Barcelona, Spain English Teaching Q and A with Lauren O'Rourke

What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Chicago, Illinois

How old are you?


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What is your education level and background?

Master's Degree or Higher

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

Ireland & France         

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I was tired of the 9 to 5 world after graduate school and wanted to live abroad. I chose Spain in order to improve my Spanish and live in a warmer climate.

What were some of your concerns before teaching English abroad?

Money, culture shock, leaving my friends and family in Chicago.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching English abroad?

Everyone was extremely supportive! I made this decision after a tough year and most people were really excited for me (and very jealous).


Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?               

ITA is based in Chicago, my hometown, and my adviser there was able to answer any and all questions I had. It was nice to have contact people at home to talk to before I crossed the pond.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

Spain - Barcelona TEFL Class

How did you like the course?

The course was definitely INTENSIVE. It was every day for about 8 or 9 hours plus a few hours of homework a night. We also took a few foreign language classes as part of our training and had many opportunities to practice teach. I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot, but was ready to return to my new Spanish lifestyle!

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

Although I have a few academic degrees under my belt, I didn't know how to articulate the rules of grammar, etc. I needed to learn technical components about the English language that I only understood inherently before the TEFL course. My students know this stuff so I needed to as well!


Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?

I am teaching English in Barcelona, Spain.

How long have you been teaching English in Spain and how long do you plan to stay?

I've been here about 7 months and I plan to stay another 4 or 5. However, I'm definitely coming back in the fall. I love it here.

How did you secure your English teaching job?

I have all private lessons. There are many websites and networking opportunities to find students and referrals. I specifically work with children and there was a high demand so I've had to turn away students!

What school, company, or program are you working for?

I work for myself and it's the best!

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. I get paid in cash by each of my families.

Tell us about your English teaching job!

I work about 15 hours per week at 20 euros per hour. I am able to save, but I inevitably spend it on traveling. I recently spent a week in several cities in the south of Spain and then another week in Paris. Can't complain!

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

I had an apartment through the TEFL course for about six weeks. Before and after the course, I used and then found someone who needed a roommate through a friend. I love my apartment and especially sitting on my terrace in the Mediterranean sun.


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:

LIFE IN BARCELONA - Barcelona is in the region of Catalonia. The national language is actually Catalan, not Spanish and the Catalans are very proud of their language and culture. This is something I did not know before arriving here and I find it fascinating. So much so that I want to pursue a PhD in linguistics with a focus on Catalan history. All my little students are already bilingual in Spanish and Catalan. I can't wait to learn more about the history here and apply it to research around language.

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GETTING AROUND - Public transportation is a breeze. Probably the best metro system I've encountered in any major city.

NIGHTLIFE - Nightlife? Constant. Clubs and restaurants are often open into the wee hours of the morning and there is always something to do. Not to mention the AMAZING architecture and history here. I love just wandering around with my music getting lost and finding new beautiful places to explore.

EXPAT LIFE - There are a ton of expats here. I can actually live in an English-speaking bubble, if I want to. Although obviously I really want to work on my Spanish! But everywhere I go, people want to speak to me in English.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES - Travel is super easy from BCN. I can take a cheap RyanAir flight to just about anywhere in Western Europe for 50 euros or less.

I love my "nueva vida" (new life) here in Barcelona. I work as little as possible, but adore all my little students.  I miss home sometimes, but I definitely don't miss the cold and snow! It's sunny almost every day and the opportunities for exploration and self-discovery are endless in this magical place.


What are your monthly expenses?

The food is spectacular and cheap!

I live on about one third of what my expenses were in Chicago and I've never been happier.

RENT - My rent is 450 euros, but I basically have a three bedroom flat to myself.

DAILY EXPENSES - When I'm not traveling, I live on about 10 euros a day. I buy fresh fruit and groceries every few days and eat out a few times a week.

NIGHTLIFE & FUN - The music scene is fantastic here and I've also made some friends in the comedy scene - in English.

PHONE - My phone bill is about 20 euros a month for data and calls. And as I've mentioned, travel is a breeze.

How would you describe your standard of living?

Very comfortable. Once I let go of having a dryer for my clothes and accepted that the bank takes a bit more time, I was much happier.

In your opinion, how much does an English teacher in Barcelona need to earn to live comfortably?

Between 1000 and 1300 euros per month.


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching English in Spain?

I would definitely recommend teaching English in Spain. However, different parts of Spain are extremely different. It depends on the kind of life you are looking for. Barcelona is more expensive than other places, but there is definitely a lot going on constantly and the cost of living is much lower than in major cities in the States. I say, go for it! Life is short. Go on an adventure.


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