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

 

Hong Kong

12047018_10153837180213900_6897927075211857545_nI have never been one for planning much in advance, always finding myself enjoying not quite being able to answer the ‘five year plan’ question and frequently dodging my mum’s requests to open an ISA and ‘start thinking a bit more long-term’. Having said that, I must admit even I was a little bit surprised when after a split decision in a day, I found myself applying for English teaching jobs in Hong Kong on the basis of a short Facebook mail update-turned-invitation from a likeminded and reliable guy I had lived with for a couple of months in my first year of university. I’m not shy about rolling my eyes at the ever-present and somewhat condescending ‘quit your life and start again somewhere else’ industry but something felt inexplicably right about a move to Hong Kong and for the first time in a while, I was bouncing my legs in excitement under the desk as I typed out what I could offer a private English playgroup and kindergarten in Tsueng Kwan O, a bay area in the Sai Kung district north of Hong Kong island.

To give some sort of context, I had recently completed my TEFL qualification after a four week ‘on-site’ course in Barcelona and absolutely fallen in love with the way of life it provided. My class was small and we gelled quickly, I spent lunch times drinking coffee in the breezy October sunshine, laughing with my new friends and digesting my first few encounters of teaching the present perfect tense to students who were far more interested in whether or not I supported Scottish Independence, giving a knowing smile when they saw through my practiced neutral response. I loved the honesty of the classroom, the agreed willingness to be a bit vulnerable as a 45 year old adult learning from a newly trained 21 year old girl. My natural enthusiasm for teaching English was developed by my course tutors, who had the kind of patience and understanding only those dedicated to what they do, ever can. Also add a seemingly endless internal resource for every teaching query you could think of. They taught me that teaching internationally will be good to you, but the flip-side of that is professionalism and respect for your work. I learned the importance of thoughtful preparation, time-keeping, open-mindedness and not missing a chance to let the students do the talking. I developed everyday skills alongside teaching ones, all against the backdrop of beautiful autumnal Barcelona.

I interviewed for two jobs towards the end of my course in Barcelona, encouraged by a fantastic career guidance counselor. He was expert in curriculum, documents and paperwork, where you should be looking for work, what your rights are as a teacher in Spain and what particular schools expected in interviews. I couldn’t have asked for more in terms of guidance and support. With the help of his wisdom and tips, I was offered a full-time job following my second interview. But with an unfortunate turn of events, an illness in the family sent me home to Glasgow with haste and I had, for all intents and purposes, put my new life in Barcelona on hold. Although it was in difficult circumstances, I was home in time for Christmas with the first seed firmly planted on how I wanted to spend my future.

By the time my family member had been given the ‘all-clear’, I had been home for just over six months and had taken a convenient but somewhat soul-destroying job in telesales. My coffee and sun-filled days of meeting learners of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and personalities began to feel like a distant memory and I was most certainly what they call ‘stuck in a rut’. Lucky then that, out of the blue, my old friend from university messaged me asking if I had considered teaching work in Asia after my stint in Barcelona.  What did I stand to lose? Absolutely nothing. What did I have to gain? New friends, new city, new lessons, new love, new opportunities, new stories, new challenges, new apartment, new job, new coffee, new sunshine. I’ll assume you understand me when I say the decision was not a difficult one. Yes, I’d miss my family and my friends but are they really your family and friends if they don’t say ‘you absolutely must go and do this, it’s your time!’?

To give myself the best chance of stability on the other side of the world (in other words I didn’t take enough money for a quick flight home without making a wage first) I secured a job before I arrived in Hong Kong. After a 20 minute Skype interview at 5:30am, my new boss was a firm, inquisitive but smiley Chinese woman who ran a private early learning center for English as a foreign language. I booked my one-way flight a week before I left and said my goodbyes for a year of Cantonese adventure.

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I got a fright when I moved to Hong Kong. It was intense, overwhelmingly humid, unrelentingly loud and I quickly discovered my boss disliked my Scottish accent and thought it was ‘unfair on the kids because they’re used to correct British English accents’. I did try to explain, on a few occasions, that British accents are inclusive of Scottish accents but she was reluctant to give up our weekly ‘pronunciation practice’ in which I would work with her one-to-one and we would repeat the sounds of the alphabet ‘correctly’. I was making really decent money for my first full-time teaching job, roughly 2000GBP a month but I found myself absolutely exhausted. I worked 9am until 7pm from Monday to Saturday and was given 7 days annual leave allowance. I think my inexperience and desire to get started had landed me in a job I didn’t suit. At all. I had never taught playgroup or Pre-K kids before and I quickly missed fluid two-way conversation, opinions and questions about grammar and vocabulary. I felt like I was performing all the time- for parents, the kids and for my boss. I formed a solid respect for those who dedicate their time to children and their development, because at the end of the day, the kids deserve someone who can genuinely sing the days of the week once every hour and know it’s helping them in some way. However, I am not that person and it took me a while to realize that doesn’t make me a bad one either.

