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Barcelona, Spain Q and A with ITA Alumni Gabriele Dow
Written by: Gabriel Dow
Last Updated: April 7, 2021
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF!
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Never left the country
What sparked your interest in going to teach English in Spain?
I have wanted to go to Spain and learn Spanish since I was about 13! I was not able to study abroad due to financial reasons and because I played basketball for half of my time in college so... there was nothing else that I was going to do after college but go to Spain... thankfully it all worked out, and I'm here!
TEFL CLASS INFORMATION
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
Well, I was doing another program but it got canceled because it was funded by the Spanish government and so when the government cut back its education budget, my program was one of the first to go.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
How did you like the course?
The course was great!
It covered all the aspects of teaching, and I have seen how it has translated directly into my teaching. They taught us how to implement the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening... the modules had a lot of lessons on the actual English grammar that we needed to know and learn... it was a lot of work but not too much that we couldn't do it at all... especially knowing what we get from it.
It was fine! I will say that the process is definitely rushed... in that there was probably realistically a college semester's worth of work and knowledge learned in a month... but that's the only thing we had to do for that month so that makes up for it... but even still, you definitely will need a lot more time to soak up all the lessons and knowledge that you learn in that month. Even more to apply it all correctly. I have un monton de (a lot of) material that I never looked at twice after I did it for the course... but I saved all of it so that over the Christmas break, which began today, I can go over all of that information and really sift through it, think about it, base it on all the experiences that I have had so far, and really get a much better idea of what I am doing. And then apply it for the 7 months I have remaining much more effectively.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position in Spain?
Oh man, it taught me everything! I would not have all known how to proceed with teaching English if I had not taken the course... I'm not sure how people come here and teach without certification! unless they're already teachers.
But anyway, not that teaching English is some impossible task, but it takes a specific methodology and approach in order to be the most effective, and when you get to working for schools and private classes... these people have a lot of money and they pay a lot of money, and they want to learn as much as they can as fast as they can, in the most efficient way possible! I teach a lot of kids actually and a lot of their parents know fluent English so, if you don't know what you're doing it shows. But the TEFL training equipped me with that methodology and approach and helped me get going and started not only with teaching but with life in Spain in general. Cool beans.
TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD IN BARCELONA, SPAIN
Which country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I've wanted to come here since Mrs. Taylor first taught me Spanish in the seventh grade!
How long have you been teaching English in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?
I have been here for right a 3.5 months... and I'll stay for another 7.5, until the end of the summer! I arrived here at the beginning of September.
How did you secure your English teaching job in Spain?
I have a lot of private classes actually, none at an actual language school, because I didn't want that. I posted flyers, applied hundreds of times for different private classes, and then all that plus word of mouth has worked out well for me!
How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
I don't have a work visa, and didn't really understand anything about that, due to my own ignorance and lack of prudence I guess but... I've been fine without it, and I imagine that I will be fine unless I somehow cause trouble or something. The people here appreciate what we do... and there's no situation really where you should be "questioned" about your work visa unless you get in trouble or something.
I mean for a lot of the schools you need to have it, so that is definitely a deal if you want to work in a school. MOST of the schools, at least in what I have seen, want you to have your visa and if not they won't hire you. But if you hustle hard enough you can find a school that doesn't, and you can certainly find private classes... none of them care.
Tell us about your English teaching job in Spain!
Well all of my classes are private classes, so in that way I have been able to set my own schedule. I need more hours, because I currently make just enough to pay rent and have food. That was first for these first couple of months... but I have a bunch of stuff I want to do now that I have gotten settled in here, so I want more hours. Which will not be hard to get, just takes persistence... you know, form follows function.
All of my classes are 15 Euros and hour, with people of all ages, from 5 year old kids to 40 year old men. All "a domicilio," which means I all of my classes are done at the student's house. Vacation time is abundant here because they have so many holidays, and since I work for myself I'm not on a school's schedule so I can say "I'm not going to be here," for whatever reason, and be cool. I haven't really done it yet but, I'm sure i could... I'd just have to make up the classes another time.
If I had wanted to from the get go make a lot of money, I could definitely have done it... a lot meaning maybe like 1200 Euros a month... maybe even a little more. That is definitely possible, if working is your primary objective. So with only have of that used for rent and food, you can save a lot. I play for a basketball team here, which takes up a bunch of time... but basketball is like a part of me and it has also been by far the best way for me to learn Spanish and experience the culture, which was my main reason for coming here.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?
I never moved from the accommodation that I was given by you guys when I took the course! For 400 Euros a month, she cooks for us once or twice a week, opens everything she has up to us, has long conversations with me in Spanish, which I consider Spanish lessons, has a lady come clean the whole house and our room every week, washes and dries my clothes, does the dishes, etc... I'm good! I have two roommates, who have also stayed... one is from France and is studying at a university here, and the other is from North Carolina and did the course with me. We both will stay for the duration of our time here!
COUNTRY INFORMATION - FUN!
Please explain about the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Mannn... Spain is the best! Amazing, really. I love it. I had never left the country before so this was a whole new experience.
