How did I get here?

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

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

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

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

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

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By Hannah Murden

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

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

A move to Barcelona

 

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

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

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Sevilla

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

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San Sebastian

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

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

 

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

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Sevilla

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

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Paris

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

By Emily Vandermast

 

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

A New Direction

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Erin Shakespeare

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

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

 

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

 

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