So your month of intensive TEFL training is drawing to a close. At this point, you’ve basically re-learned the English language, taught more than a few classes, made some new friends, and started to explore a new city. With graduation day approaching, you’re most likely also thinking about what will happen after that last day of class – the day when freedom is upon you and it’s time to go make it on your own.
With a TEFL certification and 3 months of teaching in Barcelona under my belt, I feel confident in telling you that the first month after your course is no piece of cake, but it is one of the most influential and amazing times of your life. In the spirit of my U.S. pop-culture lifeline, Buzzfeed, here’s a list of the 8 Stages of TEFL Withdrawal that every new graduate will experience.
1) Freedom – Nothing beats the euphoria of waking up in the morning knowing you can do what you want when you want to. I would compare it to that first day of summer vacation, when you feel like you have the world in front of you and responsibility seems like a distant memory. You can (and should!) take this time to explore, eat, rest, and re-watch all of Game of Thrones before the new season starts.
2) Confusion – Ummm…so what now? You’ve been to all the museums, and you aren’t earning any rent money by sitting on the beach. So how is this going to work? Do you just stand outside the metro and hand out flyers, or apply online to every name in the book? (Hint: the answer is anything you’re comfortable with!) Also, this teaching life takes a minute to get used to. Hours are different every day, types of classes vary from city to city, and you will get lost trying to use public transportation.
3) Frustration* – Getting turned down from jobs stinks. So does searching for an apartment, riding the bus for the first time,
and in general just trying to do anything “adult,” even if you’ve been rocking it back home for the past few years. A new country means a language barrier, new protocol, and most strikingly, a cultural barrier. Some of this goes away during the TEFL course, but the added responsibility that comes with newfound freedom and the “great unknown” brings a whole lot of this feeling back.
4) Unstoppable – “GOT A JOB, GOT AN APARTMENT, I AM AWESOME. I LOVE THIS CITY, AND THIS CITY LOVES ME. ALSO I CAN IDENTIFY THE PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS SO BASICALLY TIME TO LEARN TO PLAY BLACKJACK BECAUSE THE UNIVERSE IS ON MY SIDE.”
5) Fear – Okay, job acquired. But according to calculations, you’ll be making €10 more than rent this month, which is going to be a bit more than a stretch. “What if” questions start rolling around in your mind about the life path you’ve chosen – “What if my students don’t like me?” “What if I’d stayed at home and been an insurance adjustor instead?” “What if I had ran away and joined the circus?” “What if I have to live on the street?”
6) Homesickness – You will miss Chipotle (or whatever your chosen food-related vice is from your hometown). You will look on with envy at the children arguing with their parents in the street because you’ve had to reschedule that Skype date with your family three times. You’ll miss the convenience and comfort of little things like dryers and having 3G service on your phone everywhere you go.
7) Happiness – You made a positive move in your life path and it has lead you to a great new place filled with new opportunities, and you’re making new friends, learning more about yourself, and enjoying all the cultural places you learned about in high school history class. You can make your own schedule, decisions, and friend group, and you’re becoming comfortable and blissful with your new situation.
8) Pride – You’ll have ups, you’ll have downs, but you know what? You’re doing it. You took a giant leap that many people never take, overcame the confusion, fear, and frustration, and for better or worse, you are making it work. You are awesome.
by Sarah Melville