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 end up spending six years (and counting) 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.
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 of teaching in Barcelona, 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’ve already spent 6 years teaching in Barcelona, and 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.
By Katie Kleinwachter
For more information on our TEFL courses please visit teflbarcelona.net