Ikram Abdulmajeed is currently an EFL teacher in Saudi Arabia and has previously taught in Spain. After studying abroad in Barcelona her senior year of college, Ikram became passionate about international education and pursued a career as an EFL teacher. She gave Bridge some insight into her journey.

1) How did you start teaching English as a foreign language?

I graduated the semester after I studied abroad, traveled, and found my way back to Barcelona. At the time, no jobs were being offered to non-Europeans because of the crisis in Spain. So the only option was teaching. I moved back to Barcelona in February of 2012 and did a one-month 120-hour TEFL course. Then I found my first job teaching in April of that year and have been teaching ever since.

My first job was teaching online to Spanish students and then at the same time I also taught private classes. This was so that I could get the necessary experience.

2) How have the cultural experiences that come with TEFL changed your life?

I am able to meet people from all walks of life and of various ages. Since it has allowed me to travel for my work, I have been able to also integrate myself into different cultures and expose myself to different languages, adding to the experience I wanted to gain from traveling and teaching.

3) Is it difficult to adapt to your host countries?

In Spain, it honestly wasn’t that difficult to adjust. Everything seemed easy and manageable except for missing family and friends back home once in a while. However, I met some amazing people who became some of my closest friends and even others that I now consider family.

However, moving to Saudi Arabia has been completely different. I felt, and still do, feel isolated. I knew coming here that I would be faced with many challenges. So adjusting to my host country here is definitely very different to my host country before. Here, it requires a lot of patience and giving myself appropriate time to adjust, but I haven’t given up yet. I am almost certain that this place is not for me, but I will give it a chance for the year that I have committed to.

4) What advice do you have for future TEFL teachers?

First, be sure that teaching is something you are actually interested in and not just for the traveling benefits. Secondly, when choosing your destination, make sure to do as much research as possible about the future host country, to prepare yourself mentally. Thirdly, be content and know that there are sometimes huge gaps and differences in both teaching styles and culture, depending on the country. If you experienced a great lifestyle in one place and loved teaching a particular group of people, you might not have the same feelings once you move and start teaching elsewhere. So just be duly prepared for that and make an effort to learn the language of your host country, which shows respect and also gives you a chance to integrate better.