TEFL Emissaries

Teaching in Spain with Language House TEFL Graduate, Denise

view of Barcelona skyline
Barcelona is a beautiful city
My name is Denise Gondrez and I would love to tell you about my experience teaching in Barcelona, Spain. I will also give you a few tips and tricks about living here so you will be prepared. I am from the United States, but I will also talk about EU experiences as well.

So it began: I packed my bags, sold my car, quit my job, and got on a plane to take the February 2018 TEFL course at The Language House in Prague. I decided on TLH because it was cheaper than any other TEFL course in Europe and my plan was to move to Spain afterward. I didn’t have a job lined up, nor did I know anyone, but I took the leap and I did it. I am so glad I did.

I chose to live and work in Spain because I had always heard it was easy-going, (they drank wine and took siestas during work breaks) and I wanted to improve my Spanish. Some of the things I heard about Spain were true, but beware that some Spanish people are very opinionated and a bit uptight. I specifically encountered this while shopping, as customer service is not about the customer, but about the customer not wasting the employee’s time or damaging their products. However, Barcelona is a gem and has lots of perks like the beach, the monuments, Gaudi architecture, the gothic (gotico) area, the wine, and the food. You can get a cheap piece of pizza, or a bocadillo (sandwich on baguette with varying ingredients inside) for very cheap. Sangria pours from the heavens everywhere in Barcelona, and there is a pretty large expat community.

I was hired at a private English school just outside of Barcelona, about 30 minutes by train. I taught 7-8 year olds, teenagers, and adults. I taught intermediate B1 teenagers, and a Cambridge English First certificate exam preparation course. I loved it. I don’t love teaching younger kids, but it was only twice a week. My schedule was different every single day, but I always worked in the evenings, as that’s when kids are out of school and adults are out of work. It is much harder to find an English Academy (which is a private English afternoon school) that operates during the day, but sometimes it happens. I worked from about 4pm to 10pm every day, although some days I only worked till 7 or 8pm. All of my coworkers were from other parts of Europe or North America. We would have drinks before work (just small ones) and sometimes drinks after. It was a laid back, easygoing environment with very little stress. This is EXTREMELY different from the teaching atmosphere in the United States, where I taught for 5 years prior. At the academy, I taught from textbooks, adding a little bit of flair, and the exams were written by the directors of the program. I was working 24 hours a week and I made 1400 euro a month, which was MORE than enough to live on if you are paying low rent like I was.

I only worked for three months because I filled in for a teacher who was leaving suddenly during the year, otherwise, the school probably wouldn’t have been looking for someone in the month of March. Overall I really liked my job, and Barcelona. Though I would recommend going somewhere cooler in the Summer because the heat makes you not want to go outside, and most “pisos” or apartments in Barcelona don’t have, or refuse to use their air conditioning due to the expense.

The best way to make friends is to get on a Facebook Barcelona Expats page, MeetUps page, or take a Spanish class and start going to events. That is how I made some great friends from Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Italy and was able to travel to see them when they went home.

Below I’ve outlined tips and tricks for living and working in Spain for both EU and non-EU citizens:

Looking for a Place to Live
Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. I know it’s not as popular with young crowds now, but it’s still popular among Europeans. I found both of the rooms I rented (habitaciones) on Facebook through groups and pages like “pisos y habitaciones Barcelona.” There are a million of those. You can also look at lingobongo.com, or idealista.com for apartments and rooms. Watch out for agencies trying to get you to use their services because they charge a high commission fee. It is possible to find an apartment without an agency. Also watch out for scams: if the pictures look fake, or TOO nice for the price, it is probably not real and a scam. Also if the owner make some excuse about not being able to meet you directly such as being out of town working in Italy or something, it’s a SCAM. You may also need to provide a bank statement if you don’t have a job yet to prove to the landlord you can pay rent for at least 3 months. While you are looking, you can always stay in hostels or airbnbs.

Looking for Work
I looked on tusclasesparticulares.com first for private students and I began to get some good traffic through that website. The downside to this website was that after a few weeks, your profile isn’t at the “top” of the search list, so you don’t get noticed as much and you have to solicit yourself more on the site if you don’t want to pay to increase your visibility. Lingobongo.com is another good site to look for private students, as well as Jobtoday.com. My friend recently introduced me to milanuncios.es which is like craigslist for Spain, and they have job postings and personal item sales as well.

