Jamie Finlan, who hails from Carlow, Ireland, has come to the end of his 9 months of teaching English in Spain. Jamie has a passion for adventure and has made the most of his Catalan experience, immersing with the culture, cuisine and even joining a Catalan castells team! Read on to see how Jamie has spent his time in Spain…

Jamie taking a selfie while canoeing with his friend.

Tell us about your life before teaching abroad. Where have you traveled, what have you studied, were you working before jetting off to sunny Spain?

While living in Ireland I worked in Sales for EE (a U.K. Mobile network provider). It was Call centre work and to be honest, it was mentally draining and I quickly realised that this was not the career for me. This led me to the point I think everyone reaches in their life where I questioned “what I should do next”.

I’ve always been an avid traveler throughout my life, with most of the wages I’ve earned being spent on flights. I’ve been to the majority of European countries through Interrailing and weekend breaks, a couple of the states in the US and just Egypt in Africa. This helped me in my decision that my next job would be abroad.

This is when I started looking into teaching English abroad.

Jamie climbing up the side of a cliff.

What drew you to teaching in Spain – besides the stunning Mediterranean lifestyle, that is? Further, what has surprised you most about teaching in Spain?

When I had decided on teaching English abroad, now I had to decide the destination. I looked through multiple destinations in South East Asia, South America and Europe. All incredibly intriguing and each with their own pros and cons.

I finally decided on Spain because I felt it was a good starting point, it had the same currency, it was a short flight back home if I needed to get home urgently, not to mention the beautiful weather, people and food.

Jamie taking a selfie with his friends.

What surprised me most while teaching in Spain was how informal and loving the relationship between student and teacher. The students call teachers by their first names which is extremely uncommon in Ireland and at the start of classes some students would greet their teachers with hugs, also very uncommon in Ireland.

Describe a typical day-in-the-life for you as a TEFL teacher?

My schedule could vary greatly from day to day, because it was only 25 teaching hours per week, some days I could be in at 08:00am, other days would be at 12:00pm.

In my school, I was the only Conversational Assistant so I had classes with all ages, from 3 -16 year olds. This made my days incredibly enjoyable as I got a mix of everything. I could have a puppet show with the 3 year olds, then play games in English with 9 year olds and then help the 16 year olds with preparation for their up and coming English exam.

Jamie taking a selfie with his students.

Also, each weekend I had lessons with the teachers who wanted to practice their English, this soon became one of my favourite parts of the week as I got to know more about the lives of my colleagues and their interests.

What are three things a future teacher should know before going to Spain?

1. It’s normal to feel nervous:

When I boarded the plane to Barcelona, I quickly became nervous about what I was doing, I was going to a country where I couldn’t speak the language, I was leaving all my friends and family behind and I didn’t know the people I was going to be living with.

This quickly passes as you meet fellow TEFL teachers who are all in the exact same position as you and when you meet your host families who are incredibly welcoming and warm.

Thailand festival in action.

2. Not every day is a good day:

Some days you will question whether you are actually helping the students, whether they’re improving or not but don’t worry, this is normal. You are helping them and the students are truly grateful for you being there.

3. Embrace every opportunity:

Throughout the school year, the school will offer you to join them on school outings, field trips or school events. Take up every opportunity, I have fantastic memories of Furtaventura with my students and fellow teachers and having a huge water fight between students and teachers. The memories will stay with you forever.

Jaime about to go air gliding.

We see you are part of a Castells team? That is amazing! How did you get into that? Can you describe castells for those who aren’t familiar with it?

The opportunity to join Castells arose when I moved to my final family, I had never even heard or seen of it before moving to Barcelona. Basically, it is an old Catalan tradition where humans literally stand on top of each other. It is an incredible sight, especially knowing that the people who climb to the very top are children, usually aged around 4-5.

The locals making a human pyramid.

My host family offered me to come to training one evening as the whole family were part of a Castells group. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, because when would I ever have this opportunity again. The Castells group I joined were called Xics and were based in Granollers.

The group were like one massive family, they were incredibly welcoming to me and what surprised me most was they could find a place for everyone. No matter what age, shape, size or gender. Everyone had a position in the tower.

The locals making a human pyramid.

One of my favourite memories from my time in Spain was when our Castells group travelled to Andorra to perform there with a local group.  It was an experience I will never forget.

How has the homestay experience been for you? Tell us about your homestay family/families?

At first, it’s very nerve racking, you’re moving in with a family you have never met before, you wonder whether they will like you, if you will fit into their family dynamic but soon after meeting the families, the nerves soon become a thing of the past. There is a reason these people are willingly letting a stranger come into their household, they are some of the most welcoming and warm people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Jamie hanging off the side on a cliff.

You quickly become part of the family and the parents literally consider you one of their own children. All 3 families brought me to places and activities I probably never would have had the opportunity to do or see on my own.

As mentioned above, the Castells was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I also tried Kayaking for the first time, paramotor, a tree top obstacle course, skiing and rock climbing.

Jamie skiing down the side of a slope.

As I said above, always say yes to new opportunities and you will make memories that will last a lifetime.

What’s next for Jamie? Have you caught the TEFL bug?

When finishing TEFL I was considering travelling to South America to continue teaching but my brother offered me an opportunity to join him in Amsterdam. That is now where I live and work and I couldn’t be happier. I love the city and how eccentric it is and I still get in as much travel as I can.

Jamie having a meal with other interns.

This year I already have planned trips to Iceland and Greece which will add another 2 countries to my goal of going to every country in the world

Thank you Jamie you legend ☘️ for answering our questions. Keep flying the flag high for Ireland, wherever the road takes you!