The Imagery of Change - An American's story of teaching English in Spain

By: Gabriele Dow

International TEFL Academy Alumni Barcelona Spain“I Can Transform Ya” is a good and popular song by Chris Brown and Lil Wayne from a few years back, the unofficial theme song of the popular movie franchise Transformers at the time it came out. Little did I know that it would serve to be the theme song to my experience living out one of my dreams, a process that is ongoing as I complete only my fourth month (of a hopeful 11) here in Spain, thanks to the International TEFL Academy!

The change has been immense. A call to and from responsibility alerted me of problems that I had not yet realized I had. It was a wake up, I guess, telling me that college really was over.

"Darn . . . but I want to go back to college . . . I wish I had another year . . . I wonder if I can just go to grad school next year . . ."

The ellipsis and those words above represent time passed away (wasted, in fact), experiences missed out on; dwelling on thoughts and wishes that at that time should not have been the concern. Half of which could not have come true anyway.

And so waking up at 12 no longer signaled the good life, but was a sign that I hadn't adjusted to real life.
It meant that:

"I'm not doing all I can to get more work . . . I don't have enough work . . . and so I don't have enough money to do what I want to do . . . oh man, hold on, I don't even have enough money to pay my bills! Man I need some more bread . . . "  International TEFL Academy Alumni Barcelona Spain class

Here can be seen the realization of a problem that was going nowhere fast. I'm just thankful that I had my family to feed me when I couldn't feed myself, although I was far from a baby . . . or was I? 

Along with the change came growth. Now it would seem to many that change and growth go hand in hand, and in many respects they indeed do, but in what follows I seek to show growth in a different light.

Coming here has been a dream come true. I have wanted to come to Spain since my 7th grade Spanish class at Pershing Middle School, when Mrs. Taylor so enthusiastically taught me the very basics of Spanish that I was infused with a desire to keep learning the language, one that has not yet been quelled. 

ITA Alumni Gabriele Curry basketball team med

Something about finally doing it, finally reaching this dream of mine, just made me want to do all the rest of the crazy things I have planned in my mind even more, and has made me believe that I can do them. That desire and appetite for more dreams come true has grown and become pretty much insatiable. It's human nature I guess, that the fruits of labor would encourage more labor, in expectation of more fruit (when that fruit is positive). But these dreams seem to come with increased responsibility, because the next dream I have, which is to take my talents to.......South America, seems to be a little harder than this first one was.

But a sincere word for any of those considering this path who are dealing with worries/hesitations/doubts......please know that you undoubtedly have a lot more potential than you probably realize to do whatever you want to do, and that form follows function. If you do what you are supposed to do, things will take care of themselves!

"We all hustlers, in love with the same thing . . . it's just life"---Jay Z, The Black Album

Make everything that you do, bigger than you.

My life has not been the only one transformed and changed by this process I have been through these last four months. My favorite example of this is a doctor that I am now helping get to the UK by passing the IELTS exam, amidst the many other requirements he has to fulfill.

The word “hustler” may have a negative connotation to some people, but it is true to me, and to be a hustler to me is just to be someone who is doing whatever it takes to get what they want/need.

International TEFL Acaemy Alumni Barcelona Spain With that said, the doctor learning English (who intellectually is one of the brightest men I have ever met; his job in the United States would be earning him a very nice six-figure salary) is not a hobby or a casual activity, or for something in the distant future (as with a child learning English), but a matter of urgent importance. As one who came to Spain from Argentina and acquired a PH.D in hopes of creating a great life for his wife and two kids, the collapse of the housing bubble and subsequent economic crisis has been both a blow to his pocket and his confidence. Longer working hours, reduced pay, and the worry of not knowing whether he will be fired from his job every day has led him to tell me that he feels as if he has failed his family, and that he must (strong emphasis provided by him) learn English and pass the test in order to be able to move his family to the UK and have a better life.

I am here in order to learn Spanish, experience the Spanish culture, better my résumé and prepare myself for whatever is to come next in my life.

Our weekly meetings are then changed and transformed from a mere business exchange to two people coming together, hustling, helping each other grow and accomplish our goals. I am helping to better his life, and the experience has bettered mine.

Spain Teaching English

This has been a great time in my life, and I am truly thankful for it. From meeting Kerry and Stephen, my American and British professors from the Barcelona TEFL course in September, to the seven classmates I shared that first month with (from Italy, Sweden, California, North Carolina and New York), to an entire organization of basketball players of all ages who love me as the "americano," to that hot Portuguese girl at some party who unfortunately already had a boyfriend, to the Argentinian doctor who immigrated here to better his family's life and is now looking to emigrate for the same the reason, the people I have met and things I have seen and done have helped to shape my future, and will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So all in all, although it cost me a lot to get here and get settled, I got back a whole lot of change.

 

My name is Gabriele Dow. I am 22 years old and graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, New York in May 2012. I love basketball, writing, traveling, and have wanted to put all three together for long time, which I am doing now! I have a sister and mother back home in Houston, Texas, where I am originally from.

For more on Gabriele's experience in Spain, check out her Q&A: Barcelona, Spain Q&A with Gabriele Dow  

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alumni story, Barcelona TEFL class, Alumni, American teaching in Europe, Barcelona Teaching, Barcelona, alumni testimonial, American teaching in Spain, TEFL course in Barcelona, Spain


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