Mi Vida Loca

I am originally from Toronto, Canada and have recently graduated from university in 2014. I was living and working in Toronto at a 9 to 5 desk job wondering how I was going to do this for the next 50 years. I didn’t hate my bank job in Toronto however I knew I wanted to do something different with my life. I quit my job one day in October with zero plans. Two days later I was online researching how a Canadian who only speaks English could move to Europe to live and work. I had never been to Europe before but I had always dreamed of living there. Originally I had thought London because the language was the same but then I decided London was too expensive. Then I thought Paris but again too expensive. Then I thought of Spain- the weather is perfect, I’ve always been interested in Spanish, and I love the beach. I decided Barcelona would be my destination.

Originally I didn’t think of being an English teacher because I had had friends in the past who were English teachers abroad however all of them went to Asia. I had never heard of anyone teaching English in Europe. After a bit of research online I applied for TEFL Barcelona having no idea if I even qualified for it. When I submitted my application I was informed that within 72 hours I would find out if I was accepted or not. Two days later I was hanging out with my brother and his friends at his house when I told them I had applied for an English teaching certification school in Barcelona. They were very supportive and thought it was very brave of me. Twenty minutes after telling them this I checked my email and said ‘Oh my god I’m moving to Barcelona in January’.

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Moving to Europe by myself was extremely scary. I had some friends from Canada living in London, UK however I had never been to Europe in my life much less move there. I was excited but also very sad because I really enjoyed my family and friends in Toronto. I was worried about leaving a perfectly good and safe life behind for what? To randomly go live in a country I knew nothing about and didn’t even speak the language? I did feel a slight bit of relief that at least TEFL Barcelona had arranged an apartment for me for the first month of me being there. I could not imagine having to try to find an apartment in Barcelona while I was living back in Canada- I say this because there are so many scams online for apartments which is something that doesn’t really happen where I’m from.

After flying for what felt like an eternity I finally landed in Barcelona and was ready to see my new home! I had a great experience on arrival because the school offered to pick me up and drive me to my apartment. Another girl from Chicago was arriving around the same time so they would be driving us together. She became my first friend in Europe immediately and I was so happy to have made a friend before I even left the Barcelona airport! We exchanged numbers as she was living in a different apartment, and planned to check out the city the next day together. We had 3 full days before our school was to start on Monday so I was excited to have someone to explore the city with as I had assumed I would be alone for those 3 days.

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I immediately fell in love with Barcelona. As a city in looks so different than anything I have ever seen in North America. There is so much history in the city and such unique architecture unlike the glass boxes I am used to in Toronto. My new friend Kelsey and I did 3 free walking tours of the city; we got to see the Guadi buildings, the Gothic Quarter, and the city centre of Barcelona. We did a hike of Montjuic and saw an amazing view of the city. We got to try some local restaurants with traditional Spanish tapas. We did a day trip outside of Barcelona to Montserrat and saw the breathtaking mountains literally 20 minutes outside of the city centre. Believe it or not we saw all of this in just 3 days.

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The following Monday after my arrival to Spain was the first day of school. I was so excited and I had no idea what to expect. Would school be 8 hours a day, would it be difficult, would I make more friends, would I be expected to know how to teach already? All of my questions were answered on the first day which was great. My class was about 14 people; mostly all Americans. We had me the only Canadian, one girl from the UK, two ladies from the Netherlands and one girl from Italy. This was very cool to me as all my life I had mostly only been exposed to other Canadians and some Americans. The city where I’m from in Canada is very diverse but everyone I know holds a Canadian passport so it was very neat to have friends all over the world now. The girl I met in the airport and the British girl have become 2 of the closest friends I have ever had. Althought we live in different places now we still keep in touch and have travelled together.

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The school was an excellent set up because to be honest, no one wants to be in school for 8 hours a day. Everyday our schedule was just 10am to 1pm. A perfect amount of time to learn English grammar then get to go explore your new city. The grammar was so comprehensive. Never in my life have I learned grammar like this. Such as past perfect, perfect simple, future perfect. I had never heard of these tenses but they drilled them in their heads that by the time the course finished I was an expert. The teachers were all amazing. I have nothing but great things to say about all of them. They really want to see you succeed in teaching and genuinely care about your future as a teacher. I had so many questions all the time and really lacked confidence as a teacher. They throw you right in there with some people teaching their first ever lesson in the first week of school.

The first lesson I ever taught was absolutely terrifying. Now looking back they held my hand through all of it so it’s funny to me how scared I was. They help you create a lesson plan and you teach for 45 minutes. It’s uncomfortable at first and you stress out about timing but in the end I survived and surprised myself with how well I did. As someone who hates public speaking I felt relaxed up in front of the class after the first half of the lesson. The students are adults and they were so friendly and understanding to the fact that all of us had zero teaching experience.

TEFL Barcelona also provides excellent job guidance. There is a guy who works there once a week and is solely dedicated to helping us find jobs. It was amazing he gave us a list of emails of heads of schools who we could contact with our resume. He also gave us a list of websites to apply for English teaching jobs in Barcelona and other parts of Spain for those interested in moving else where. If you do the TEFL course in Barcelona you are by no means forced to stay there and can easily find a job in another city in Spain, another country in Europe, or another continent if you wish. With the help of the job guidance guy at TEFL Barcelona I had actually secured a private tutor teaching job before I had even finished the course. One night I had applied for about 10 positions and the next morning I woke up with an email asking me to come in for an interview. I was hired with one week left of the course which my new employer knew and I would begin teaching immediately after.

Being a private tutor has worked out so well for me and my goals in moving to Europe. Because I had never been to Europe before I had plans to do a lot of travelling. I needed to work to keep some money coming in but my goal was to not work on Fridays so that I could travel on weekends. As a private tutor you basically dictate your own schedule. So not only did I get Fridays off but I also didn’t start work until 5pm on Monday’s which gave me even more flexibility for travelling on weekends. My students ages ranged from 5 years old to 52 years old and all at different levels of course. I really enjoy private tutoring because I have such a deeper connection with my students because of the fact that it is one on one. I was actually really sad when the school year ended because every week I looked forward to seeing my students because some of the older students kind of felt like friends to me. It’s also a great way to get some local advice on anything you want to do or eat in Barcelona because all of my students had lived in Barcelona their entire lives.

Although I am a private tutor I work for a language services company called Exit Language Services, so they sort out any problems I might have which is really nice. If I was having a problem with a student always cancelling, the company I work for would sort it out for me. They set me up with all of my students and they paid me so I never had to awkwardly ask for money at the end of the lesson. The company I work for is amazing and I feel so lucky to have such a supportive boss. They supply me with all of my teaching materials as well which is nice as a new teacher because there are so many books out on the market. I’ve never once missed a payment because of the fact I am not representing myself.

My life since moving to Europe has been absolutely crazy and amazing and I am so happy I did this. I have so many friends in Barcelona and always have someone to call for going for food or going out and experiencing the night life. Since Barcelona is a big city there is a wide variety of cuisines to try here which is great for a foodie like myself. Also if you are wondering about the night life, yes it is insane and it is crazier than what you are imagining. I have had some unforgettable nights here where I didn’t get home until 8am and didn’t even want to go home then because I was having so much fun. There are so many expat groups on Facebook where you can always find events going on. There are lots of language exchanges, festivals, parties, everything happening every weekend in the city. You will never get bored here.

