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?” Moving from the USA to Spain, deciding to live in a foreign country with anxiety, sounds like a big mistake!
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 living in a foreign country with anxiety, could I do it?
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. I was proud at myself for having got through this, the pressures of living in a foreign city are hard enough, living in a foreign city with anxiety was double the challenge, but I’m glad for having pushed myself out of my comfort zone and working things out so far away from home.
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!
By living in a foreign country with anxiety 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 was pushed out of my comfort zone so many times, but I truly believe that I have also learned so much about myself and the world through these experiences. I would encourage anyone, even if you suffer from anxiety, to live abroad while you’re young, or to at least travel. 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