But hmm... the Spanish LOVE to go out, and they LOVE to relax and take their fiestas y vacaciones! Nunca have I experienced so many holidays in a four month period.....from September to December, we have had some holiday every other weekend!
The atmosphere is a lot more relaxed than the United States in general to me... even in Texas, where I am from, the people aren't quite as "tranquilo" (calm, relaxed, chilled, no pasa nada) as here in Spain. In comparison to New York City, where I spent the last four years in college, this holds true 100 times more!
I had all kinds of reservations about the food, and thought I was in for it because I heard of Paella with octopus and squid and fish with the eyes in it and all sorts of things. Well, I found out that buying Paella is generally very expensive, so I wouldn't have bought it anyway. And there's all different types of paella. But also, its expensive to eat out, just like in the US... grocery shopping is much cheaper and more effective and efficient! So I do that. It is still different, because the food is COMPLETELY different in most ways... especially coming from Texas (I think New York people and the northeastern people in general in the US. are a bit more cultured in terms of food... well life in general probably). But all in all... food should not be a worry in any way, shape, form or fashion!
Dating scene? Well, aside from the part that my ex-girlfriend (who I broke up with because I didn't want her to try and come to Spain with me because I knew I didn't like her that much) following me here anyway to study at a university and, guess what, live ten minutes away from me... aside from having once again nip that relationship in the bud... I haven't had much experience with any kind of dating scene... although I have absolutely no interest in it so that probably plays a big part.
But like... as a black American here, I have found that the girls here either love you (mostly for that reason) or they just don't really mess with you at all. There is still a bunch of ignorance that goes around concerning my skin color, unfortunately, but it's not too much of a problem really. But it is also hard to meet Spanish people here if you do not speak Spanish (which I do), and have some social outlet to get you exposed to a lot of locals here (which I do, in the form of my basketball team, in which I'm the only American in the whole club). so for me meeting people/girls is not a problem...
But I would encourage people to for one, learn the language, and two, get involved in something to meet people!
COUNTRY INFORMATION - MONEY
What are your monthly expenses?
Rent: 400 Euros...
Food: 150-200 Euros...
Transportation: I think it's 50 for the monthly unlimited metro card...
Social activities: I paid 350 Euros for my basketball team club membership... the league lasts for 10 months though, practice 4 times a week and games every weekend and playoffs and championships, plus neighborhood fame because I'm the black American... so it's worth it. lol. but for other people, the clubs here generally cost 12-15 Euros to get into....alcohol is very cheap here compared to the U.S... you can get a gym membership for about 30 Eruos a month... there's all types of ways to spend your money!
Phone: Bought my phone for 20 Euros... and I fill it up with about 20 Euros a month and that's good... phone doesn't cost a lot at all. I also pay 8 bucks a month to Skype to be able to call mobile numbers in the states like a cell phone... unlimited minutes with that. So talk really is cheap.
Traveling: It is very cheap to travel here, although I haven't, but I have looked up ticket prices and things and I know people who have. I even found 47 Euro round trip tickets to Paris. So if you want to travel that is not a problem... if you're brave enough you can do couch surfing, which would house you for free, or stay in a cheap hostel.
How would you describe your standard of living?
I'm living like a broke college student (which I was a few months ago... well like 7)... but I'm used to it.
In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?
900-1000 Euros a month and you are chilling plus traveling and going out and things, if you have 400 Euros rent and about 200 for food. and I'm an athlete so the 200 is probably a lot for a girl or something.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS IN BARCELONA
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
I would definitely recommend teaching here in Spain! especially if you want to learn Spanish. Since this is the "real" Spanish, when you go back to the states all your friends will think you're really cool. Although you won't be able to communicate with them as well because half of the things Spanish people say are only said in Spain! lol.
But all in all, there is a TON of work, especially if you happen to have a visa, but even if not, there is a TON of work! so no problems there, although it does take a few months to get started. I would definitely tell you to have THREE months rent and food saved up (including the first month when you take the course, so I guess only two) when you get here, just in case.
I would also encourage you to get involved with something... and start meeting people... those are the best ways to find more classes!
Make sure that you can handle being away from home a long time... on that note, I would definitely make sure that you know whether or not you want to go home for Christmas vacation or easter or whatever and plan accordingly and maybe even buy tickets and things before you get here or asap as soon as you get set up and working and stuff... because you probably won't make enough money to buy a plane ticket home if you come here in September or august... and if so it'd just be you saving all of the extra money you make, which would be like working to go home, which for me is kind of defeating the purpose of being here. but whatever floats your boat!
But, and especially if you have never been abroad, there is NO REASON that I can name to say why you should not come and Teach English in Spain!
I'm 22, but some of my classmates were as old as 35... and we all LOVED it! I don't think it matters the age or the background or anything... and you determine your own way once you get here. That is actually the best part. It is definitely a chance for you to get professional experience if that is what you want, or to just get away from everything in the States, or to learn Spanish, or all of that together!
And the International TEFL Academy is amazing at what they do, and your professors, if you want them to be, can be lifelong friends! And they prepare you for life in Spain as well as teaching English.
This is one of the best things I have ever chosen to do!
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 a long time, which I am doing now! I have a sister and mother back home in Houston, Texas, where I am originally from.
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