Visas/NIE-EU Citizens
For EU citizens, the visa process is much easier, so I’m starting with this. If you are an EU Citizen, there are a few steps to complete to legally work and live in Spain.
First, you need to fill out an EX-15 form, which is all in Spanish but there are English instructions on how to fill it out. You can find the link to it here: http://extranjeros.empleo.gob.es/es/ModelosSolicitudes/Mod_solicitudes2/15-Formulario_NIE_y_certificados.pdf
You must have health insurance from your home country, or apply for it in Spain (it is not that costly and you can just google healthcare in Spain and lots of companies show up).
You must rent a place to live and HAVE YOUR NAME on the contract. Many people who are just renting a room to you won’t be able to allow your name on the contract.
You must be able to prove you have enough money to support yourself in Spain when you first move there, such as a bank letter or statement.
Must have a valid passport from an EU country.
If you have all of these things, you can go to the Officina de Extranjeros, or the police station and apply for a Número de Identificación Fiscal de Extranjeros (NIE number). This is a number Spain issues you for you to pay taxes. Please be ready as they do not speak much English AT ALL. In addition, you need to make an APPOINTMENT first. You can sometimes go online to get an appointment, although the website is very disorganized, or some of my friends used an agent to help them get the NIE appointment or went in person to make the appointment. OTHER times my friends applied for and were hired to jobs, got a job contract, and the company made the NIE appointment for them (this is what generally happens with many EU citizens, I’ll explain a bit more later).
The Spanish system is all kinds of inconsistent, but if you are an EU citizen these are the steps I would take:
Move to Barcelona with about 5000 euros of savings in your bank
Find an apartment and rent it in YOUR name.
Apply for jobs, get hired
Take your work contract to the NIE office after getting an appointment, and take all corresponding documents mentioned above
Boom! Depending on how long your job contract is written for, you will have a NIE for that period of time.

If you get a temporary NIE, you’ll need a permanent NIE after 3 months, but your job can help you with that, or an agent and they are easily found on google.

Visas/NIE-US Citizens
Here comes the hard part. As a US citizen, you can work 20 hours in Spain if you have a student visa. You can also get a visa through programs like Ministry of Education Program (Auxiliares de Conversacion), BEDA, MEDDEAS, UCETAM, CIEE, Fulbright, UPInternational, Conversa Spain, and CAPS. Some of these programs only take recent graduate from University, and some take older 20s people like me. Either way they are all great programs but you do have to apply WHILE STILL IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
You also have to apply to a school, and apply for a student visa while still in the United States through the US Embassy.
If you DO NOT apply prior to leaving the U.S., the ONLY NIE you can get is a non-resident NIE that generally does not allow you to live or work in Spain, but rather allows you to buy property, open a bank account, and that’s about it. Some agents will help you get this NIE if you just happened to pop up in Spain on a whim, and some may offer to help you get a student visa as well, (though I’m not sure how they do this, but they have their ways).
Moral of the story, if you are non-EU citizen, you need to PRE-PLAN moving to Spain before you leave your country. Apply to school, look into those programs above, best way to do it.

If you do want to try for a non-resident NIE, here is what you need to bring to the APPOINTMENT you made at the police station:
Proof of appointment & application form
Passport (original and copy)
2 recent, passport-sized pictures (there are tons of machines that do this in the metro stations)
Certificate of residency (Empadronamiento). Which you get from the Barcelona City Hall by making an appointment there and bringing:
Your passport
Valid rental contract
Proof of most recent rental payment (which should consist of information to identify the rental: leaseholder, landlord, property address, date of pay, etc.) if you have yet to pay rent in your new flat, you can present proof of the deposit payment.
Your private health insurance (original and copy)
The document that justifies the reason of your stay in Spain: E.g. letter of acceptance of your university, work contract (internship), or proof of purchase of property.
Overall, the Spanish government is inconsistent, very disorganized, and not very well regulated or streamlined in the process of getting a NIE. So try, fail, try again, but if you are from the United States, PRE-PLAN your teaching career in Spain.