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Also I have done an insane amount of traveling since living here. The awesome thing about Europe is once you’re here, it’s so cheap to get around and see other countries. I have been living in Barcelona for 8 months and I have already been to 13 countries in Europe. I have done things I never would have imagined doing. For example, I hiked a mountain for 9 hours in Bulgaria, I went skiing in the Austrian alps, I got to see the black sand beaches in the Canary Islands, and I ended up on a massive yacht in the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I have so many crazy stories from every place I have been to, everyday I wake up and I can’t believe this is my life. I met my boyfriend here in Barcelona also when I went on an organized group trip to Andorra. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.

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Overall I cannot promote the TEFL Barcelona course enough. The teachers are amazing, you meet new people from all over the world, and grow so much as a person. I am living the dream working and living in Barcelona, Spain. I can only describe my life as Mi Vida Loca.

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By Olivia Kelly

For more information on our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net

 

How to get your empadronamiento in Barcelona

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What is an empadronamiento?

Your empadronamiento (or padron) is a census record which allows the city to keep track of its local inhabitants. You are required to register if you live in the city for more than 6 months (although you can do so before that), and it’s an important part of several other bureaucratic processes, such as

  • Getting an NIE (in some offices; in others you can get your padron afterwards)
  • Getting a health insurance card (allowing you to access free healthcare at the CAP)
  • Getting welfare or other forms of social care and support
  • Getting married
  • Voting
  • Registering children at school
  • Buying a car, or making similarly large purchases
  • Applying for VISAs

Your padron must have been registered within the last 3 months to be valid. It is not a

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one-time document – you will likely have to register several times if you live in Barcelona in the long term. You must also re-register every time you move address, or every 5 years (if you are an EU citizen) Luckily, it’s actually one of the more straightforward government processes in Spain. In theory, to get your padron, you must simply go to your local town hall (ayuntamiento) with proof of your identity and proof of your address.

Where do I get my empadronamiento?

You can either go to the main town hall at Plaza Sant Miquel, 3, or your local office (see below).

Your Neighbourhood Nearest Office
Ciutat Vella Calle Ramelleres, 17
Eixample Calle Aragó, 328
Sants-Montjuïc Calle Creu Coberta, 104
Les Corts Plaza Comas 1
Sarrià-Sant Gervasi Calle Anglí, 31
Gràcia Plaza Vila de Gràcia, 2
Horta-Guinardó Calle Lepant, 387
Nou Barris Plaça Major de Nou Barris, 1
Sant Andreu Calle Segre, 24-32
Sant Martí Plaza Valentí Almirall, 1

You can get an appointment online [https://w30.bcn.cat/APPS/portaltramits/formulari/ptbcitaprevia/T128/init/es/default.html?], or simply turn up at one of the offices and wait your turn. It’s better to arrive early either way. The offices tend to open at around 8:30am and close at 5:30pm, although some may stay open as late as 8pm during parts of the year. It’s probably best to go in the morning or do your own research for the opening times of the specific office you want to visit.

Alternatively, you can apply by post by sending the required documents to the appropriate town hall. Getting your padron will take a few weeks with this method.

Required Documents

To get your padron, you need the following required documents. It’s best to bring 94_Ajuntament_de_Barcelona,_edifici_Novíssim,_pl._Sant_Miquel
photocopies of everything as well.

  • Proof of identity
    Could be your passport or a European ID card. If you have an NIE it’s probably worth bringing that too.
  • Proof of accommodation
    If you are a tenant: a rental contract with your name, signed by the owner. 

    If you are a tenant, but not named on the contact: either (1) a written document from the owner of the flat confirming that you live at the address, with a signed copy of their ID, or (2) an autorización expresa [https://w9.bcn.cat/tramits/padro/Autoritzaciodomicili_cas.pdf] signed by a person already registered at your address, with a signed copy of their ID 

    If you are a homeowner: the original copy of the title deeds

  • Proof of rental payment
    If you are a tenant, you will also need a bank statement with proof that you have paid rent within the last month.
  • The empadronamiento application form
    Not required in some offices – you can either get it from the office and fill it out while you wait in the queue, or you can fill it out online [https://w30.bcn.cat/APPS/portaltramits/formulari/ptbaltapadro/T06a/init/es/portal.html?]

Notes

Congratulations – getting your padron is an important step to become fully registered in Barcelona. Once you have it, it’s best to take it with you for any administrative tasks, although whether it is required varies by region, office, and perhaps even day. Remember, it is usually expected to have been registered within the last 3 months, so try to group your administrative tasks within that time period for maximum convenience.

By Christopher Drifter

 

For more information on our TEFL courses visit teflbarcelona.net

My experience with TEFL in Barcelona

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I wanted to travel, that much I knew. But how could I get paid while traveling? And how could I also add to my resume while seeing the world? Some friends of mine recommended teaching English abroad, and I’m glad they did. The flexibility of the job and the work itself sounded ideal. After doing a little research, Spain also seemed like a perfect destination. The demand for teachers is high and the country itself is a good place to both explore and be based.

After deciding I wanted to teach, I’m glad I went to the expense and effort of taking the TEFL Barcelona course. First of all, it refreshed my rather rusty knowledge of English grammar. They explained grammar in a useful way, a way that I would be able to easily use with my students. And the course also gave me real life teaching experience paired with the critique and encouragement of well-experienced teachers at the same time. It took away (most) of the fear that comes with standing in front of a group of adults who are staring at you, expecting you to teach them something. The course was also very helpful in terms of career guidance. They gave such blunt and helpful information.

Since finishing the course, I’ve had a lot of success teaching. I completed the course in November, which meant waiting a month until the next semester started. (Spain takes a month long Christmas break.) But once everyone was back from holidays, work was not an issue to find. It was harder to find housing than it was to find students. I advertised English classes on tusclasesparticulares, which is where most of my students contacted me. And on days I wasn’t being contacted, I was contacting potential students.

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Being in Barcelona means there are a lot of people wanting to learn English, but it also means there are a lot of people teaching English. For a while it seemed that everyone wanted the same one-hour slot in my week. And if our schedules didn’t line up, they moved on to the next teacher. After a few weeks of setting up classes, coordinating schedules, and getting rid of students who weren’t going to take it seriously, things fell into place and I had a group of consistent students I could count on.

I decided to go the route of teaching private lessons, over teaching in an academy or for a business. I decided that, because I didn’t want to be bound by a contract. I wanted more flexibility and higher pay. With teaching private lessons come some frustrations and it is a lot of coordinating schedules, but there are a lot of people wanting and needing to learn English and when you get a good student, they’re great, most have even become friends.

Most of the difficulties of teaching happened in the first month or so, but then I adapted. I dropped students who consistently canceled or were late without notice. I asked for payment at the end of every class. And I became much, much better at communicating and keeping a schedule.

It hasn’t been all easy. Planning lessons can be draining, commuting can be draining, teaching can be draining, but it is rewarding. Helping someone to be able to communicate, to express what they’re feeling, or to pass an exam is a good feeling. It is exciting to be able to see them improve.

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After the course, I decided to stay in Barcelona. I originally thought I’d leave as soon as the month was over (I’m not a big city person), but I’m glad I stayed. Within the month of the course, I had already made some connections and friends. And as I mentioned, housing was hard to find. My level of Spanish is low and I wanted a short-term lease in a fully furnished apartment. You won’t just find that overnight. It takes time. My advice would be to start looking for housing within the first two weeks of the course.

