I 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 a year at college so that gap year idea went out the window. 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 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 The 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 learned 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. Finding a place to live in Barcelona can be a little tricky so it’s good to start looking at places before you arrive. There are also companies that will help you find accommodation but they cost a bit extra so there is that to consider.
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 was teaching 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.
I am still only teaching 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. 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! 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.
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.
By Hannah Murden
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