5 Reasons to Teach English in Barcelona

Yes, I know – you sometimes think exciting things and dream job offers only happen to other people. I used to think so too. But then I decided to make these exciting things happen! It went like this:

A friend was telling me about her experiences while teaching English in China and I suddenly realized what I wanted: A fulfilling job in a beautiful foreign city! To teach English abroad and enjoy life fully! Sounds like a dream, right?

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Well, a lot of people are making this dream a reality. They all dared to take the first step – to become masters of their lives. And that’s what I did too.

After that, I just followed a few necessary steps with determination.

I chose a city I had always dreamed of – Barcelona. I put some effort into training. And I got the experience I had always wanted! Here are some more details about these steps.

Now, let me tell you the reasons why I’d suggest Barcelona to anyone following this path:

 

  1. Exquisite architecture

Walking through Barcelona is like wandering through a dream. This largely has to do with the famous architect Antoni Gaudί. He left his enchanting, playful mark all over the city.

His most famous work though is La Sagrada Famίlia, his unfinished symphony. It just takes your breath away. As do most of his creations.

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Come to think of it, Barcelona has it all; from the grand medieval towers to the wonders of modern architecture.

Let’s not forget its amazing parks and boulevards. You could walk for days there and never get bored!    

 

  1.       The possibility of learning another language.

Always wanted to learn Spanish? Or maybe you are interested in learning Catalan, the co-official language of Cataluña. Well, what better way than communicating with the locals daily… If you immerse yourself in the language, try to use it in everyday situations, without fear of embarrassment – you will get the hang of basics easily and then move on to more complex things.

Your students can be your teachers if you let them. It also makes the classes more fun! Anyone you meet around the town can teach you something. Just be open and go easy on yourself!

Spanish is the world’s second most spoken language. Also, it’s the language of the exciting rolled R, colorful idioms and pleasing melody. Just listen and drink it in!

 

  1. Art

Spain is home to an unrivaled artistic heritage and Barcelona a heaven of museums.

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Among these, best known are Picasso Museum, with around 3800 pieces by this controversial genius, Casa Batlló, one of the most iconic structures in the city, MNAC, with works from 1000 years of Catalan culture, and MACBA, the perfect place for modern art admirers.

Of course, there are many more museums in Barcelona for the art lover in you. All you have to do is choose!

  1. Food and holidays

Eating in Spain is not just a routine, it’s a celebration of life!

There’s a huge variety of regional dishes for you. Whether it’s paella from Valencia, gazpacho from Andalusia, or casseroles of Cataluña – you are guaranteed an amazing treat!

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It doesn’t matter if you eat at a neighbourhood tapas bar or in an ultra-modern restaurant – the food is fantastic!

Although you can find these dishes in Barcelona, why not try them in their original regions?

Sure, your job will be somewhat demanding, but you’ll also have time to travel! And, oh my, the things you can see…

Beautiful coastlines, the enchanting palace of Alhambra, ancient cities where different cultures merge, magnificent mountains…

Beauty awaits!

 

  1. Job security

 

There is an ample supply of students in Barcelona. The vast majority of Spaniards speak only a bit of English.

However, since English is more and more recognized as the language of future for tourism and business, many people are keen to learn it.

That’s where you come in. You can choose to work in a language school, give private lessons or teach in companies. Find what suits you best. That being said, you will need to get your NIE.

All in all, you won’t make a fortune, but you will live comfortably, enjoy your free time and save enough for trips!

Teaching English in a foreign country can be a transformational experience.

You will learn more about yourself. You will learn to adapt to various situations that happen in class and outside class. You will learn a lot about different cultures, make long-lasting friendships and gain unforgettable experiences.

Working abroad does wonders for your self-confidence. And also for your CV!

So take the first step!

By Dimitris Vlachos

To learn more about our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net

Teaching in Myanmar

 

Gold peaks of the tops of pagodas reach up toward the sky every couple of blocks here in Mandalay. Sometimes in the afternoons the sounds of monks’ chants ride the back of the breezes. Migrating birds glide by overhead. I experience all of this from the roof of our school.

After teaching English in South Korea and China, I had a change of pace in Turkey. By the end of my two years there, I ached to return to Asia. I missed incense and Buddha’s kind eyes smiling down at me when I visited temples. I missed the rice paddies that roll on for miles. I also really missed the sweet faces of the gentle children I’d taught. Once I started to look for jobs back in Asia, I found a position with a Montessori kindergarten in Mandalay, which sounded perfect so I snapped it up.

KG graduation with some of our class, all dressed up in traditional Myanmar longyi
KG graduation with some of our class, all dressed up in traditional Myanmar longyi

Teaching experience

Our school boasts the best English program in the city, with children learning every subject in English from primarily native-English speakers. The young students even speak to each other in English at recess. Our school recently became WASC-accredited which means children are learning an American style curriculum and could possibly transfer directly to an American school.

I work in the kindergarten, which is intended to be Montessori, but lacks some of the philosophy in the actual day-to-day practice. The children are divided into 3 age groups, nursery, pre-KG, and KG (kindergarten). Our classroom has 4 teachers, one Montessori-trained local co-lead, two Assistant Teachers and me.

In the morning, we have line time, where students sit together in a circle and learn about a weekly topic. Teachers guide them through songs and chants or read them stories. Sometimes we use Powerpoint presentations or photos to help them understand new concepts. These topics include things like water animals, transportation, nutrition, and community helpers.

Then we have Montessori work time where children direct themselves to lessons they know in areas of the classroom, including practical life, sensorial, math, language, cosmic, and art areas. We teachers show the students new lessons in each area when we feel they have mastered the ones they are working on.

Later the students go to the playground or PE, the cafeteria for lunch and Myanmar language lessons. Then the younger two levels go for nap time and the oldest kids stay with me for KG time.