Also, Barcelona itself is a wonderful city. There is so much going on here. Almost every weekend there are multiple events to choose from. From food truck festivals to concerts to the beach, they are all fun. And I love being able to walk everywhere and along the way stop in to enjoy the cafes and restaurants. And really Barcelona isn’t too big. With the help of friendly people, it becomes homey quickly

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Overall, I am very glad I took the TEFL Barcelona course. By no means was it a waste of my money. I’ve already made more than the cost of the course back. If you’re debating taking the course or not, do it. Within the course you will learn a lot about teaching, English itself, and the best way to go about getting employment. There is plenty of work in this field and it truly is a wonderful experience.

By Jessie Conroy

For more information on our TEFL courses visit teflbarcelona.net

Why I Chose TEFL Barcelona

Moving to Barcelona was a spontaneous decision for me. I quit my jobs and moved away from everyone and everything familiar. While hard at times, it was completely worth it. Barcelona is a vibrant and bustling city with mountains, beach and countryside all within reach. The people are friendly and the whole city is walkable with bakeries, bars and cafes lining every street. The people here are passionate and lively. If there is a holiday, people participate whether that means handing out roses and books on Sant Jordi Day or setting up Christmas markets all around town during December. If there is a Barcelona match, the city erupts with cheers when they score. If you are looking for a city with plenty to do, see and taste, Barcelona is an excellent choice.

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Taking the TEFL course was a great way to ease into a new city and culture. You bond with your classmates and receive a lot of hands on practice in the classroom. The course prepares you by reteaching forgotten grammar, providing useful teaching techniques and exercises, and actually allowing us to teach 1-2 classes per week. If you are wanting to teach or simply live abroad while earning some extra money, this course is well worth it.

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I took the class in November, so finding work in December proved to be a challenge because everyone was on holiday. If you are wanting to travel before filling your schedule with students, December is an ideal month for that. However, once January rolled around, students started pouring in. I found all of my students on Tus Clases. Most of my classes are one on one, and most of them have been fairly consistent. The only reality of teaching on your own and not through an academy is the inconsistency. Life happens and students cancel and you don’t get paid. It can be frustrating at times, but if you bond well with your students, it makes it all worth it.

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Housing is something you should start looking into right when you get here. It can take a few weeks to find a place, so if you are looking ahead of time, you could have a home right when you finish the course rather than living in a hostel.

Barcelona has so many things to do. You can go to a football match. Chill at the beach. Hike or climb at Montserrat. Eat at one of many delicious restaurants. Relax in a cafe. Check out the various food and craft markets that happen monthly. Visit the National Art Gallery or Sagrada Familia. There are so many neighborhoods to explore with trendy shops and bars like Gracia, El Born and Sant Antoni. Soak it all in.

Finally, make sure to travel. There are so many beautiful places in Spain and beyond. Look for the cheapest flight and make it your next destination. Also, take time to learn Spanish (or Catalan, if you are feeling like a challenge). It is so helpful as a teacher to understand what it’s like to be the student learning an unfamiliar language. It is also exciting to be able to communicate with your barista, landlord, or friends in the countries language. Teaching abroad has been an unbelievable and rewarding experience that I will never forget, and the TEFL course made it possible. If you are considering it, DO IT.

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By Hanna Guenther

 

For more information on our TEFL courses visit teflbarcelona.net

Buh-lencia

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So, what is Valencia? Quick facts: Valencia is an orange blossoming, port city on Spain’s southeastern coast. Not only is it Spain’s third largest city it is also a Mediterranean paradise with gorgeous beaches including Port Suplaya.

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Port Suplaya

Other than the beaches, Valencia is also know for its City of Arts and Sciences, with futuristic structures including a planetarium (where ‘Tomorrowland’ was filmed) and the biggest Aquarium in Europe.

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Arts and Science Center

If you’re not keen on the beaches there are many parks, nearby mountains and old castles with historical attractions like Chativa and Albufera Park.

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Chativa / Xativa – 30 minute train ride, 7 euros

Similar to most places in Spain, Valencia has an unforgettable nightlife, no matter how many cups of Sangria you have. One of my favorite drinks is Agua de Valencia, which is similar to what Americans know as PJ or Jungle Juice if you’re from the north.

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Agua De Valencia

On of my favorite clubs is Mya, which is under the Arts and Science Center and has 3 different rooms playing today’s hits / hip-hop, house, and electro/techno. My favorite area is Colon, an older area of the city center with many cafes, bars, and restaurants. The Erasmus life (young people abroad, not necessarily students) in Valencia is very big, with even greater benefits. For example, every Wednesday they offer free Salsa lessons with free sangria, paella, and tapas.

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Paella de Valenica – Seafood

If you’re debating choosing this city over Barcelona or Madrid, I’ll tell you why I chose Valencia. I took the TEFL program in Barcelona and loved it, loved the city, the environment, and attractions. But, for me, Barcelona wasn’t somewhere I’d want to live for more than a few months or so, because of the huge tourist population and expensive prices. Not that you can’t find affordable options on an English teacher budget in Barcelona, but Valencia is extremely affordable and was the best option for my wallet. For example, I only pay 200 euros for rent in a great neighborhood and was able to buy a city bike for transportation costing 30 euros the entire year.

I find Valencia to be more traditional, as siesta time is very prevalent and so is Spanish. I easily got by speaking English everywhere I went in Barcelona which I didn’t like. My Spanish isn’t great, but I continue to improve by speaking with locals. One benefit of living in Madrid or Barcelona over Valencia is the airport. Flights are much cheaper to other countries from the bigger airports and are more frequent.

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Carnival Concert Celebration – right behind my house in Plaza de Benimaclet

Finally, the best for last; FALLAS. Through March 15-19th Valencia celebrates its renowned fire and firework holiday that is incomparable. There are tons of activities and things to do through the day but the following are the main events. Everyday morning street music parades can start as early as 7am, afternoon mascletas (loud fireworks you can literally feel in your body) at 2pm, evening street light shows between 7-9pm, nightly firework shows at 10pm and street discos 12pm-6am. Most importantly, every neighborhood has a ‘monument’ which are massive papier-mâché statues that will burn on the last day called ‘creama.’

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Obviously, my life as an English teacher in Valencia allows me to see and do many things. My first class doesn’t begin until 3pm because I teach at an academy outside of the school system. Generally most students are taught English in their school, but it is very common for them to also attend classes at an academy and/or take private lessons. English academies are very prevalent in Valencia, and it took about a week for my roommate and I to find jobs. I work part time (12 hours) Monday through Friday earning 600 euros and teach 5 different private lessons throughout the week for 10-15 euro an hour. It doesn’t sound like much, but I am definitely able to get by. I do recommend taking an English certification course before teaching because some days can be really challenging and mentally draining. Also, relearning correct English grammar is more difficult and confusing than expected. Teaching English abroad is and isn’t what I expected. My student’s ages ranges from 3 to 42 years old which is nice because everyday classes are different. The younger ages are much more difficult to teach, especially when there are fifteen 3 year olds. But, you learn how to handle it. It’s not common for one teacher to have that many students though, generally my classes have 4-6 students. If you have no interest in teaching children, don’t worry, many businesses hire teachers through academies to teach employees in the mornings or afternoons. If you have the interest in teaching abroad in order to live somewhere amazing, gain cultural experience, learn a new language, and travel… do it. Being away from family and friends can be really hard at times, especially during the holidays, but you’ll make friends who are in the same boat and celebrate together. I feel that I’ve grown a lot during my time here and am so happy I made this choice.

