News & Stories
Claire Rowan
July 12, 2023

Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Ticket to Immersive Experiences Abroad

Claire Rowan ’22 always dreamed of living and working abroad. By her senior year, the elementary education major, who also minored in Spanish and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), committed to making this goal a reality. “I knew I wanted to experience the full immersion that comes from living and working in another country as well as to experience what teaching is like outside of the education system we have in the States,” she says. 

After extensive research and connections facilitated by the Director of the TEFL Minor Eliana Hirano and Associate Professor of Spanish Julia Barnes, Rowan took a position as a language assistant at a public bilingual school in Madrid where she worked with fifth and sixth graders in English, social studies and science classes during 2022–2023.

“Some of my responsibilities included conversation time with students (so they could practice speaking with a native speaker), individual and small group support (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, reading, test-taking strategies, etc.) as well as assisting the teachers with planning lessons and preparing class materials,” she explains.  

Rowan emphasizes how gaining TEFL certification positioned her competitively for the international job market. “I would not have been considered for my position had it not been for this program,” she says. “The TEFL program at Berry helped me better understand the need for more educators who are not only aware of the specific needs of students whose native language is not English, but who have the tools and understanding needed to best support and teach these students.” 

The TEFL program at Berry combines rigorous academics with practical education. Rowan notes that she received not only an in-depth education on teaching methods and theories but also “a significant amount of real teaching experience that is unique and not always found in other programs.” 

Rowan’s confidence in her Spanish language skills soared during her time abroad. Though leaning toward a teaching career, she says that TEFL is a plus for anyone seeking employment overseas: “I could imagine knowledge of TEFL being a helpful attribute for any career in which you work with people who are not native English speakers, as it gives you a better understanding and appreciation of the process of living life in a language that is not your first, and that you may not be fluent in.”   

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