In KG time, we learn in a more “traditional” way so they will be ready for first grade. We work on reading, writing, more detailed topics like phonics, grammar, stories, sequencing, friendship, scissor and craft skills, a bit of science, and anything and everything else the teacher can think of that might help for first grade. We have a curriculum, but it is a loose list of topics. There are also expectations for a high level of reading. After KG time/nap time, we have more lesson time and then another short line time where we review the morning’s topic before the students go home.

We are contracted from 8:30 to 3:30 with a weekly meeting (or two) before or after school. We also have extensive, detailed report cards that we must fill out along with parent meetings each quarter to discuss the report cards. We are also responsible for choreographing some kind of show for the students twice a year. We choose the song or play, teach it to them, and make or buy any costumes or props they need.

Accommodations

At our school, the teachers live on-campus. Each teacher is given a minimal studio apartment with a small kitchen and bathroom. Most teachers have decorated and furnished the apartment further to their liking. I bought vivid patterned textiles at the market and made pillows and other items to brighten up the room. Other schools’ teachers live off-campus in housing provided by their school.

The view from our rooftop
The view from our rooftop

Language

The Myanmar language is a tough one. From what I understand, the grammar is quite difficult and the sounds are too, because of the tonality of the language. I haven’t learned nearly as much as I hoped I would. Many people around town also speak English, which makes it easy to choose not to learn. Myanmar was once ruled by the British and their legacy brought their language.

My students are learning a lot of new English vocabulary and grammar, but there are some things they have trouble adjusting to. They often phrase questions out of order, like “Teacher is doing what?” or “They go where?” Also, they like to use the word “do” in place of many verbs and they don’t yet understand tenses. They also say, “he no call me” if their friend didn’t ask them to come play. They confuse a and e and struggle with a few other sounds like “th.” Many of their mistakes have been corrected enough that and if reminded they can fix them on their own.

Expat life

In Mandalay, there is a small community of expats. We hold regular quiz nights and sporting events. There are some places around town to hike. Largely, though Mandalay is a small enough place that you have to make your own fun.

The pace of life in Myanmar is a bit slower and things don’t get done quickly. Sometimes it’s nice to slow down and join in, but other times it can be frustrating.

Mohinga, a traditional Myanmar breakfast
Mohinga, a traditional Myanmar breakfast

Food

There are a couple of large grocery stores in Mandalay. Also, there are many of small local markets and women selling produce out of baskets on the side of the road.

Myanmar food includes curries, rice, and rice noodles. There are also some bready snacks and fried treats.

Around town, there are also Thai, Indian, Nepalese, Japanese, Chinese and Western restaurants.

Transportation

Most expats in Mandalay have a motorbike. In Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, motorbikes are not allowed. It’s essential to independence in Mandalay, we motorbikers would argue. There aren’t many options for public transportation, though our school has a twice-weekly bus to the grocery store. Otherwise, to get around you must call a taxi in advance to come to the school to pick you up. Our school is not centrally located in town so taxis and motorbike taxis aren’t exactly waiting outside like they do in other areas.

Temple Offerings
Temple Offerings

Travel within Myanmar

There are many interesting sights to see in Myanmar. Bagan with its thousands of pagodas is probably the most famous. Inle lake with its floating villages is also a big destination. Up the road from Inle, Taunggyi is popular for its balloon festival. Yangon has many famous pagodas and more expats and more Western conveniences. Also, the beaches in the south of Myanmar are quite nice. There are many day trips and over-night trips that you can take from Mandalay. My favorite is the old British hill station, Pyin Oo Lwin.

By Katia Davis

For more from Katia, check out katiayoga.com and spoonfuloftravel.com

To learn more about our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net

How did I get here?

6I think I must have been about 16 when I decided that I wanted to spend some time living abroad when I was older, of course I didn’t have a clue where that would be but it was something that appealed to me. I started playing with the idea of taking a gap year before university so I could travel around Europe a little, much like a lot of people my age who want a break before throwing themselves back into education. However, unfortunate circumstances meant that I had to retake of a year at college so that gap year idea went out the window as I thought I would never go to university if I left it too long and I did really want to go. A couple of years later I headed off to university with the intention of applying for the study abroad programme but owing to some miscommunication and some more unfortunate circumstances I managed to miss the deadline and realised I would have to find another way to spend a year abroad. That is what lead me to this point; sitting in my flat in Barcelona after spending my afternoon wandering around the city in the sun that’s making its glorious return after a chilly winter.

I don’t quite remember how I came across TEFL International (I think I simply Googled ‘Barcelona TEFL’) but it ticked all the boxes for me; I would get to study for a bit whilst I got comfortable with my new environment, I would get to meet people in the school and I would also have support. So I booked my place in February 2016 for the course beginning at the end of September and it was all set. I was going and a part of me wouldn’t accept it was happening until the first morning that I woke up and looked out of my window to see Sagrada Familia. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get more magical than that on your first day. At this point, it is very important for me to emphasise that doing a TEFL course isn’t easy. It is a very intense 4 weeks but I enjoyed learning so much about my own language. I had thought that I had come to Barcelona to improve my understanding of other people’s languages but instead I learnt things about my own that I had never considered, which was something I enjoyed immensely as someone who studied literature at university. The school was also really supportive in their efforts to help us apply for jobs by giving us a CV makeover and plenty of advice. Furthermore, the accommodation sourced by the school took a lot of stress off finding a place to live for a bit and finding a place to live in Barcelona can be a little tricky so it’s good to start looking at places before you arrive even. There are also companies that will help you find accommodation but they cost a bit extra so there’s is that to consider.