By Emily Beam

 

For more information on our TEFL courses visit http://www.teflbarcelona.net

Time Well Spent

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When it comes to most decisions, I like to be organized and well informed; it allows me to approach the situation feeling safe and confident. When I decided to sign up for a TEFL course and commit myself to a year abroad in Barcelona, there was only so much I could prepare for. I researched a bit about everything –medical insurance, housing, weather and appropriate clothes- and I made sure I had everything from home that I could possibly need. Beyond basic knowledge of where the school was located and who I’d temporarily be living with, there were plenty of unknowns I had to face going into this experience. I didn’t know where I’d end up living, who my classmates would be, or where I’d find a job, but I told myself- I’ll have time for that.

The first month was almost too blissful. I had been staying with a wonderful host, my friends were mostly English speakers, my days were scheduled, and this felt very normal and comfortable. Not to mention, many hot afternoons spent on the beach. As a newly certified teacher from the U.S, the TEFL course was intended to be an extension of my education, another enhancement to my resume. The moment we were introduced the phrase ‘engage, study, activate,’ I knew that this certification was going to offer me a new perspective on language teaching that would revitalize my teaching practice. Even after taking several language-based educational classes for my degree, I found that this course and its instructors were more active in creating a learning environment that promotes language use! I was being challenged in a new way and it truly showed me the success of a lesson that is done entirely in the target language. Take it from me, I was in the country’s number one education program, and I still feel like my teaching really improved as a result of this course. It’s amazing what four weeks can do!

After years of taking classes year round, working a job, or jetting off on adventures, I was suddenly unemployed, graduated, and living on my own. I finally managed to find a room to rent in Raval and was going on a few job interviews per week. I didn’t have any assignments to complete or hours to work, let alone a designated wakeup time. I felt free, and lazy, and anxious. I was so used to having things to do or somewhere to be that the amount of time on my hands was overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do with myself! It began to set in that I could actually take time to rediscover who I am and the creative side of myself I had neglected over the years. I decided that I needed to do MORE. More reading, writing, and engaging with others. More coffee, more lounging at the park, more trips. But most importantly, more of what I wanted to do, and less of what I felt like I needed to do to achieve something. Why couldn’t becoming a better version of myself be my biggest priority right now? I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.

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It’s been over seven months since I’ve been here and I have four more to go. I laugh when I think back on how I thought a year would be long enough. I’ve been undermined by Barcelona and I already know I’ll regret leaving this place. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs while living here, but it’s all a part of how my experience is being shaped. I worked as both a teacher and a nanny in the fall, but I am currently just teaching at an art-based English school in Grácia. I teach afterschool programs and private lessons that implement art as a way of engaging students in language. The lesson plans are creative and I plan to use these ideas in my future teaching. I work with mostly four to ten-year-olds, but I have a few adult students as well. I have found different advantages and disadvantages in working with small groups of students versus private lessons, which has been very insightful. I am used to working with a different age group in a definitive classroom, so traveling to different places and teaching in a variety of environments has been a new experience. I’m excited that I’ll be able to bring a unique perspective to the classroom when I return to the U.S. I’ve enjoyed seeing myself develop as an educator and know that I will be a better teacher because of my time here.

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If I’m being honest, I work approximately 9 hours a week. My job is one of the few that pays really well, so that, along with money I’ve loaned from my parents, has allowed me to survive just enough while I’m here. My nanny job allowed me to save enough to travel here and there, so I decided to give myself a break for once and work just enough to keep me afloat. I’ve learned that investing in myself as an individual, beyond a student, a teacher, a daughter, a friend, and a friendly face, is the best thing I could do at age 22. I don’t want to have any regrets. And so, I’ve spent my time doing what I love. I’ve gone on several trips, even indulging in a few weekend travels on my own, which is by far one of the best ways to self-reflect. I’ve read about three books per month, going between travel novels and Barcelona based fiction. I’ve been writing more, and sending letters and postcards to my loved ones back home. I’ve been working out and experimenting with cooking more at home. I’ve been creating an online teaching portfolio and organizing my lessons. I’ve been going to intercambios and doing yoga on the beach with my friends. The life I have right now is simpler and I’m trying to relish in that simplicity while I’m still here.

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Barcelona is intoxicating for me. Some days I am out exploring a new neighborhood I haven’t been to and other days, I’m just as content to lie around all day and spend time with good friends. I feel happier because I’m finally in touch with the part of myself that was drowning in work and school for so many years. Why go back, you ask? Curiosity, I suppose, is the best answer. I deserve to follow through with my first love, teaching Spanish and bringing culture into the classroom. I want to share my experience with students and invoke that same curiosity in them- to see the world for themselves, in order to understand their place in it. I already know how much this year will remain a part of me, but time is slipping away, and I’m trying to use it thoughtfully. My greatest comfort is knowing that my time here hasn’t finished- once you learn the existence of a place that has the capacity to change your life, it feels as though you’ve intuitively been searching for it all along and you can’t help but return time and time again.

By Diana Sanchez

Recommendations:

Book: The Idle Traveller- Dan Kieran & The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Street: Carrer d’Astúries for organic stores and bookshops & Carrer d’Blai for tapas

Sundays: chai tea in Ciutadella and fleamarkets in Raval

Good Eats: Pizza Circus $ Milkbar $$ Flax and Kale $$$

 

For more information about our TEFL course in Barcelona please see  http://www.teflbarcelona.net

Teaching in İstanbul

View of Istanbul from the Galata Tower
View of Istanbul from the Galata Tower

From the moment I arrived, İstanbul drew me in and awakened my senses. I loved the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer. I reached the point where the afternoon felt long if I hadn’t already heard it. The mixture of Byzantine, Genoese, Ottoman and Turkish architecture is stunning, with minarets and towers piercing the sky. The flowers and designs inside of mosques and palaces curled around each other to make the most beautiful shapes and patterns. Shopping in the market provided a flurry of mouth-watering expectation. The shopkeepers had a variety of green and black olives, pale cheeses unique to Turkey, sausages, fresh figs bursting with juice, and bulbous red pomegranates. The mounds of spices sent mixtures of rich scents wafting through the air while their colors mesmerized my eyes. I loved to touch the soft silk scarves, the smooth cool ceramics and worn, thick kilim rugs.

It’s amazing to be immersed in such a rich culture- to live and teach there. The people were unbelievably friendly and hospitable too.

 

Teaching experience

I had two different jobs in İstanbul, both of them were in kindergartens. The teachers in the other grades in my schools also had TEFL certificates. In some of the other schools I’ve looked at, teachers for higher grades need a credential valid in their own country while the kindergarten teachers don’t.

I found the first school through a recruiter online. My interview was on Skype with a man in a big empty office in a big black chair. His main question was, “so, you like kids?” When the interview seems too easy or too good to be true, likely it is. So be sure to ask plenty of questions and do some internet research to be sure the school is legitimate. It’s a good idea to ask to talk to some current teachers at the school as well. After the interview, I got the job, which I think nearly anyone would. I was paid next to nothing, but I was ok with it because I wanted to move to Turkey so badly.

