How to receive medical care in Barcelona


It’s inevitable; if you’re living in Barcelona long enough, you’re going to have to see a doctor at some point. You do not generally have to pay your own money for health care if you are registered properly or have private health insurance. The process is a little different depending on your situation.

EU Citizens

EU Citizens should carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to ensure they receive free emergency health care. However, EU citizens who are resident in Spain should register with a doctor (see #3 below) to ensure they receive free health care in all situations.

Americans & others

Americans, and others who don’t qualify for free health care (see #2 below), should take out private health insurance to ensure their costs are covered.

Illegal workers

You are ‘illegal’ if you are employed in Spain, but not paying into the social security system; or if you’re resident in Spain but can’t provide proof of address (ie. you are living in a shared flat without your name on the contract). If this is the case for you, your only option is to visit a hospital (see #2 below) and you may be asked to pay.


The health care in Spain is very good, but, in typical Spanish style, navigating the bureaucratic process isn’t easy. There are several ways to access health care in Spain, each with their own pros and cons.

#1: Call 112 (the European Emergency Number) or 061 (Health Emergencies)

If you need immediate medical attention, call 112 or 061. Depending on the call centers, calls can be handled in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, and German (as well as the national languages).

You don’t have to be registered, or hold any form of documentation to be admitted to a hospital. However, you may have to pay for your visit afterwards.

#2: Visit a hospital

To qualify for free services in Spain, you must either be registered with the state health care system, have private health care insurance, hold an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), or hold a passport from Andorra, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, or Peru. If you don’t qualify, or if you don’t bring documents that prove you qualify, you may have to pay for the treatment you receive.

You must bring:

  • A form of ID (such as your passport), and
  • Proof you qualify for free health care (such as EHIC), if you have it,

To one of the following hospitals:

  • Clinical and Provicial Barcelona Hospital: Carrer de Villarroel, 170, 08036 Barcelona |
  • Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron: Paseig de la Vall de Hebron, no. 119, 08035 Barcelona |
  • Hospital del Mar: Paseig Marítim, 25-29, 08003 Barcelona |
  • Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona: Passeig de Sant Joan de Déu, 2, 08950 Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona |
  • Hospital de Barcelona: Avinguda Diagonal, 660, 08034 Barcelona |
  • Centro Médico Teknon: Carrer de Vilana, 12, 08022 Barcelona |

How to visit the hospital

Generally, there are four stages to a hospital visit:

  1. Entry. Tell the receptionist you want to see the doctor and show your documents. They’ll enter you into the system and give you a wristband with your name and time of entry into the hospital. You’ll then be directed to see a triage nurse.
  2. Initial Assessment. It’s likely you’ll see the triage nurse very quickly. However, they rarely speak foreign languages so be prepared for some charades while explaining how you’re feeling. They’ll decide how urgently you need medical attention and direct you to a waiting room.
  3. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. Depending on patient numbers, staffing, time of day, and the urgency of your illness, this could be a really long time – perhaps up to five hours or more in some hospitals. There might not be enough chairs for everyone, so be ready to sit on the floor. There is unlikely to be free wifi, so bring a book. Be aware that if you come with a friend and it’s very busy, they might be asked to wait elsewhere. If you need to leave for any reason, let the receptionist know in case your name is called while you are away.
  4. Seeing the doctor. This is usually worth the wait. Your doctor will most likely be the first English-speaking person you interact with in the hospital. At this point you’ll be diagnosed and a course of treatment prescribed. You may get a prescription for medicine, or – if the medicine is available over the counter – they’ll write a note for you to give to the pharmacist. Success!


#3: Go to a CAP (Centre d’atenció primària)

If you want to skip the long wait at the hospital and you’re a resident in Barcelona, you can register with a local clinic (or CAP). Unfortunately, it requires a lot of documentation, so make sure you do it before you get sick. Being able to speak or understand some Spanish or Catalan during this process will make it much, much easier, so consider asking along a friend if you don’t have the language skills yourself.

To register with a doctor you must be:

  • A resident in Spain,
  • Paying social security contributions (ie. you are legally employed or autonomo), or
  • A child, a pensioner, a pregnant woman, or receiving certain state benefits.

How to register with a doctor

First you need a Targeta Sanitaria Individual or TSI (Individual Healthcare Card), which you can get by visiting your nearest security office with:

The social security office will give you a certificate proving you are entitled to free health care, and your health care card will be sent in the post.