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I finished the course at the end of October and had my first students lined up for the very next week. I had been picked up by an agency that sources teachers for private classes in the student’s home. By December, I had more private classes that all took place in the evening, leaving me with the entire day to do as I pleased and I also had a mixture of adults and children, which kept things interesting. I even taught an intensive business class for six hours a day in one week and have been given a little translation work to do. The opportunities that present themselves are sometimes unusual but always a welcome surprise, you can find bits of work in strange places and making connections is always something that will help you keep a consistent form of income.

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I still only teach private classes, which aren’t always reliable as people can cancel and then that means you don’t get paid but that’s life as a private teacher! I would definitely recommend thoroughly researching getting a NIE before you move to Barcelona because it will make getting steady work a lot easier. It is also somewhat difficult for me to get more work as I often find people want classes at the same time a lot which restricts what jobs I can take on but what I earn so far is enough to pay my rent and bills but my savings have kept me afloat. I would suggest to anyone thinking of moving here to have a good safety net for peace of mind but I have still managed to go to Montpellier, Munich and places outside of Barcelona like Montserrat and Tarragona! The other great thing that has come out of doing the TEFL course and moving here is that I started my own blog to document my time here and as an aspiring writer, the move has given me a lot of drive and courage to put myself ‘out there’ a bit more.

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I moved here with the idea that I would get to immerse myself in another culture and experience this beautiful city but I have gained so much more from my decision to do a TEFL course, which facilitated the move. For one, it was a lot harder than I anticipated it to be at first. I didn’t know many people, I felt so distanced from home and things didn’t always go as smoothly as I anticipated (such as looking for a place to live after TEFL finished). However, I managed to work all these problems out in the end and although my time in Barcelona will draw to a close just before summer, I feel like I have made the most out of my time here and achieved what I wanted to and then some. I have successfully lived and worked in another country and had chances to travel. I have met a lot of different people and improved my Spanish language skills as well as learning bits of Catalan. My advice is, if you want to move abroad and do a TEFL course and you’ve been considering it for a little while then throw yourself in head first and do it. Things won’t always be easy all the time, things won’t always go as planned but when you look back you’ll only remember the good things and at the end you’ll become a more rounded, confident person. That’s something you can’t buy.

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By Hannah Murden

My blog: http://thegirlflaneur.wordpress.com

To learn more about our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net

A move to Barcelona

 

August 28, 2016. This was the date that I landed in Barcelona, just in time to start my TEFL course the following day. I arrived in the morning, so my hosts were at work and the other girl, who was going to start the TEFL course the next day with me, was still asleep. I was sitting on my bed in my room, with the fan blowing directly on me because it was a balmy 80 some degrees and there was no air conditioning, and I thought “what the hell have I gotten myself in to?”

I have always had anxiety. Ever since I was a little girl I hated to be separated from my family, from my comfort zone. Throughout college I did things to try and combat that; I took short trips offered through my school to Peru and India, my first time ever travelling without my parents. I tried yoga and exercise, I tried therapy, and, ultimately, I tried medication. It was once I got my anxiety as under control as I possibly could that I realized that I was emotionally strong enough to study abroad for a semester. By that time, however, it was my senior year of college, and I knew studying abroad during my final year would be too much additional worry to an already stressful year. So, I started thinking about living abroad after graduation.

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Sevilla

For a long time throughout my life I dreamed of living abroad. Living in an apartment in a big city in a foreign place… it was the ultimate dream. Then, upon applying and getting accepted to the TEFL Barcelona program through LanguageCorps, that dream became a reality. Could I really do this? Barcelona? I’d visited before, but for a day at the tail end of a Mediterranean cruise and, from what little I saw, I liked it. It checked off everything on my wish list: foreign country? Check. Big city? Check. By the ocean? Check. But could I live there?

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San Sebastian

So, the day came to leave on this adventure, and believe it or not I wasn’t as nervous as you might think. Sure, I cried when I left my home and my family and my dogs (mostly my dogs) but that was to be expected. I didn’t sleep for the flight up to Washington D.C., or for the entire eight-hour flight over the ocean, but again, I didn’t expect to. I actually didn’t cry until I was sitting in my bed after doing some brief unpacking, trying to nap, and it truly hit me that I was in a strange place, and that I would be living here. I couldn’t just drive 40 minutes down the road like I could in college if I felt homesick; this would be a commitment. I remember thinking “but really, what am I doing.”

That was probably sleep deprivation talking. Truthfully, my transition in to Barcelonian culture was as smooth as I could have hoped. When I woke up from my nap I went on a walk and explored a little, and then got dinner with my roommate. The TEFL class was interesting and filled with people from all over the world. The heat was extreme, but nothing that a North Carolinian such as myself couldn’t handle (if you’ve been to North Carolina during the summer you would understand). I enjoyed the tapas culture, and I do love a good sangria. I made more friends, and planned my living situation for the upcoming year.

 

Then, class ended and our stay at our hosts apartment ended and we were expected to find jobs and housing, and fast. Those following two weeks were some of the most stressful of my life. My roommate and I were in an Airbnb that was far away from the rest of our friends and where we were primarily looking for jobs. I had my purse stolen, which contained my wallet and phone, so that was a separate experience in and of itself. The date that we were supposed to move in to our apartment kept getting pushed back later and later, so we had to spend more money on our Airbnb. It was a nightmare, but it all came together in the end.

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Sevilla

Currently, I work at two language schools, both relatively close to my apartment. I am still looking for more work because I want to make extra money to travel; that is, after all, the reason I moved to Europe. I have been to various other cities around Spain, including Sevilla and San Sebastian. I also just recently travelled to Paris, my first big excursion.