In the first job, I worked with one local co-lead teacher. She was a wonderful Turkish woman with a face like stone when the children crossed her. But she also had a bubbly laugh and lots of hugs, kisses and winks for them when they behaved nicely. We had oneassistant who came in to help during sessions when there was only one lead teacher. I worked with the children during meals, breakfast and lunch, which I was welcome to eat too. I also helped during play time in the morning with my co-teacher. I had one serious study time with the students in the afternoon. The school was new and so we helped with developing the curriculum. I had 5 scheduled periods each day and usually left school around 2 or 3. It was a plush position.

Kindergarten Class Photo
Kindergarten  Class

My next job was much more serious. I had to go to the school 3 times for an interview, an observation, and a demo lesson before I got the job. They paid much better to reflect the coming increase in work. Again I had one local co-lead teacher. She was less jovial and more outcome-driven. We had our kindergarteners all day long. We taught using a content and language integrated learning approach; all of our topics from “knowledge and understanding of the world” to literacy to science were in English.  We were at school from 8 to 5. The students left earlier, but then we had time to work, making lesson plans and new worksheets and completing other tasks related to teaching. We changed the classroom materials regularly and met often for the principal to explain what we would teach each week. There were lots of classes for each level so we could trade ideas and worksheets with the other teachers as well.

 

Accommodation

I lived in three different apartments during my two years living in İstanbul. The first two I had to find myself. Two of the other teachers working for the same recruiter I used found the first apartment on Air BNB. I thought it would be a good idea to share with some other teachers. I agreed to the smallest and cheapest room. When I arrived, I found out it was the size of a closet. I could literally touch all 4 walls while lying on the bed, which was the only furniture in the room. I shared the one bathroom, kitchen and LARGE Turkish-family sized living room with the two other teachers. It was nice living in a building with mostly local residents. I learned a lot from my Turkish neighbors across the hall, like the phrase “elenize sağlık,” meaning ‘health to your hands.’ This is a nice way to thank and simultaneously compliment someone on their cooking.

Later, I decided I wanted a bit more elbow room so I moved into an old building closer to the water. The building was originally built to house the workers who built the famous Haydarpaşa train station that I could see from my window. I could also see the Kadıköy harbor. I loved my view. I did not, however, love my roommates’ lifestyle. They were college students who were more interested in partying than doing their studying while they were abroad. It didn’t match too well with my working schedule. We shared a small living room, kitchen, and one tiny bathroom.

My second job came with a huge perk: housing included. I had a freshly refurbished one-bedroom apartment all to myself. I lived on the top floor and could see the Asian side from one of my windows even though I lived in Europe (the two continents are divided by the Bosphorus and the city is sprawled across a bit of both continents). My apartment had a big flat screen TV and a dishwasher! I felt like I was living the life of luxury! I had lots of counter space, including a breakfast bar. The large bedroom had tons of closet space and a full sized bed. I felt like a real grown up living there.

 

 

Language

I found Turkish incredibly difficult to learn at first. I could hardly even understand which sounds made up the many syllables that combined to make a single phrase. It took me about 3 weeks to decipher and respond to a local shopkeeper who said “iyi akşamlar” (good evening) to me almost every night on my way home from work. İstanbul also wasn’t the easiest place to practice my new phrases. Often when I greeted shopkeepers, “Merhaba,” they would respond, “How can I help you?” Their English was always better than my Turkish so I would revert back to my comfort zone. I was thrilled however, to find when I traveled outside of the city that my learning proved to be more useful. I was throwing phrases around everywhere I went- how are you? Nasılsınız I want to buy cell phone credit kontür, Turkish coffee please türk kahvesi lütfen!

 

Some of my favorite phrases

Teşekkür ederim                             Thank you

Kolay gelsin!                                  May it be easy for you- said to someone who is working

Afiyet olsen                                     May it be good for you- said before, during or after a meal

Geçmiş olsun                                  May it pass- said to someone who is sick or otherwise ailing

İnşallah                                            God willing- used like hopefully or most likely

Allah, Allah                                    Literally, God, God- used a bit like oh my God, or wow

 

 

Expat life

İstanbul offers a very full array of experiences for activities outside of work. It is a great city to walk in. Each area has something different to offer. For example, in Kadıköy, there are complex and varied artistic murals on the sides of some buildings. It’s also a great place for being outdoors, whether sitting in the square by the Blue Mosque or dining outdoors in the cafes in Beşiktaş or on a rooftop in Taksim. I took classes in yoga and belly dancing. Some of my friends participated in theater, improv comedy clubs, and Hash House Harriers- an international group that follows clues to run around a city while participating in drinking challenges. I participated in regular weekend getaways with a group organized through InterNations. InterNations is a website to organize clubs. Whatever you’re interested in you can find- from language workshops to nights out to tennis games. Couch surfing, a website for finding places to stay and things to do, also organizes many events. Nike sponsors regular races and has weekly running groups that meet in most corners of the city. Another race that I really enjoyed was the Istanbul Marathon. It’s the only race in the world that goes through 2 continents. You can run from the Asian side of Istanbul over the Bosphorus Bridge to the European side. The fact that Istanbul straddles Europe and Asia also means a great opportunity for European travel. Europe was fairly new to me and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the major cities and lesser-known villages. In Istanbul, you can easily create a very full, rich life for yourself.

During some of my stay, there were riots in the Taksim area and occasionally in Kadıköy as well. For the most part, I found it easy to avoid the dangers. More recently, there have been a couple of small bombs in the city. Generally, the city is safe, but it’s always good to be careful and alert.

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia
Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Food

There is an abundance of delicious Turkish food. The highlight is probably breakfast- kavaltı. It’s a massive spread of tiny breakfast plates of fried or boiled eggs, olives, sausages or meat slices, fresh sliced veggies, a small collection of cheeses, bal-kaymak (cream and honey), jam, nutella, and breads.

Most Turkish lunch and dinner foods involve wheat and meat. There are lots of different takes on the combo though- mantı (like ravioli), köfte (like meatballs), pide (like pizza), kebap, dürüm (meat in a wrap like a burrito). Mezes are a little like the breakfast- lots of small plates. This time, the plates are full of appetizers. For dessert, how about fresh layered baklava or lokum (Turkish delight)? There are whole stores devoted to rich, flaky, honeyed baklava.

You can buy groceries at open-air markets or in grocery stores. There are also a few good stores for foreign foods that you might be missing while living abroad too.

There are lots of foreign food restaurants of varying quality. There is a website called Yemek Sepeti that will deliver food from nearly any restaurant in İstanbul.

 

Çay

Çay is crucial to Turkish culture. Turks drink more cups of tea each day than people in any other country in the world. The tea usually comes from Rize (a city near the Black Sea) and is usually made on a two-tiered kettle. I’ve never seen anyone drink it with milk, but they do like to add lots of sugar. Çay is served in small tulip-shaped glasses. Turks love to drink tea and even more than that they love to share it.

 

Transportation

By far the most memorable way to get around İstanbul is by ferry. It’s also one of the best ways to get a great view of the city, feel a refreshing breeze, and skip the traffic that can often be found on city streets. There are scenic trams that run down İstiklal near Taksim, a major eating, drinking, and shopping hub. There are also trams, buses, and metro buses in the center of the highway. You can track them with the IETT website or iphone app. The metro was new when I was there. As they were building the tunnel under the Bosphorus, they repeatedly found treasure and had to pause construction for excavation. On almost all of the public transport options, look out for wandering hands. There are also Dolmuşes, which are minibuses that stop along their route wherever someone wants to get on or off. “Taksi” cabs are also available. They are more expensive than all of the other options, but not unreasonable.

