Officer?

It varies day to day, but it requires me to post any job openings we hear of on our jobs website, review resumes to help trainees create professional TEFL CVs for employers and email them out to schools once they’re top-notch, meet with trainees/graduates to talk about what they need to do so that they can increase their chances of finding work (both in a center/school or through private classes), help them prepare for interviews, go over the steps they need to take in order to legally work in Spain, and pretty much answer emails related to similar matters, especially with non-EU citizens that want to be able to come to Spain and legally study/work here.

TEFL students celebrating their Trinity CertTESOL course graduation.

Celebrating our Trinity CertTESOL course graduation.

What kind of support do you provide teachers in their job search process once they have completed their TEFL program abroad?

The support we offer is life-long, so anything that wasn’t covered while they were on the course or that they want to go over again can be done afterwards too. For example, if they didn’t have a chance to work on their TEFL CV because they were too busy doing coursework, help with this is provided later on. Whenever a graduate asks if I can help them circulate their CV, I email it out to employers. Sometimes this can be done even if they’re just looking to get a few extra teaching hours to complement a position they may already have at another place. The advantage of having me send the CV out for them is that employers know for sure that any CVs they get from me belong to internationally TEFL qualified teachers.

Sometimes a graduate will get back in touch if they want to find work in a new location around the world.

Another important way we provide support is by providing the information and guidance needed in order to be able to legally start working in Spain. The bureaucracy involved in this process can be quite tedious, and the information is sometimes not that easily accessible or understood, especially if they don’t speak Spanish!

What’s the most commonly asked question you get about the visa process from prospective TEFL students?

How do you get the Spanish NIE? The NIE, which stands for número de identidad de extranjero (foreigner’s ID number), is needed to officially register for pretty much anything in Spain! Signing a work contract, opening a bank account, renting a flat, signing-up for a gym, among many other things. The process on how to get it is clearly explained and shared with the trainees so that they can follow a guide and do it on their own.

As for non-EU citizens, many opt to come to Spain on a student visa. They always ask about the requirements to have one issued, how long it usually takes and when/where the process needs to be done. We offer them a “non-EU guide” along with tips and testimonials from previous graduates that have gone through the process of obtaining a student visa.

Oxford TEFL staff working in Barcelona, Spain

Regina at work at Oxford TEFL, Barcelona.

What’s the most important piece of career advice you give teachers?

I’ve heard from the trainees that what they value most are the tips I give them to better prepare for interviews, mainly the TEFL specific questions they can be asked, and creating a TEFL CV. However, I like to tell all of them that they should value working for a school that offers support for teachers and encourages teacher development, be it through the sharing of ideas in a staff room, or through subsidies for further teacher development courses.

What are the primary skills aspiring TEFL teachers should they highlight on their resume?

If they have no previous TEFL experience, there are many skills one can highlight from other non-teaching jobs, such as organizational skills (helpful to plan and create lessons, as well as keep track of students’ work), interpersonal skills (you’ll be working with people!), communication skills (to be able to explain the material covered in the lessons) and ability to be flexible (lessons can change from one moment to another depending on your learners’ needs and how they respond to the material in class).

Do you encourage teachers to use social media as a part of their job search?

Absolutely! Our “jobs page” is an Oxford Tefl Jobs Facebook page where we post information about open teaching positions around the world. To help them start private classes, we give our trainees a list of different websites where they can post their ad saying they offer English classes, and also go over other ads in which people post their interest in learning English. We encourage them to network with the TEFL community on different websites so that they can not only stay informed about different job openings, but also share ideas for lessons, talk about their experiences in the classroom, get tips for how to teach a particular aspect of English, find out about further teacher development, and much more!

What’s your favorite part about working for Oxford TEFL?

All the staff is very friendly and helpful. They really make you feel part of a team and offer support when needed. Knowing that I’m a “TFL” (teacher for life), as my first Director of Studies described me when she hired me, I also really value the fact that teacher development is highly encouraged and offered at Oxford TEFL.