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Paris

Throughout my time in Spain I have learned many things. First, keep your purse zipped and close to your body at. All. Times. Second, embrace the change, and roll with it. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone so many times in the past few months, but I truly believe that I have also learned so much about myself and the world through these experiences. I would encourage anyone to live abroad while they’re young, or to at least travel, and it turns out that teaching English in Spain was my ticket to do just that.

By Emily Vandermast

 

To learn more about our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net

A New Direction

 

I am a planner. Always have been, always will be, which is surprising considering the idea of knowing exactly where I’ll be next year (or in 10 years) is terrifying to me. I wanted to break free from the normality of life and its expectations. The normal progression we are expected to follow in order to become a ‘proper adult’. I knew for a while that I needed a big change in my life, particularly the opportunity to experience a new culture, language, and most importantly, the chance to…………. My friend had completed a TEFL course and lived in Barcelona for a year when I started to think, ‘maybe I could do this too?’ I’d been to Barcelona on holiday before and fell completely in love, always wishing to return. So when it came to choosing a TEFL course, it was only natural to investigate Barcelona and my friend’s recommendation, TEFL Barcelona. I knew immediately this was the course I wanted. The offer of practical experience was exactly what I was looking for, and the beautiful building the school is housed in was definitely another draw! From the moment I applied I was made welcome and provided with plenty of information and book recommendations to start preparing for the course. As the months flew by, I grew more and more excited (and nervous, let’s be honest), to start.

So on one bright, beautiful day in July I took my one way ticket and boarded the plane for Barcelona. The flight felt surreal, as if I had somehow stepped in to an alternate reality. I’d never flown on a plane by myself before so the experience, whilst terrifying, felt surprisingly empowering. The ham & cheese toastie I ordered certainly helped. (Sidenote: Brits- get used to a look of confusion on any Americans face when you bring up cheese toasties. They are adamant “grilled cheese” is the better term. Secretly, we all know the truth.) I had assumed there would be a mix of British and American students on the course, but this course was overwhelmingly American. I’ve made some fantastic friends and it’s been interesting to discover the small quirks and differences in our cultures and our shared language. Cheese toasties vs grilled cheese being one of them, I’ve also had to explain what a jumper is (sweater), dungarees (overalls), aubergine (eggplant), and courgette (zucchini). But I’ve also learned more about American college culture and the myth of fried sticks of butter has been dispelled (they’re sold only at funfairs, folks, they’re not a common thing.) If I had decided to do a TEFL course back in the UK, I would never have met such wonderful people who have shared in a mutual broadening of knowledge of experience. A wonderful aspect of the course was the grammar. As a native English speaker, we don’t learn our own grammar at school. It’s a difficult thing to describe, but we grow up hearing the various tenses used and in what context, which leads us to intuitively understand how to use the language. The only thing we can’t do is explain why or how. The Americans had a fantastic advantage over the other British student and me in that regard. For them it was a refresher, for me, it felt like working backwards to unpick everything that felt natural. Yet I’ve grown to truly enjoy grammar and delving in to various engaging methods to teach it. With each practical experience of teaching we did, the more I wanted to understand the grammar points. I loved the collaborative nature of the course, it was really one big group of people working together to learn and help each other. The tutors became part of that group so quickly and I was quite sad when the course finished that we wouldn’t all be going to the school and seeing everyone every day.

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One fear of mine was that my style of teaching might not be the ‘right’ way to teach. That there would be a particular recommended style one should mimic. However, through observing both experienced teachers, and my fellow students on the course, there really is a place for everyone’s own style. I’m quite calm and more traditional in my style, it’s what’s natural for me and that’s just as valid as teachers who are very energetic. So no matter your teaching style, there is a place and job for you in Barcelona. A friend contacted me about a possible job at the language school he works at. I emailed the director and we arranged an interview. I’m pleased to say that a week later I started teaching English! It was the most nerve-wracking experience but I enjoyed it so much. The last few months I’ve really grown in to the role, there’s been fantastic support offered by the other teachers. Despite all the materials available at the school, I couldn’t resist snapping up a few bargains advertised on facebook. One ex-English teacher was selling a National Geographic ‘Life’ book, which looked really interesting. It’s proven invaluable and has come in handy for preparing lessons so many times. What I love about my language school is the flexibility; generally the students will often follow a book, but there are many opportunities to incorporate extra materials or do themed lessons. With my 12 year old’s we did a Halloween theme back in October. We did a spooky story gap fill, word building using themed words and listened to a bit of music too. The past few months have been a real challenge but I’ve discovered things about myself which I didn’t think possible. For one, I have far more patience than I ever thought possible. Teaching feels so normal and natural that even on the occasions when the children aren’t in the mood and act up, I never feel truly irritated or angry. I’m firm but I never lose patience with them. I love teaching them and it undoubtedly sounds cliché, but when they respond and produce the language on their own, it feels so good! I feel so proud and it’s wonderful to see their progress. I teach adult students too and it creates a good balance. Having a mix of ages and abilities allows me to adapt my teaching style and different activities. I’m often asked which age group or which ability I prefer teaching, but I truly have no preference. There are so many benefits to teaching each, and each provides different challenges. Maybe I will feel differently this time next year, but for now, I wouldn’t change my groups for anything.