On the flipside, I had found some of the best adults I had ever met in Hong Kong and that’s what kept me going. They were a group of friends who had just started a magazine, they listened to great music and reassured me it was all going to be okay. I spent my first few months in a hot sticky summer punctuated with typhoons and some of the best food I had ever eaten with some of the best friends I’d ever make. I would finish work late, head out to Temple Street market for fresh crab and cold beer and uncontrollable bouts of laughter. I would dance and sweat in the streetlights of the bustling city with tiny hidden speakeasy bars and clubs that felt like someone’s living room in the best kind of way. We’d venture out to the amazing beaches I never knew existed. I couldn’t believe the diversity Hong Kong offered in terms of lifestyle. You could hike in places that felt like deep, lush Vietnamese jungle or have free flow champagne brunch on a rooftop above the sleepless streets of Tsim Sha Tsui. You could rock-climb and swim to deserted beaches and in an hour be back in time for fast-paced dim sum lunch in Central. I had found my people, I was slowly finding my place but my work had to change if I wanted to find a home.

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And so after really giving it my all and beginning to feel like a weekday zombie in one of the most exciting places I had ever been, I bucked up the courage and made my plea to terminate my 12 month contract 5 months early because it’s what was right for me and for the kids. My boss was furious and told me I was irresponsible and childish for not ‘keeping my professional word’. She told me she would charge me my salary for every month I failed to work, and suggested I leave her office and think about what I was doing.

After an hour of doing tearful laps around the shopping mall where the learning centre was, I received a message from my boss saying she understood and agreed it was the right thing to do. And just like that, my ‘half-life’ in Hong Kong began to open up like a flower.  Through a friend, I landed a new job with EF Englishtown and was happy to take the pay-cut and 9pm finishes for a life spent around people who valued me as a teacher and as a person. My role was full-time NET teacher, which meant I also took part in ‘lifeclub’ activities, events all over Hong Kong that brought the ‘real-life English speaking experience’ to the students. We would have beach days, hikes, movie nights, dinner nights, parties, kayaking, cycling, art and craft events and we were paid to help organize and enjoy them. I taught for 4 hours a day and the rest was sharing ideas, lesson planning and hosting events in our center with some of the best colleagues I’d ever had.

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Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always easy and the 9pm finishes and weekend work (I started at 1pm) often wreaked havoc on social plans or any kind of dinner routine. One of the biggest challenges I found whilst teaching adults in Hong Kong was that many prioritized when they could come to class and not what they were learning so it wouldn’t be rare for me to be teaching an advanced level class and somehow half of them were elementary level confused but often unwilling to voice their frustration. I began to understand that teaching was a personal thing to me, be that good or bad, I was determined to have my students learn something in my class in an engaging way and got very upset with myself if I felt I hadn’t achieved  that.

The next two and a half years FLEW by. They flew by. My new job at EF had allowed me far more time to take trips abroad and I managed to visit New York over Chinese New Year in 2014 where I fell in love with an Englishman who moved to Hong Kong to join me. We got scooters in Malaysia, onsens in Japan, sunsets in the Philippines, wildlife in Sri Lanka and bicycles in Guilin. I would often close my eyes, open them and thank whoever or whatever told me to take a chance on Hong Kong. I said thank you for it not always coming easy, because it felt all the more valuable.

I learned that teaching is what I’m about, so I carried it on after I left Hong Kong. It was time for something new. I’m now teaching at an academy for international students (mostly from Europe) in East London alongside studying for my masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching. The money and hours are decent because of my experience in Hong Kong. Teaching is the first thing I did professionally and felt like the hours didn’t drag because I was engaged in something I honestly felt was important for me (the travel, the opportunities, the lessons, the new people) and for my students. I think perhaps it’s too easy these days to say ‘I only started teaching because I didn’t know what else to do and I wanted to travel’ but is that really enough? Are you giving yourself, and your adventure, credit where credit is due? The main elements of teaching, especially teaching a second language, are exactly how I’d like someone to describe my adventures; challenging, communicative, sometimes frustrating, fun, surprising but above all else – worthwhile.

So what’s left to say now but a quote from Mandela that I remind myself of often; ‘There is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’.

By Erin Docherty

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

Going on vacation…and 6 years later I’m still here

I had posted on Facebook ‘Hey guys, burn me a cool CD with a mix of your favorite songs, I’m going to Europe for a little while”. This was 2010 when people actually still used CD’s. It’s always a long story kept short as to how one ends up in Barcelona, but the common denominator is that it pulls you in and, no matter how long or short your stay, Barcelona will always hold a place in your heart.

