The Oxford TEFL Blog

Graduate Stories: Calin Pana

Calin Pana took our Trinity CertTESOL course in Barcelona in July 2016. Originally from Romania, and with a background in Economy and Business, he decided to obtain an accredited TEFL certification in order to fund his studies. Find out more about Calin and his experience here:

TEFL trainees Barcelona

Calin (left) with friends from the course

I first came to Barcelona for my Erasmus semester abroad. My 6 months in Barcelona were amazing, as I had the opportunity to learn the local languages (not too many places in Europe where two languages are used in the same area) and discover what it was like to live far away from Bucharest, my native, grey, home city. Torn between a constantly growing wish to live in Barcelona for at least one more year and the uncertainty of a possible Master’s degree at a local university, I thought that as an English teacher I could find a possible solution. If I got accepted, I would finance my studies, if I didn’t, at least I would be able to live in Barcelona for a while. Luckily, I was accepted onto the course!

As I adapted to Barcelona, I got surrounded by Romanian and expat friends that were or knew someone who was an English teacher: my flatmate’s girlfriend, a Cypriot girl that I randomly met in the Bucharest airport, and even my flatmate. Everyone was sweet-talking me into becoming one. Somehow, this struck a chord in me, maybe because English is one of my few assets.

After growing up with cartoons almost exclusively in English (a typical Romanian kid’s TV education), and finishing a degree in the same language (Bucharest English should be accepted as a new official variant of English!), I felt quite confident in my second language abilities. Thinking in retrospect, I have never studied English properly, neither have most of my friends. We have just acquired it; that’s why I’m tempted to say English is not my second language, nor my first one, it’s somewhere between the two (neither native, neither studied).

Barcelona TEFL course

Calin with friends in Barcelona

My friends all qualified from OxfordTEFL and this, coupled with my own research on the internet, encouraged me to apply for the class of July 2016. For this, I applied via the website, completed a short writing task, and had an interview with the course director. The interview included a spontaneous explanation of similarities between Romanian and English (really caught me on the subject there).

The only thing that I knew about the course was the fact that it was really intense.  As a tip, the third week is “notoriously difficult”, as almost every imaginable task, as well as the biggest core project, have to be finished during this period. I remember going to bed in the early hours of the morning, dozing off for a few hours, going to school and grabbing some breakfast; but on the other hand I’m not the best time planner either.

I had a great group – when we got so tired, someone would make the stupidest joke ever and everybody would burst out laughing. I remember when my colleague and buddy Jason was feeling a little stressed so I gave him an ancient, secret Romanian hand massage with some chanting. The look on his face when he felt it worked! Basically, the whole group of 13 collaborated flawlessly, nobody played the ultra competitive role. And they really were interesting. Four Americans, four British, an Irish, a Catalan, an Italian, an Egyptian and a Romanian, each with their own personality and story. One of the things that we all had in common, though, that intrigued me, was the fact that nobody really wanted to go back to their hometowns – not necessarily out of spite, but out of natural curiosity to live in a different place, which this profession helps you achieve easier than others. Maybe it was so because almost everyone was in their 20’s; even the ones in their 30’s looked and acted young enough so they couldn’t really impress or intimidate us with their age, not that they wanted to.

Most of the small talk – later to become big talk – took place in the back garden during the lunch hours or before our teaching classes. Out of 13 people I was one of the 4 non-native speakers, and this became an issue for me. I became self conscious about my accent, my inability to use the best of words in an instant or my weird phrase construction, made me overthink everything I say. I had this in the back of my mind for the first few weeks, even though one of our teachers was also Romanian, thus non-native, until I got told that it doesn’t really matter; non-native teachers are as valuable as native teachers (a claim supported by academic studies) and my English was fine. I also told my students in the first practice class that, although I’m their only non-native teacher, they will have to use English with other non-natives as well, so they will have to get accustomed to other types of accents.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Barcelona and my new friends a few days after the course was over in order to spend my summer back home in Romania. I just found out that I got accepted to my Master’s degree, so in about a week I will come back. I really need to check my schedule and see if I can work, at least part time, to support myself, but I’m thinking of teaching private classes in my spare time. I’m really glad I will see my classmates again and I hope they haven’t had too much fun since I left – I know we went to quite a lot of parties after our last Friday in OxfordTEFL.

Would you like to study or live in Barcelona? Get qualified to teach English in only 4-weeks with our Trinity CertTESOL course and take advantage of our visa support (non-EUs) and free lifelong careers service. For more information visit this page, get in touch or apply here.

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