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The most frustrating part was before the job began and that was the time that I look back on with little fondness, and I now fully understand what other English teachers have told me. The dreaded NIE. The thought of applying for a NIE still gives me shivers. It’s worth the hassle because once it’s done with, it’s done. I needed the NIE and social security number in order to be taxed which means no paying for a doctor’s appointment. However, it was quite stressful. Everything shuts down in August and using the website to apply for an appointment took weeks and weeks. There was the consistent message, ‘there are no appointments available’, every single time. Then I heard of a mysterious app to download…..I found it on the google play store and downloaded it to my phone. It still took two weeks of checking every day with the same annoying message ‘there are no appointments available’. Finally, one Monday morning I woke up at 6am and for the next three hours I refreshed the page over and over and over…success at last! I had my choice of not one, but TWO appointment times. I felt ever so special. I chose on for the week after and got started on putting my documents together. I triple checked the website ensuring I had everything I needed. When I turned up to my appointment I was quite excited to finally get the NIE. I waited an hour and a half after my supposed appointment time before my number was called. I was at the desk for only two minutes before they turned me away saying I needed x, y, z. They’d added more things but hadn’t put it on the website. So it meant another trip back the next day. This time the only thing to report was be careful where you walk! Part of the NIE process is to go to a local bank who will stamp your form and you pay your processing fee, then return for your NIE card. A key feature of Barcelona is the numerous trees along the sidewalks. They tend to have either quite shallow or ridiculously deep ditches a few inches around them. I, being the sophisticated person I am, walked one leg in to one of the ridiculously deep ones. It couldn’t bring my mood down though, because at last I had my NIE!

It hasn’t all been work and stress though! I’ve had a lot of fun during my time here so far. The end of September saw the beginning of the festival, La Merce. On the Saturday many of the art galleries are open for free to the public. I went to MACBA, Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art, with a couple of friends. There was an exhibition all about Punk music and it was fascinating to see the various installations. The art scene in Barcelona is so rich in unique history, there are a fantastic number of galleries for any era or form of art you’re interested in. The highlight for me was a free, yes FREE again, gig by well-known artist Manu Chao. I went with a couple of friends and it was the most incredible atmosphere. So much excitement, so much energy and life…..it felt amazing to be there seeing it live. Everyone was just enjoying themselves and dancing. Even a little rain couldn’t stop people from enjoying the party! My favourite fact I’ve learned so far in Barcelona is exactly to do with the rain around the time of La Merce (living up to a British stereotype, I think?) Every year it rains during La Merce because it actually used to be the time of Santa Eulalia, but her festival is now in February. Santa Eulalia was so upset her festival was moved, that every year when La Merce begins, she can’t stop the tears from falling. Despite invoking the emotional turmoil of Santa Eulalia, I admire the local enthusiasm when it comes to festivals and traditions. There is always something happening, no matter the day of the week or the time of year. I follow quite a few Barcelona groups on facebook and there’s always another event to add to the calendar! Even without organised events, there are so many activities and things to see. I live near Parc Ciutadella and there’s a beautiful fountain to visit and a small lake where you can rent a rowing boat.

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After a row around the lake, another couple of delights I’ve shared with my friends are discovering the local food and beaches. If you come to Barcelona, you have to have tapas and paella. Fortunately, I don’t think I will ever get sick of tapas. I could eat tapas every day and still want more. I just love it. The variety of foods to choose from, the patatas bravas of course, bacalao (salt cod), and manchego cheese are just a few of the wonderful options. I am quite proud of myself for becoming fluent in ordering tapas and drinks. The downside being the staff think I truly am fluent which is not the case yet! Paella is another favourite of mine, obviously, but there are also a surprising amount of places to get burgers. I’m certainly not complaining but I didn’t realise just how many there would be there. My friends and I have gone on quite the culinary adventure around Barcelona, trying Mexican food, burgers, pizza and tapas. We’ve also found a few gelato places that are lovely too. The food by the beaches tends to be more expensive so for now I haven’t tried them. The beaches themselves, oh this was definitely a huge factor in choosing Barcelona. To be a short metro or train ride away from a beach is just too appealing an opportunity to miss. Coming from Birmingham in the UK, having the choice of beautiful beaches has been wonderful. Now that it’s nearing Christmas, it has been a while since I last went but the temperature stayed delightfully warm for a long time so there was plenty of opportunity to visit. I’m so grateful for the times I’ve shared with the friends I’ve made. Simply spending time together at the beach, or on the times where we don’t want to spend money eating out, combining some money to cook a big meal together. I was really excited to be able to share one of my favourite comfort foods from back home with my American friends; the humble Shepherd’s Pie. I moved to Barcelona because I needed a change and I certainly achieved that. What I have found too, is a renewed appreciation for Britain, especially our funny words and phrases, our love of idioms, metaphors, phrasal verbs and collocations. So many students will happily spend time asking you questions about the UK and the little quirks of our culture.

It’s quite funny how being British makes people really want to know more about you. I’ve found no matter where I go, I end up in conversation with someone who, as soon as I say, ‘Soy inglesa’, from then on only wants to talk about Britain. I met a woman at the bus stop after work, who was carrying an enormous suitcase and asked for my help to get it on the bus. I said I would help and once on the bus, we started talking. It turned out she’s French and had just moved to Barcelona that day and was on her way to her apartment. Once she found out I’m a teacher, she wanted me to teach her English! The same thing happened at a language exchange I went to. I went with the hope to practice Spanish and help people with English. However, as soon as people hear English and English teacher, all they want to do is speak English. I went the whole night speaking around 4 sentences in Spanish. Whilst I’m very proud to be an English teacher and to have earned my qualification, it’s a good idea to not always tell people what you do for a living! But in another respect it is quite nice too. My one student wants her English classes taught in the context of British culture. The classes are relatively new so we haven’t done much but we will be looking at the history of tea soon! Whilst I have this renewed appreciation, I know my time in Barcelona is far from over. There are still so many things to see and do. There is a lot of exploration to do beyond Barcelona too. For now I see myself staying for two years and then who knows? With the TEFL certificate there are more opportunities available than ever before. I’m thinking of South Korea, or perhaps a Nordic country. What I am most grateful for is that the option is there. The ability to travel and experience new countries is far easier with the TEFL and it’s a decision I’ll never regret.

