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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Olivia Kelly
For more information on our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net