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