By Erin Shakespeare

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

What to expect from a TEFL Barcelona course

When traveling to Barcelona and enrolling in the TEFL Barcelona Course, it is difficult to know what to expect. Of course, you can read everything ever written about traveling in Europe, and investigate the experiences of the wanderers before you, but there is one thing missing from any and all research you could possibly conduct: YOU.

Before I delve into the many ways this venture can be an amazing personal learning experience, I think it is important that I cover some of the basics of what you should expect from the TEFL course itself! The course is extremely thorough, and you can expect to gain all the necessary skills, initial experience, (and later, employment advice/support), that you would need to successfully find, and sustain work in the English-teaching sector (both in Barcelona, and all over the world).

The training program can be thought of as being divided into two distinct segments: first, a focus on building a solid foundation of knowledge for effectively teaching ESL (both in terms of understanding the English language itself, i.e. grammar; and in terms of different teaching strategies). Second, a unique emphasis on providing students with real, in-classroom experience with real students, and the necessary skills for successfully communicating with students, (including lesson planning and extensive, personalized guidance, support, and feedback, both from instructors, and peers). The course is designed to challenge you, however, it also is conscious to build upon language, teaching, and communication skills in a natural, holistic, and realistic progression that can be adapted to suit your personal learning pace with readily-available help from the SUPER easy-going and personable staff (really, people in Barcelona are SUPER easy going!

Now, onto the ways in which YOU, personally, will likely be challenged through travelling to Barcelona and partaking the TEFL International Course. Again, these experiences and ideas I discuss here are going to vary from person to person, however, I think there are definitely some more general experiences that many people have in common, and things that you can begin to look forward to experiencing first-hand!

Firstly, you can expect to be challenged socially, and culturally. From the moment you arrive in Barcelona, you will be immersed in a unique, and prominent culture that is prideful about its traditions (for example, the friendly Spanish social greetings, later meal-times, longer meal times, and even, a more casual clothing attire!). This will be extremely nerve-wracking, but also beyond exciting! Many students of the TEFL program stay with host families (English speaking) – this is definitely an opportunity to take advantage of, as it will give you a fully immersive experience and provide you with a built-in local contact (it’s also great value for money!). Personally, getting to know my host (who also just happened to be an English teacher), and her family, was one of the most memorable parts of my Barcelona experience- we still stay in contact! What’s more, I was lucky enough to have a flat mate who was also participating in the TEFL course (although everyone on the course gets their own private bedroom) – this was great as I had someone to explore the city with!

In class, you will get to work with extremely friendly and supportive local students (with varying levels of English capabilities), which will provide you with another awesome opportunity to engage with the local culture, which is RICH in many ways (food, entertainment, nightlife, art, history, etc.). Beyond this, Barcelona is an International Hub – you will certainly have the opportunity to meet, and get to know people from all over the world, and with hugely wide-ranging backgrounds: this will serve you with a fresh, and broader perspective. Simply within our TEFL Barcelona course group, we had students from the United States, the U.K., Eastern Europe, wider-Spain, France, Puerto Rico, Andorra, and myself, from Bermuda. Generally speaking, if you are willing to put yourself out there, relax, and go with the flow, there is SO much for you to experience by yourself, and alongside new friends. It is truly an incredible experience to be a part of bringing together so many different backgrounds in the same moment, and it is an experience that can easily turn friends into lifelong family.

You can expect to be challenged academically, and organizationally. As I have already suggested, this course is not just a walk in the park: it involves developing a thorough understanding of how the English language works, and furthermore, having the confidence and ability to use this knowledge practically, and TEACH others how to understand and use the language for themselves. (English grammar is not as straight-forward as you think it is!) You will learn how to develop efficient, and effective lesson plans, and most importantly, learn how to stick to them! Your course instructors are going to push you to your full potential, and demand the absolute most from you, but they will also provide you with all the guidance, support (both professionally and personally), and detailed, personalized feedback you will need to be successful (although, as with most things, the more you give, the more you get!) Personally, I can say with confidence that the lessons I learned from, and the friendships I developed with the TEFL Barcelona tutors will have a lasting impact on my societal, academic, and educational outlook.

All the classes you teach are in English, so you will have to learn to communicate clearly and confidently with those that are still developing their English language skills. This will be an extremely personal and academic challenge as you will become increasingly aware of the language you use regularly (and perhaps, its greater societal/linguistic implications), and consequently, develop the ability to adapt your own language usage on-the-spot, to fit any given situation (whether it be in the classroom, to accommodate a range of abilities, or simply wider, every-day application). In one of the lessons I taught, I went through 7 or 8 different explanations/definitions/examples to describe a term before the student understood what I was trying to communicate. Your vocabulary will certainly be tested, as well as your ability to communicate coherent ideas (often in their most simplified form, which means you really have to know what you’re talking about). Most importantly, your resilience will be tested, alongside your ability to remain calm, and work through, and maintain control of any classroom situation (or any situation which may be culturally implicated in some way).

As I have outlined, through your experience in Barcelona and the TEFL Barcelona course, you will have the chance to challenge yourself socially, culturally, academically (linguistically), and organizationally, as well as embrace the opportunity to test your confidence (particularly in unfamiliar situations) and finally, assess and develop your communication skills…. and more! For many, these various proponents of the cumulative experience prove to be challenging, but also HUGELY fulfilling (again, both professional and personally). How will you ever know what you are capable of and what you can achieve if you never test yourself, and step outside of your comfort zone? TEFL Barcelona is the perfect situation in which to explore the world, AND yourself. I have focused a lot on the challenges you may encounter during your time in Barcelona and with this course, however, ultimately, these challenges will boost your confidence, provide you with perspective and unique experience, and allow you to test, discover, and develop your current, and emerging abilities in a safe, nurturing environment.