Inside the Hagia Sophia Museum
Inside the Hagia Sophia Museum

Travel within Turkey

Of course within İstanbul there are lots of amazing sights to see, especially in Sultanahmet. The Hagia Sofia Museum is full of glittering mosaics. It’s next to the Topkapi Palace (Topkapı Sarayı where the Ottoman sultans used to live) and across from the beautiful Blue Mosque and the Bascilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı, which is an underground cistern that used to be below a bascilica). Other highlights include the Galata Tower with a great view of the city, the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı) full of wondrous touristy treasures, and Chora Church with its elaborately decorated ceilings.

Turkey has lots more to offer too! Ephesus was an ancient Greek city and the remains are well-preserved. Pamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish. It imaginatively, but accurately describes the white travertine cliffs filled with turquoise waters. Cappadocia is probably the most visited and best known destination outside of İstanbul. It is famous for its fascinating “fairy chimneys” which are tall thin rock formations. Mount Nemrut has massive carved stone statues at its summit. Turkey also has an amazing coast full of gorgeous beaches like Anatalya, Marmaris, Olympos and Bodrum. There is also more culture to explore, like Konya, the home of the whirling dervishes or Mardin famous for its old city architecture.

Tiles in Topkapi Palace
Tiles in Topkapi Palace

I look back fondly on two colorful years in an amazing city. What a great place to explore, teach and live! I miss the distinctive blue color of the Bosphorus and the taste of the fresh foods the most. I also miss my loving students and the amazing adults I met there too.   I’d recommend considering İstanbul if you want to teach abroad.

 

By Katia Davis

For more from Katia, check out spoonfuloftravel.com

 

http://www.teflbarcelona.net

 

¡SALUDOS DESDE BARCELONA!

photo 4

Moving abroad is hard. Teaching is hard. It’s not sitting in a grey
office cubicle staring at a coffee cup stain on your desk and making
small talk with your elderly coworkers hard, but it’s a different kind
of hard.

Teaching English as foreign language can be both stressful and draining,
yet I also think that it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding
things a person can do. Realising you have to impart information andphoto 1
inspire a room full of people everyday can initially feel daunting, but
over time it makes you feel pride, in both your students and yourself.
In this job there’s no hiding behind a computer screen scrolling
mindlessly through Instagram and counting down the hours until 6pm.
It’s constant. I live my life on every intertwining line of the metro
and some days leave the house early morning and don’t close my apartment
door behind me until 12 hours later. However, despite this, I love it
and at this moment could not imagine doing anything else.

If you are restless within your surroundings and ready to try something
completely challenging and, in actual fact, completely foreign, then
this is the experience for you. There is absolutely no way a person can
have a bad day when you walk into a school and are immediately bombarded
by 15 little humans shouting your name and trying to hug you and tell
you about their day in a language they barely speak. Being faced with a
small child clutching for English words, throwing their arms around and
frantically scribbling in order to explain a concept to you is so
endearing. The moment everything clicks, everyone understands each other
and you know they have learnt something is the one of the greatest
feelings ever.

Of course as happy as teaching here can make you, it has to be said that
it’s not always sunny in Barcelona. As soon as the safety net of TEFL
was broken and I was propelled into the real world, life proceeded to
throw out some challenges. The weekend after the course finished both me
and my two American course mates (now two of my best friends) were
officially homeless, helpless and skint. I can tell you first hand that
going to work everyday from a hostel is not the most glamorous of
situations.
photo 3 (2)

However every little problem that is thrown at you during your time away
from home is nothing but another chance to learn. Yes, sitting at home
staring at the same four walls will definitely be less risky than
packing a bag and escaping, but it won’t be as beneficial. I know that
everything that has happened in such a short space of time, whether it
be good or bad, has completely helped me to grow as an individual and
each new hurdle I come across is continuing that process.

In terms of the learning side of things, the course itself is
unbelievably realistic for what you will face when you are thrown in the
big, wide of teaching. Having a multitude of material thrust upon you
with very little information other than the level of your students and
knowing you have 45 minutes in which to impart your knowledge upon said
students was absolutely crucial for me to get used to stress and get out
of my comfort zone. This kind of thing will definitely happen as soon as
you start working. I sometimes get a text at 9am asking if I can cover a
class in an hour with very little information but the location and age
of the students and I now feel completely able to work well with that
kind of pressure.

I completed my TEFL course in September just as many schools and
companies were hiring in October, which may have made the search easier.
However I really do believe that if you fully take the career advice
that is offered to you and show initiative and enthusiasm, then a
teaching job that suits you will surely follow. One of the greatest
things about teaching English is the flexibility it gives you both in
terms of choosing the kind of classes you want to teach as well the
hours you are willing to work. This is something especially good about
working in a city such as Barcelona, as there is such a strong emphasis
on having a good work life balance (i.e its completely true that
everywhere becomes a sleepy ghost town between the hours of 2 and 4 pm)
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With my current job I have no base and have to travel constantly between
different locations, which can be considered both a good and bad thing.
I actually did apply for around 15 jobs in the last few weeks of school
both in language schools and within companies and I heard back from
around half almost immediately. In the space of one week I had three
interviews, all of which were successful. I was even offered free
accommodation alongside a job by a couple who ran a school just outside
Barcelona. In the end I chose a position that offered around 10 hours
per week teaching children from 5 to 13 years old in both schools and
private classes. Initially this was not a lot of hours but within a
couple of weeks those hours doubled. If you are willing to work
the opportunities are definitely there.

I really enjoy the way I work as I feel that teaching in a child’s home
has so many benefits and allows you, as the teacher, to feel like part
of the family and thus allows the children to get comfortable with you
and learn so much more. I get to make crafts with my 13 year old, create
and perform plays with my 11 year olds and read stories to my 5 year
olds. Overall I teach over 100 different faces but having private one to
one classes as well as larger groups in schools allows me, as a new
teacher, to get a mix of experience and figure out what I want out of
teaching in the future.

After I had been in Barcelona for 3 months I returned home for Christmas
holidays and was immediately greeted by an onslaught of questions and
the inevitable exclamations of ‘I am so jealous of your life, it looks
amazing’. This can be both flattering and unsettling at the same time.
The go to phrase of ‘you should do it too!’ always seemed to spill out
of my mouth as a first response, but now a couple more months into the
experience I now know that this adventure is definitely not for
everyone… but it can be absolutely amazing for the right person!

By Jemeala Tarbah

http://www.teflbarcelona.net

Teaching in China

Hiking the Great Wall of China

Have you ever wanted to visit an incense-filled temple on a misty mountain side? Run along the top of the Great Wall of China? Feed pandas with a bamboo pole? If so, teaching in China might be a good choice for you.

After earning my TEFL, I applied to jobs throughout Asia. I was intimidated but intrigued by China. I accepted a job in Huizhou, a small city near Hong Kong. Websites comically described it as “pretty, especially for China.” Later, when my sister graduated from college, we applied to jobs together and were hired by a kindergarten in Beijing. Living in China was an adventure every day. It was challenging and humbling, but also amusing and amazing.

