Had someone asked me a year ago what I’d probably be doing today, never in a million years would I have thought to respond “teaching English in Barcelona.” The truth is that I got into this profession almost by accident but it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve yet to make. To give a brief introduction about myself: I am 23 years old, I am originally from Mexico, but I grew up in the United States. I am from the southernmost tip of Texas, from a small town named Brownsville, where Mexico is literally walking distance away, so I grew up bilingual. I moved to Barcelona in May of 2015, did my TEFL course that same month, I have been teaching since, and I absolutely love it.
I graduated university in December of 2014. After graduating college, I faced what most recent grads are faced with: what’s next? I had a vague idea of what I wanted. I knew that eventually I wanted to travel and see the world, but I was A) unsure of how to do that and B) scared about financial security. While I was still in college, being the overachieving liberal arts major that I was, I decided that law school was the best option since what else could I do with an English degree to make a good (and secure) living? I thought maybe after a few years of work, I could take some time off to travel. So I began taking the necessary steps to enter law school, i.e. entrance exam prep, applications, etc. However, as graduation neared, I began getting cold feet, and I started questioning the motives behind my decisions. Was I about to enter law school because law I was passionate about law? Or was it because I met the qualifications and it provides a stable living? And how happy is this stable life going to make me?
Then one day, while procrastinating on my applications and scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a video that helped me put things into perspective. This video, which found its way to me almost by destiny, was by none other than my favorite comedian: Jim Carrey, whom was giving a commencement speech for Maharishi University. In it he states:
“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it. My father could’ve been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe
job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well fail at doing what you love.”
I thought to myself, what are my true passions? I searched deep within myself to find those answers. I thought back to when I was younger and my dreams had yet to be tarnished by the sobering realities of the world. I had always been passionate about writing, as I wanted to be a famous writer when I was a child. I also had insatiable wanderlust—I wanted to see the world. I thought long and hard about how to combine those passions. After a series of Google searches, I came across TEFL International Barcelona. As I perused their website, I thought to myself that I had never even given thought to becoming a teacher, but something about it just felt right. So just like that, I packed my bags and bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona.
A few days after arriving, my classes with TEFL International began. I still remember my first day. My classmates and I all sat in a semi circle around Jaime, our teacher. We were all sitting with bewildered faces, not knowing what to expect, as if it were our first day of high school all over again. The school had just moved to a new location days prior to our first day so our course director, Lisa, was scrambling trying to get everything together. But within the first couple of hours, we all adapted just fine. We were a very diverse group; we all had very different backgrounds, which only added personality to my class!
The first week of the course was a bit emotionally tumultuous for me. In addition to the seven-hour jetlag I was fighting, I started freaking out about my decisions. Inevitably, a mini nervous breakdown ensued. I started worrying about being able to find a job, and of course, I was worried about making enough money to survive when the course was over. I could only live off my savings for so long. What distressed me the most was the fact that I was doing the course in May, which is near the
end of the academic year. It was not the ideal time to hire a teacher. I was scared of what would become of me in the next months.
Something that appeased me a bit was that the school promised “career counseling,” which at the time I was not entirely sure what that even meant. I still remember the night of my mini meltdown. I was sitting by Barceloneta eating my feelings with a kebab thinking about the career counseling. My thoughts were, “What… are they going to literally sit down with me and point out exactly where to find a job?” When the career counseling came around, they did that and so much more. Thanks to Mike, our career counselor, I was able to find work despite the awkward time during the school year that I became a certified teacher. Through the resources that were provided to me by the school, an English academy called Britannia hired me as an English teacher for a summer camp in the Pyrenees during June and July. The camp went exceptionally well, my employer was pleased, and she has now offered me a full-time position as an English teacher at her school for this upcoming school year! In addition to working with Britannia, I have been working with another academy called Links & Lynx whom have provided me with supplementary work, including a month long gig giving business English classes to Yamaha employees and tutoring university students to prepare for the First Certificate, amongst other small jobs.
A quick anecdote I feel is worth telling is that after my course, during my search for employment, I submitted a vast amount of applications since we were provided with a databank of all English schools in Barcelona. Through the prepping I received at Barcelona TEFL International, I was able to channel my inner Mr. Miyagi during my interviews and sold myself to be the best English teacher that an institution could hire. After accepting work with Britannia and Links & Lynx, I was still receiving a good amount of callbacks for interviews. Since my schedule was already full, I actually had to turn down work! That says quite a bit considering the current unemployment situation in Spain.
Ultimately, the course in itself was nothing short of amazing. I made great friendships, my teachers were hilarious, and the lessons were really interesting. Even though it was very enjoyable, it was still quite challenging. I thought that since I was an English student in the university, this course would be a breeze. We had a variety of unique projects that were thorough, but ultimately, they were fun. I ended up learning so much, but most importantly I learned how to communicate what I learned so that others can learn it as well.
It’s been about four months since I’ve graduated from TEFL International Barcelona, and I’m doing just fine. This Monday, September 15th will be my first day as a full-time teacher in Britannia, who has given me a 27,5 hour workweek plus a few more hours with Links & Lynx. English is a booming business right now. I found work almost immediately despite arriving in May and being in a country with a high unemployment rate. The first step is always the hardest, which was making the decision to move to Barcelona. After that, with a little hard work and motivation, everything else just fell into place. Becoming a certified English teacher has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve discovered the beautiful region of Catalonia, Barcelona is full of surprises, and I’ve never been happier. It’s been an incredible journey to get to where I am. And the adventure is not over yet. This year it is Spain, but next year who knows?
By Yolanda Arriaga