If you don’t know what to expect, you are in EXACTLY the right place, because you are in the perfect position to be surprised by the potential of what’s around you, and surprise yourself with what you are capable of. That being said, it can be useful to prepare: read about Barcelona (the places and the people), research the curriculum that will be covered in the course (and start reviewing), read past student’s testimonials to gain confidence, and take time to familiarize yourself with the city to get a head-start (maps are your friends). Do all of these things in order to get excited about the possibilities, but most importantly, go in with an open mind! Personally, I did not know what to expect from my travels to Barcelona, or from the TEFL Barcelona course, but ultimately, any expectations I could have ever had were exceeded. It was truly an amazing opportunity in which to grow in many ways, and also get to know myself better. I know the impact of my experience in Barcelona will be lasting (both personally, and professionally), and I hope to return to Barcelona to continue with English teaching soon after I graduate from University in the coming year!

 

By Katie Ewles

 

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

Paid to travel

Gypsy. Hippie. Wanderlust. Crazy. Travel-bug. These are among the many things I’ve been referred to in my life. Call it what you want, but what it comes down to is simple- I LOVE to travel. Many people claim to love to travel; but it takes a specific person to fully commit and make traveling a “career.” Just the fact that you’re reading this post tells me that you’re interested in doing so. I’m going to try my best to paint a picture of what my life in Barcelona is like so you can see what being paid to travel really does look like.

First off let me explain my background. I was born and raised in the United States; during which time I went on countless road trips, saw sites all over the US, and even visited various areas of Latin America. During my time at University, I studied abroad in Seville, the south of Spain, for six months. This was the moment my true love for Spain began. I knew from the first month in Spain that I had fallen in love with a country. While I had to go back to the US at the end of my study abroad program, I always knew I would return one day! Five years later, I have finally returned to my beloved country- but this time I chose to do so in a city with a beach- Barcelona!

After many goodbyes, hugs, kisses, and a few tears I hopped onto a plane and started this crazy next chapter of my life. The flight over was quite nice actually. They had an incredible selection of movies to choose from and wine was free! The first few days after arriving were filled with naps and wandering. I spent a great deal of time just walking around and getting used to the area. If I wasn’t doing that, I was trying to catch up on sleep; jetlag hit me hard! The following Monday morning we began our program at TEFL Barcelona. I should preface that I have a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and master’s degree in education; yet I found this training program to be one of the best courses I’ve taken. It was challenging, thorough, fun, exhilarating, and beneficial. I would attend class 5 days a week with 15 other adults of various ages. We came from all parts of the world, but had one common goal- to become certified English teachers. We bonded immediately and became a close group of friends (an important thing in a month long intensive program). Our teachers were incredibly helpful and pushed us to constantly do more and be better. Basically we had to relearn the entire English language again- hitting nearly every grammar point and learning the entire phonemic alphabet. Now you may be thinking “Claire you speak English, you should be fine.” I’m going to stop you right there. I’d be curious to know how many of you know about future perfect, past perfect continuous, and the 5 different types of conditionals. It was a refresher on what everything is and why it’s used. Having taught various levels of English since this course, I could not be more thankful for the preparation!

In addition to relearning all aspects of English, the program also offered hands on teaching experience. After two days of introduction into the course, we were immediately sent in to begin teaching! Our teachers provided the materials and then worked one-on-one with us to prepare an engaging lesson. We would brainstorm the best way to explain grammar points, how to introduce vocabulary, and my personal favorite- games to play. After a couple hours of preparation time, our students would start arriving and we’d hit the classrooms. We had students of all levels, from beginning to advanced, as well as all ages. The students were eager to learn and incredibly friendly, quite ideal for a first batch of students. Through these lessons I was able to see which things worked well in the classroom, and which things I shouldn’t repeat again. Forcing us to get into the classroom early, as opposed to simply learning about teaching, was a brilliant idea and I am incredibly grateful.

After our month at TEFL Barcelona was up, our program was concluded with a small graduation party. We gathered one last time and were given our certificates; the certificates that meant we were employable anywhere in the world. Take a second to think about that. This certificate means I am certified to teach English, which means I could work anywhere in the world that has a language school AKA I can travel anywhere in the world and get paid for it! Internationally employable, I like the sound of that! One of our students baked a cake, we toasted with cava, and said our farewells!

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The program was over, and the “real” world was about to start: it was time to start applying for jobs. As I started to look more at the job market here (with guidance from my teachers at TEFL), I discovered a few things. There is no chance of me working at a traditional school since I’m not Spanish. So that leaves two options: a language academy or teaching private classes. I posted an add online to teach private classes and got 23 hits in 2 days. At that moment, I thought I could be spending all of my time here in Spain teaching private lessons. However, I also interviewed at various language academies for a more steady position. I sent out a mass email to directors of various language schools and heard back from about twelve different schools. I set up interviews with seven different schools and met with the directors. My decision came down to three things: how much would the school pay me, how many hours a week would I have to work, and how close is the school to my apartment. After many interviews, I chose a school simply five metro stops from my house. I work for the school 16 hours a week, and teach two private classes on the side. Yes, I am working less than 20 hours a week to make a living here in Spain! Remember when I said paid to travel. Working a 18hour workweek, I make enough money to cover rent and still live incredibly comfortably. The majority of my time is spent on the beach, wandering around the city, meeting friends for sangria and tapas, and traveling around Spain.