Teaching experience

In Huizhou, I worked at a language school. We taught Wednesdays through Fridays in the evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were our weekend. We were some of the only foreigners in town so the odd work week didn’t restrict our social life too much. In an isolated area, your co-workers will probably also be your best friends.

I taught all levels from kindergarten to middle school for an hour each, totaling 22 hours each week. The school provided books for each level for the teachers and students (while this may seem like an obvious necessity, other schools I’ve considered teaching at didn’t have books or a specific curriculum). We planned and prepared our own lessons. We had lots of training for sharing ideas and methods. I also had a Chinese assistant to help with behavior, difficult concepts, and parents.

Later, in Beijing, my sister and I worked in a Montessori kindergarten. We worked a normal Monday to Friday work week. I was in one class for the whole day from 8-5. I also had a local Montessori-trained co-teacher and two local assistants. That meant we had four teachers for 24 students! Much of the day was Montessori work time, which meant I had to learn a lot about the Montessori philosophy and how to implement it. We had a week of training before the school year started but much of my training was hands-on in the classroom.

Students in China can be quite reserved at first. Many of them have a hard time with critical thinking and creativity. It was fun to help them test their limits and find new skills. They are diligent workers and caring people.

My kindergarten class in Beijing on Valentine's Day
My kindergarten class in Beijing on Valentine’s Day

Accommodation

In Huizhou, the school provided us with housing. The school owned two 5-bedroom apartments side by side. The apartments were a couple of blocks from the school. I shared bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen with the other teachers. The school also provided a cleaner who came twice a week.

In Beijing my sister and I had to find our own accommodation. The school sent us out with a translator and a realtor who showed us a few different options. Unfortunately, the translator quit a couple of weeks later and we never got our deposit back for the apartment. We presume the two events are related. We had a small private apartment and some friendly neighbors, both Chinese neighbors and expats.

Language

In the classroom, I only needed English. Beyond the school walls, however, I was glad to know some Chinese. My school in Huizhou gave us free Chinese lessons once a week. An

Chinese Calligraphy Class
Chinese calligraphy class

assistant teacher from the Sichuan province was our Chinese teacher. She carefully explained the tonal language to us. If you have an ear for the tones, Chinese isn’t too tough. They don’t have tenses. Many words are simple and short, or made of a compilation of other short words. I found speaking Chinese to be fun, almost like singing. Chinese people are usually quite impressed when you can speak a few words and more inclined to try to help. It really motivated me to learn more. Also I found in the markets, I could get a cheaper price if I bargained in Chinese. Speaking some of the language really improved my experience in China.

Here are a few key phrases (accent marks show which way your voice should move. I’ve also included my best attempt at spelling out the pronunciation)

nǐ hǎo                                                      nee- how                                    hello

xiè xie                                                    shee-ah, shee-ah                  thank you

duì bù qǐ                                                dwe boo chee                                sorry

xǐ shǒu jiān                                          shee shwo jee-an                      bathroom

nǎ li                                                       nah lee                                        where (and also there)

 

Expat life

In Huizhou, I often felt like a celebrity. Random people would shout “hello” from passing cars, across a park, or from the other end of a store. In my spare time, I joined our school’s soccer team, which meant weekly matches and socializing afterward. I also liked walking through the local markets and by Xi Hu (West Lake) and Hong Hua Hu (Red Flower Lake). There was a good nightlife in Huizhou, including bars and clubs. It was busy even on our Monday-Tuesday weekend! There was a WalMart in town and a couple of local grocery stores as well. A couple of months before I left, Starbucks came to Huizhou. I’m sure the small city is modernizing more by the minute.

Huizhou at night
Huizhou at night

Beijing is packed with people, including loads of expats. This means lots of opportunities for events, clubs, and fun. Hey-robics is a Swedish form of fitness that Linus, the founder’s son, has brought to Beijing. It’s group fitness in a big circle with lots of dance moves, jumping, and wild outfits. They also held a running camp leading up to the Great Wall Marathon (during which I participated in the 10K). There is also a group called MashUp that runs intramural sports, including football, basketball, dodgeball, etc. There is a great magazine called “The Beijinger” that describes upcoming events, new restaurants, local traditions, popular shops, classifieds and more.   Beijing has a café-library called the Book Worm. It has a library of foreign books you can check out as well as many events and good food! There are local grocery stores and foreign food specialty stores. Beijing is a great place to be an expat.

Food

Thousand year old eggs, chicken feet, roasted scorpion, and drunken shrimp (served live in local liquor!). These are foods I’d say you have to be daring to try! The Chinese do admittedly have a LOT of bizarre food dishes. There is a humorous saying about Cantonese food: they eat anything with four legs except a table, anything with two legs except man, anything that swims except a submarine, and anything that flies except an airplane.

However, there are also some truly, truly delicious dishes in China that I have to admit I crave regularly. I love Chinese hotpot- a soup cooked at the table that you put your own meats and vegetables into. Sichuan food is infamously spicy and I miss the numbing peppercorns. Macao-style egg tarts are fantastically buttery and flakey. Cantonese dim sum has such an amazing variety of little dumplings and steamed dishes that come around in bamboo baskets stacked high on small carts. Beijing duck is juicy and tender with a perfect pairing of plum sauce and thin pancakes. Noodles are popular everywhere but slightly different in each restaurant. Also, there’s great barbeque on the street! The key to Chinese food is to order carefully. Many restaurants have picture menus, which helps a lot. Before I could speak Chinese, I sometimes had a waiter follow me over to another table so I could point at the dish I wanted! The food in China is so cheap that it’s often less expensive to eat out than to cook at home.

In larger cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, there are also many foreign food choices. Some are “good for China” (like a burrito, maybe it’s not quite right but because you’ve been missing burritos for so long, it’s close enough) and sometimes other options are truly superb! In Beijing, there were lots of restaurants with deals, like half price Monday or free beer Thursday. Keep your eye out!

 

Transportation

In China, there is a great variety of transportation. Within cities, there are usually tons of buses heading in every direction and Google maps can tell you which one to take and how many stops to your destination. Beijing and other major cities also have metro systems. Taxis are cheap too. Partway through my first year, I bought a bicycle. I felt more independent and explored further when I could get around on my own. Some cities also have motorbike taxis. I got so comfortable on them, that I bought an electric scooter once I moved to Beijing.

Gate in a hutong district of Beijing
Gate in a hutong district of Beijing

Travel within China

There are also trains and buses between cities for transportation all over the country. Chinese culture is very unique and absolutely fascinating. Each province has its own style, including food, architecture, dialect and flare. A highlight of living in China is visiting other places in China (and all around Asia). Some of the best known sights in China are the Great Wall of China in Beijing, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, the Bund District in Shanghai, Xi Hu lake in Hangzhou, the Yangtze River, the karst rock formations of Guilin, the pandas in Chengdu, the ice festival in Harbin, and Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan. There are quaint villages, intricately designed temples, diverse landscapes, delicious food, and smiling faces waiting in every destination. There is such a wealth of rich experiences to be had in China.

When I went home after living in China, I craved rice after a week. I honked my horn as I changed lanes. I relished opportunities to use my zhong-wen language skills in Chinese restaurants, even though the food was never quite the same. I smiled when other people complained about crowds, knowing how much busier it was in China. I watched tourists in San Francisco with longing, missing the excitement of exploring. Warning: if you teach abroad in China, you will never see the rest of the world the same. It’s an absolutely unforgettable experience. China is full of life and full of surprises. I learned so much about the culture and so much about myself there. If any or all of this sounds good to you, look into China!

