By this time you’ve already convinced your parents that your (essentially) free masters degree in a foreign country is indeed real and you will have such masters degree title in exactly ten months. I applaud you. Before moving to Spain, I had never studied abroad anywhere except the yoga class I took in Costa Rica that one time, but what I knew was that it would be impossible to start going for my masters anytime soon in the states. Being that I had just graduated from college with student debt and a semi-professional job that most definitely did not cover the costs of that debt, I made an (almost) instant decision to get my masters for free abroad and skipping out on the GRE.
If you don’t already know by now, these are important factors to consider when I use the word “free”:
- I’m most definitely comparing it to the cost of education in the United States, so by nature, the program could seem very virtually free, even if I was paying a few thousand dollars
- There is a deposit. You put down 500 dollars and get it back once you graduate
- There is a small deduction in your pay as an auxiliar (but you’re still making money)
Making an Income
The second most important factor in my decision-making process was that I would be in fact working and making an income while receiving the degree. Even today with more online classes, it is known that master’s programs in the States can be inflexible with students’ necessary working hours, and moreover, many going for their masters may be working a job that has nothing to do with their field of study. Although you may be thinking that perhaps its all going to be too much for one year, working and studying (and surviving in a new country), it is possible. Not always easy, depending on whether you chose to work 18 hours a week or 26, but absolutely achievable. Time management, of course, is key.
Not only will you have time for masters’ class work, which will aid in preparing material for your classes, you will also have time to make some money on the side conducting post-school tutoring classes. If you held a job or two while going to college in the states, then you are most definitely equipped to handle this program. The program and the classes are not necessarily rigorous, but extremely practical.
Theory + Practice
I, and perhaps you as well, never studied education prior to starting the Instituto Franklin-UAH Teach and Learn in Spain Master Program. My largest experience with “teaching” and “classroom management” came largely from summer after summer of working a very basic summer camp for children of parents who had to work, consisting of games and crafts on an endless cycle. And occasional yelling and the use of a hose when temps got too hot. Essentially, I told myself I was ready to start this program with my background in Spanish and Communication Studies degree, as well as my knack for coming up with things on the spot.
What I was perhaps the very least prepared for was the cultural differences in classroom management and discipline in primary and secondary education as well as the beauty of a well-thought-out lesson plan. For those who studied education, these things are no-brainers, but for those who aren’t, the master’s classes come in VERY handy.
Typical Masters in Spain
It’s important to distinguish some differences between from this Teach and Learn in Spain Master program and other master’s programs in Spain. Most undergraduate students finish their education in three years, their fourth year (our senior year of college) typically a year to complete a masters. However, it is still definitely not the norm to be working in your field in conjunction with completing the masters, but instead a period of a few months for practicum-type work which is part of the master’s completion. Additionally, typical Spanish coursework at the university and graduate level entail much more emphasis on studying than on project-based learning, more theory than practice, and a lot of PowerPoint presentations gone wrong (i.e. lots of words, no pictures).
What they do have in common is that classmates stay the same while teachers do the rotating. This is common all throughout Spanish schooling and is in stark contrast to the American education system. During this one year, you will be in the same class of about 20 to 30 fellow classmates for all eight classes, usually in the same classroom, every Friday night. This creates a super strong bond with classmates who, more than anything, are going through the same exact thing you are and who are pillars of support.
As far as a final thesis goes: You still have to do one. The difference between a traditional thesis for a master’s degree in most subjects in the States is that typically its research based: stating what’s already out there, posing a new question, and testing whether it holds or not. With this program you are given this option as well as the option of creating a Curriculum Design. This involves less research and more area for creativity, my personal option of choice. Both can be incredibly time-consuming, but unlike in the States, you will most definitely have the time to do it, especially if you are working 18-hours weeks which means you most likely have day off during the work week.
In the end, what’s beautiful about this program is that is combines the in-class conversational, debate, and project-based learning environment of an American class setting with the practicality and use of working and applying theory in a bilingual and international environment. Not all masters programs and degrees are alike, but I am certain of one thing: I have one.
Audrey Ardanaz is a Franklin Alumni, Master in Bilingual & Multicultural Education 2016-2017