You can now take either the certificate or health card to your nearest centre d’atenció primària <> and they will give you the name, timetable, and phone number of the doctor that has been assigned to you, as well as a number for after-hours care.

Visiting the doctor

Once you’ve gone through this process, visiting the doctor is actually very straightforward! Remember, that if you’re taking time off work due to illness, you have to ask your doctor for the “baja” – a doctor’s note to say that you’re legitimately unwell. While you have the “baja”, you are not allowed to work. Once you are feeling better, you have to return to the doctor to get a second note called the “alta” which says you’re well enough to work again. Some doctors will issue you both at the same time (a few days apart) for your convenience. Unfortunately, your employer does not have to pay you for the first 3 days that you miss work with the “baja”, but after that you should get a percentage of your normal salary.

By Christopher Brown


To learn about our TEFL courses please visit



Teaching in Barcelona


I started this journey by taking a break from my studies and having no idea about what I wanted to do. For a few months I wandered around in my home country with no real purpose, except a project here and there, while a dear friend of mine was on an Erasmus scholarship in Barcelona. I wanted to try the Erasmus experience myself.  However, at that time I had two dates to keep track of in my head: my dentist appointment on the 19th of November and the Erasmus deadline, the 16th of November; needless to say that I went to the dentist on the 16th and missed my Erasmus deadline

Meanwhile, the time for my friend to come home was approaching, and I felt that for him, leaving Barcelona would be a cruel blow. So I started thinking: “Ok, there’s no need for him to get back, I’ll go to Barcelona, and I’ll get a job and…” and this is about where I stopped. I had no degree, no work experience and I truly believed I had no skill to sell. So, I continued scrolling down on Facebook as I do when my illusions are shattered, and I saw the only sponsored add that had something to say to me: “Get TEFL certified & teach English‎”. I clicked and there it was: the answer to my concern – a degree that would give me the means to work abroad in a field I was passionate about – languages.


I started the course in March and finished it in April. On the 7th of April I got hired as a tour guide for English speaking clients. (Starting with the second half of the course I was also applying for English teaching jobs and other positions related to English just to see what would happen. I also made an appointment to get my NIE – I was being proactive). I set up profiles on and and requests started coming in – I am now therefore, an English teacher as well. Guiding means I only meet foreigners; teaching private classes, however, is all about meeting locals who often become guides themselves for me. This was the starting point for me to learn Spanish, my fourth language.

Aside from all the working, there is, of course, the city. A city that I believe will soon turn into a legend. By talking to all the expats who are teaching, learning or just travelling, I found that there is virtually no one who would even think about leaving Barcelona for good. At first, I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t love at first sight, I wasn’t impressed at first glance; it seemed like it didn’t have an identity or that it was several cities put together accidentally, although I did learn about its coherence in school (I’m an architecture student). Weeks passed by and I started walking the streets (this is another perk of being a private tutor, you get to go everywhere around town) being more and more aware – and I started noticing people’s habits, people’s pace, their way of relating to their home town. Nobody’s in a hurry but they get things done, nobody skips lunch but they do work hard, nobody misses a good party but they wake up early – all this and more makes a next to ideal city.


There is room and things to do for everybody. At MACBA, for example, you can skate your soul out, in Laberint d’Horta (Gaudi had a strong disapproving reaction to it but it’s exquisite) you can escape the city’s noise and heat, the museums help you satisfy your thirst for culture and if you want to travel around, you’re close to everything: hiking in Montserrat, taking a walk, snorkel or kayak on Costa Brava, the medieval city of Girona or closer Sitges.

There is more. Life as an English teacher works like this: you wake up at 9 a.m., brush your teeth, put street clothes on, and off you go to a café to plan your lessons. I usually have a Carajillo (I’ll leave the pleasure to discover what it is to you) and read La Vanguardia because I am desperate to be fluent in Spanish soon. You go to your private or academy classes and meet wonderful people, mostly locals and share your knowledge (this is my favourite part). I won’t lie, it’s not easy, and it’s not like taking candy from a baby. It’s hard work but it is very, very rewarding. After teaching, you go off to an early dinner at about 8 p.m. and then to have a vermouth with friends. The fun thing is that this is not a typical teacher’s day! Nobody could describe that because there is no such thing. You’re going to do it your own way, and this is amazing!

Well, that being said, I’m off to have a drink with some friends.

By Catalina Francu,



To learn more about our TEFL courses please visit

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?


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.


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.


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!


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

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.


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


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


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.


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 and

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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.


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.


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.


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.


By Hannah Murden

My blog:

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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.


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?

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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… 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.



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

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