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Barcelona is a crazy city full of activity. There are constantly things to do and festivals are held nearly every weekend. As I mentioned before, I lived in a neighborhood named Gracia for the first month in Barcelona. I was lucky enough to be living there during the “festival de gracia.” I honestly didn’t have many expectations about what the festival would be like; maybe a couple nights of music and vendors set up throughout the squares. Man was I wrong! This festival was insane. It lasted an entire week, without stopping. There were 12 different stages set up around the neighborhood- and they all had events all day long. There were group dinners, concerts, DJs, children’s events, dances, comedians, etc. Anything you can think of, they had it! Each stage or “area” chose a theme to decorate. For example, the square 10 steps from my front door was a flower garden. One street was under the sea, another was outer space, another Candyland. There was a roller disco, a shipwreck, a California theme (surfing on one side and Hollywood on the other), and my personal favorite a pirate ship! The best part was 80% of the decorations are made from recycled materials. It was STUNNING to see the displays they created! The concerts were a blast as well. About half the songs they performed were in English, which was just hysterical to me. Mostly because the musicians knew the majority of the song, however there were parts they didn’t know the words to and they would just start mumbling instead of singing. I heard classics like “Hotel California” to throwbacks like “I saw the sign” to newer songs like “Hello.” The only downside to the festival was the stage right outside my flat was still going strong till about 3am every night. It was a challenge to sleep that week for sure!

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About a month later was the festival de la Merce AKA a huge festival happening all over the city and let me just say it was INSANE. Ever since I opened my first Spanish textbook many many years ago, I have wanted to see “castellers” in person. Castellers are the human towers that are built by people climbing each other and standing on one another’s shoulders. Well thanks to this festival, I finally saw them in person and it was every bit as great as I ever imagined!

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This was a four-day festival that was basically all about parades. They have “giants” that are created specifically for this festival that represented different saints, professions, famous people, etc. One person stands underneath this giant and walks all around tiny streets in the Gothic Quarter jammed packed with people. When I was leaving one evening I stumbled upon a street where they had all be set up so that you could take pictures with them. They were about 2 or 3 times the height of me! Another parade was all about dragons and beasts. I was able to get a close spot to watch the start of the parade. Let me paint a picture for you- I’m standing in a square completely full of people, right at the entrance. There is a band playing music and the announcer says the equivalent of “release the beasts!” Two dragons come out and start walking closer and closer to me. I’m thinking “wow, these are really ornate and cool. What a fun parade” and BAM five feet away from me fire bursts out of the dragons mouth! To say it caught me off guard would be an understatement! I jumped back in shock before immediately getting my phone out to snap photos. From that point on about 30 different beasts were released, each as impressive as the next, each breathing fire. As the last dragon disappeared off into the parade, I turned to leave the square and a local Spaniard grabs my arm and insists that I stay in the square for a while longer: “No, you can’t leave yet. The next part is the best part”. Tad confusing right? Well turns out as the parade continued down the road, it was time for a light show! It. Was. Awesome. They had multiple projectors and lights appear on the government building across the square and completely transformed it. I honestly have no idea how to actually explain how cool this was, so check out the photo below.

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Right now, you might be thinking “oh what a fun festival!” Let me stop you right there, that was ONE DAY of the festival. Crazy right!? Each day presented incredible sights, but don’t worry I saved the best for last. Have you ever heard of a correfoc? No, google it right now. Honestly, go google it; watch a youtube video; I’ll give you time…..So, “correfoc” translates to a “firerun” in English. I will personally refer to it as “the time I danced with fire in the streets.” There is a giant float created each year to represent the gates of hell, set up in a large area of the streets. A firework show kicks off the correfoc to show the gates of hell coming alive and spitting fire. Then devils and beasts are released from the gates of hell to wreck havoc on the streets. Hundreds of people dressed as devils run along the streets carrying sticks of spinning fire with them. I’ve never seen anything quite like these firesticks/fireworks. They were literally sticks they would hold above their head that spin and emit little drops of fire and almost create the illusion that it is raining fire. It’s a stunning sight honestly. Additionally the dragons and beasts from the previous parade are released and are spitting fire as well (not regular fire like before, the spinning drops of fire). The first part of the correfoc I was in shock and couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Oh, I forgot to mention a key part: I read online before hand that I needed to wear long sleeves, pants, tennis shoes, and a hood would be a good idea- sounds promising right? Now keep in mind Spain is very different than the States. Its completely acceptable for people to be running in the streets with fire, but one step further than that- its also completely acceptable for those people to run into the crowds with fire! The first time one of the devils came at me, I jumped up and ran behind a friend. However, slowly the crowds get used to the fire and people were literally running into the streets with the devils and embracing the raining fire. I was still a little skeptical, until one friend grabbed my hand and pulled me into the street with him. I figured what the hell and just decided to embrace it! So for the next two hours I ran and danced in the streets with devils and beasts while it rained fire!! At one point I was arm in arm with a devil dancing underneath the fire stick. It was simply exhilarating. This was one of those moments of my life when I felt the most alive and nearly unstoppable. Now let me be clear- I came home with holes all over my jacket and pants. I had burns marks up and down my hands for a few days, and my shoes were basically black. My ears were ringing for about a day afterwards because it was the loudest three hours I’ve ever experienced. But I wouldn’t have traded that night for anything!!!

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While the festivals and parades in Barcelona are incredible, my favorite moment to date happened a few Sundays ago. I woke up in my new home, opened the doors to let the sunshine in, and went to make a cup of coffee. Once the coffee was ready, I stood on my terrace, coffee in hand, with the smell of fresh bread coming from the bakery below my flat, while a performer played music on the street, and watched “the Spanish life” happen below me. There were people in a café next-door smoking and drinking coffees. There were elderly people sitting on park benches chatting away. Countless people were out walking their dogs, riding bikes, pushing strollers, or carrying groceries. I saw families set off towards the beach, gear in hand. I watched a young girl play badminton with her dad. It wasn’t anything over the top (like dancing with fire) but it was everything I envisioned my life in Spain to be. I am already incredibly grateful for this experience and glad I worked up the courage to take a chance and move across the world to be “paid to travel.”

By Claire Nicholas

 

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