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The mixture of the old in with the modern is enchanting

In my naïve, 24-year-old mind I was going to come, freelance as an English teacher, and make enough money to travel around Europe for 3 months until my tourist visa ran out. I did my research to find the best TEFL school and signed up for TEFL Barcelona because I loved the idea that they mass-emailed your curriculum out after the course to a lot of the English academies in the city. So, I packed up my things and off I went!

My TEFL course was amazing, I had a small class and we all bonded immediately, and I personally paid a lot of attention and took a lot away from the course. It was really nice that we had so many practice teaching hours too because it forced me straight away into the position that I would later find myself in at my first job. When I had to plan and execute my first paid classes, I was obviously nervous, but I felt I was prepared. The one-to-one project, little did I know, would also develop a skill set vital to the success of my future business in Barcelona.

To celebrate graduating (and surviving a month of shenanigans in a foreign country!) six of us girls (3 Americans, a Canadian, a British girl, and a Bermudian) bought a cheap ticket to Rome and TORE the town UP! It was by far, the craziest, funniest weekend of my life! And two days after getting back I got a phone call from an English academy saying that she had received my curriculum from TEFL Barcelona, that the teacher they had hired had found a different job, and they were looking for a teacher from then (September) until the end of June. AND, in a crazy stroke of luck, the school just happened to be two blocks from where I was living. SOLD.

The first year I was only being paid 685 euros a month, but I was just so happy to be living abroad and enjoying the sunshine and year-round good weather. Plus, I felt so good physically after having changed from the American diet to a modest Mediterranean one of garbanzos, bread with olive oil, oranges, flan etc. And since I often walked everywhere, I was in the best shape I had been in since I was 16! I didn’t even really miss the money because I shared an apartment with some nice people and a lot of the things that my friends and I liked to do didn’t cost a lot of money anyway. You can ride bikes, explore the Gothic quarter, there are free movies and concerts all the time, hit the beach, walk around Gracia and window shop, check out the museums when they have their free days, go hiking up to Tibidabo, amazing street festivals…the list is almost endless.

And that is basically how my I got sucked into the charm of it all. The first nine months blew by. Then I stayed to enjoy the sweet, sweet Spanish summertime on the coast. Another school year was upon us and this time around they were offering more money…the more money you have, the list of things to do and see gets even longer…and SIX YEARS later I’m still not tired of it and I can’t seem to ever get to the bottom of the list of all the places I want to visit, and things I want to do and experience. Barcelona is an extremely cosmopolitan city, and if you are open-minded and you put yourself out there, you’ll also find you are never alone and will always have people who want to join up with you to check something out.

What’s more, Barcelona is an international hub and from here, you can travel relatively cheaply to anywhere in the world. Over the last six years, apart from travelling ALL OVER Spain, even doing two legs of the Camino de Santiago, I have also had the pleasure of experiencing Amsterdam, Brussels, Brugge, Hamburg, Berlin, Rome, Paris (x2), southern France, the Canary Islands, South Africa and Egypt with stops in Istambul and Dubai.

Did I mention I also got Advanced Scuba certification and hiked above the cloud line numerous times in the Pyrenees.

So, how do I finance this amazing lifestyle?

I’ve worked with 4 different language schools over the last 6 years and each one has offered learning experiences. The more experience that you have and the more that you continue to develop and educate yourself, the easier it is to move up into higher positions and you have the possibility to transition into managerial positions or teacher training, maybe even start your own language school. But these things take time. A long time. But who’s counting when you are enjoying yourself so much on the side?

I personally have created two English language-based companies based on a specific niche of students I have recognized and feel that I can cater to the best based on my undergraduate education.

In general, there is a lot of work in teaching English. It’s not always an easy job nor is it easy to be away from home. My experience has also been affected largely by the fact that Americans don’t have work permission here. It’s rough too that, depending on the academy that you work with, you may be one hundred percent responsible for developing curriculum for your classes. In other cases, the academy is super helpful and gives you everything you need to succeed. It can be HARD work. However, I wouldn’t be here going on seven years if I didn’t love the lifestyle that teaching English affords you. Plus, the relationships that you build with your students are priceless.

So, are you ready to dive in? I DARE YOU to find one person who says they regret it.

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Goofing around on the Costa Brava with friends. Loving the water and Spanish sunshine.
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The best way around BCN is on foot or by bike. Take it slow, soak it in.

 

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Above the cloud level at 2,909m, Puigmal, Spanish Pyrenees

By Katie Kleinwachter

 

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

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