Perhaps the most valuable skill that I came to love and hate during my TEFL course in
Barcelona, Spain was time management. It was obvious after the first day of class that
I would need to refine this skill, and for me, having active things to do outside of the
classroom was absolutely crucial to this task.
Over this one month course you will put a lot of time and effort into lesson plans,
homework assignments, personal essays and other teaching related tasks, weekdays
and weekends alike. Compound this with the everyday challenges of learning to live in
a new city and things can start to get pretty stressful. For me, one of the first and best
things that I did to alleviate this stress was buying a bike. Barcelona is an extremely
biker-friendly city (except for the reckless taxi drivers, watch out for them) and by that I
mean almost every other street allows a bike lane. Also, because the city’s grid is
dissected by major thoroughfares, it’s fairly easy to find your way around once you
know a few major streets. In my case, biking 20 minutes to class everyday was not
only a form of exercise, but also a way to discover more parts of the city that I would
have otherwise missed had I taken the metro.
TIP: look for used bikes on the application Wallapop before going to a bike store (they
seem to be more expensive here). Or if you happen to have citizenship or obtain your
NIE, checkout Barcelona’s bike share service, called Bicing (this will run you about 50
euros for the year).
The second thing I invested in to help alleviate my TEFL stress was a gym
membership. Barcelona has an overwhelming amount of gyms, yoga studios, fitness
centers, and even outdoor workout spaces. I chose to join Reebok Crossfit BCN,
which is conveniently located right in the heart of the city center. Not only was this a
great location, but it provided me a community of people to get to know and learn from
right from the start, which is important when moving anywhere new. Also, Crossfit
gyms are notorious for networking, so it was no surprise that I found my first few
private lesson students through this gym. Another great membership to look into is
through the application GymForLess, which gives you access to literally hundreds of
different kinds of gyms in the city. Depending on how many you want access to, the
cost will range from 50 to 100 euros a month.
TIP: don’t rush signing up for any one particular gym; a lot of gyms in Barcelona will
allow you a free trial day if you explain to them you are new to the area and want to try
out the gym for a day.
The last but definitely not least helpful thing that I invested in was time meeting people
through various sport groups. For me, this started before I arrived in Spain when I
decided to pack my tennis racquet for two reasons: one, I love tennis; two, I knew it
would be an easy way to meet people. And this proved to be true. No matter where
you go, people doing fun and active things are always more approachable. Plus, you
immediately know you have one thing in common, and that, I think, makes it easier for
you to approach people as well.
TIP: if you have Facebook, search for Facebook groups for your favorite sport or
activity—you’re more than likely to find at least one. If this fails, there’s an amazing
application (shocker!) called Meetup where people post group activities for literally
anything and everything. And the best thing is, if they still don’t have what you’re
looking for, you can make your own Meetup activity (mind explosion).
No matter how you go about your time in Barcelona, make sure to take some time to
do the things you love. For me this happened to be staying physically active, which in
itself is a phenomenal way to relieve stress. However, I encourage anyone reading this
to pursue new activities, because, well, you’re in freaking Barcelona! I took this chance
when I asked a group of people on the beach if I could play volleyball with them, and
now they’re some of my best friends here. So take the time to get out and play a little—
you never know who you’ll meet or where it might lead you.