By Katia Davis                                    For more from Katia, check out spoonfuloftravel.com

 

http://www.teflbarcelona.net

How to get your NIE Number in Barcelona, Spain

NIE

An NIE number, or “Número de Identificación de Extranjero”, is the essential number you need to work legally in Spain. Even if you don’t need a work visa, you need an NIE number to be legally employed. An NIE number is also required if you want to study, register with social services (such as the doctor), apply for a driving license, open a bank account, or even just get internet installed in your apartment.

Unfortunately, getting an NIE number in Barcelona can be an overwhelming task. It’s the first real encounter with Spanish bureaucracy for many people, and there’s plenty of potential for frustration and wasted time. Follow this guide, however, and you’ll be the proud owner of an NIE number in Barcelona in no time.

The process is different depending on your situation.

Staying for less than 3 months

If you’re only here for a short time, you’re in luck! The process is slightly easier – you just have to complete the relevant form, make an appointment online, and bring the form and two photocopies of your passport to the foreigner’s office.

Staying for more than 3 months

Getting your NIE number for more than 3 months requires showing that you will have sufficient funds to support yourself. You must prove one of the following:

• that you are employed, self­employed, or have a job offer

• that you have sufficient funds, including private health insurance

• that you are a student with sufficient funds, including private health insurance

• that you are here to join a family member (European Economic Area)

If you came to Spain looking for work, you might find yourself in a bit of a chicken and egg situation; the NIE office requires that you have employment or a job offer, but employers require that you have an NIE. You can solve this by applying for an NIE for less than 3 months, and then renew it once you’ve found work.

Does an NIE number expire?

An NIE number is for life. Once you have an NIE number, the number itself will not change. However, depending on your situation (for example, if you said you were staying for less than 3 months), the registration may expire. At this point, you will have to renew it.

Applying for your NIE number: gathering the documentation

There is a list of application forms on this page, – the one you need to print out and fill inNIE-ex15 is Solicitud de Número de Identidad de Extranjero (NIE) y Certificados (EX­15).

The official PDF file currently doesn’t work on some operating systems/browsers. If this is the case, or if you don’t have access to a printer, simply go to the nearest office and pick up a physical form there. Make sure you print off and fill in the form twice.

The form is in Spanish. Part 1 requires you to enter your personal details, like name, address, parents’ names. When entering your sex, be aware that “H” stands for “Hombre”, or male, and “M” stands for “Mujer”, or female. Part 2 asks for the details of your representative ­ if you’re filling out the form for yourself, you don’t need to write anything here. Part 3 allows you to enter a correspondence address that is different from your current address. Part 4 asks for your document details: 4.1 is document type (tick “NIE”); 4.2 is motive (economic, professional, or social); 4.3 is place of submission (wait until you’ve made your appointment to mark this); 4.4 is length of stay (“Estancia” is less than 3 months, “Residencia” is more than 3 months). Make sure you check the box marked “Consento” and enter the date as “(Barcelona) a (day) de (month) de (year)”. Sign your name in the box marked “Firma”.

Documentation checklist

Before you make your appointment, make sure you have the following documents:

• 2 filled in copies of the EX­15 form

• Passport, plus two photocopies

• Proof of your address in Spain (for example, an apartment contract)

• 2 recent passport photos

• NIE application fee (about 12 euros, but check online as it may have increased since this article was written)

If you’re applying for an NIE number for more than 3 months, you also need:

• Documents showing why you need an NIE number: normally a job contract or acceptance letter from a school, but could also be proof of funds that you can live in Spain without working, or a contract showing you’re about to buy something that requires an NIE number.

If you’re a non-­EU citizen, you also need:

• 2 photocopies of every page of your passport

• Proof of legal entry into Spain (such as a declaración de entrada, or landing card)

Applying for your NIE number: making your appointment

Once you have the required documentation, you must make your appointment online, hereBe aware that your appointment could be for several weeks after your actual application. To make the appointment, visit this page.

Note: Your browser may tell you that the website is unsafe – this is due to a misconfiguration of the websites security certificate. Unfortunately, if you want an NIE number, you’re going to have to continue on. On Chrome, select “advanced” and then “Proceed to sede.administracionespublicas.gob.es (unsafe)”.

To make the appointment:

1. Click “Acceder al Procedimiento” at the bottom of the page

2. Select “Barcelona”

3. When “Barcelona” is selected, a box should appear with a list of links. Select “Certificados UE.” if the box doesn’t appear, click “Aceptar”

4. Select “Certificados UE.”

5. Click “Entrar” at the bottom of the page

6. Fill in the form with your passport number and name, click “Aceptar”

7. Click “Solicitar Cita”

8. Select the office you want your appointment in. Be careful! You can only apply for your

NIE from the office in the same area as your address. If you live in Barcelona, this is

Rambla Guipuscoa 74, and you should mark “Oficina de Extranjeria” on part 4.3 of your

application form

9. Click “Siguiente”

10. Fill in the form with your contact details and click “Siguiente”

11. You will be giving up to 3 choices of time and date for your appointment – choose the one that is most convenient for you

12. Click “Siguiente”

13. Check the information you provided, and check the boxes marked “Estoy conforme con la información mostrada en pantalla.” and “Deseo recibir un correo electrónico con los datos de mi cita en la dirección que he proporcionado.”

14. Click “Confirmar”

15. You now have an appointment number, or “No de Justificante de cita”. Write this number down, or print the web page. Your appointment details should also have been emailed to you.

During peak months (September to November) you may find it very difficult to find an appointment; most of the time there will be no appointments available to make. Various rumours claim that new appointments are released at certain times, such as Sunday at midnight, or Monday mornings, but you’ll find that the website is very unresponsive at these times as everyone tries to make an appointment. There’s nothing you can do except keep trying – or, if you can, apply outside of these peak months.

Applying for your NIE number: going to your appointment

Your appointment confirmation should have the details of exactly which foreigner’s office you need to go to, and at what time. You may have to wait for several hours after your appointment time, but it’s still worth arriving 30 minutes early in case there is a queue at the reception desk. Don’t bother arriving before 9am, however, as this is when the offices open.

Make sure you have the documents in the checklist above, as well as something to write with.

When you arrive for your appointment, you may find that the receptionist gives you two forms to fill out. If these are identical to the forms you have already filled out, then don’t worry about them.

If they are different, you will have to rapidly fill these new forms out while you wait (good thing you brought a pen). You will also receive a ticket with your number in the queue.

Once your number is called, present your documentation. The person handling your case may not speak great English, but don’t worry, they are used to processing NIE numbers – you can just put everything on the table at once and they’ll figure it out. After processing everything, they will give you a piece of paper that you must now use to pay for your NIE.

To do this, leave the building and visit any nearby bank. Present the document to the bank teller and pay the NIE fee. They will give you a receipt proving you have paid. Take this receipt back to the foreigner’s office. Make sure you get a new queue ticket from the receptionist, wait some more, and finally give the receipt to the office. They will then print and present you with your NIE number in the form of a small, green, laminated card.

Congratulations! You have now navigated your first, and most essential, part of Spanish bureaucracy. However, you still have two important tasks left: apply for your social security number, and register at your local town hall.

By Christopher Drifter

www.teflbarcelona.net