Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background and what drew you to living abroad and teaching in Spain.
My name is Lily, I’m 22 years old and I grew up in a small village in Waterford called Ardmore. Growing up in Ardmore gave me the desire to travel the world. I had a taste for the world’s beauty in the very place I grew up in. This created excitement within me to see what else the world had to offer. I also have two older sisters who have travelled everywhere you could think of. Their travel stories made me take the plunge and live abroad teaching in Spain.
How did you make your decision on moving to Spain?
I chose to live in Spain because I’ve been studying Spanish for years. I wanted to immerse myself into the Spanish culture fully. It was time to learn how the Spanish people live from the locals, rather than just from a classroom. As the saying goes: when in Rome, live how the Romans do. I think I took the saying a bit literally and ended up having a bit too much fun while living there.
I also looked up the cost of living in Spain compared to other areas in Europe and felt it was more suited to me. As a student, I needed to be somewhere where rent and living costs would be within my budget.
Pre-covid, flights were so frequent between Ireland and Spain. If I needed to go home for something, I would have been able to. The flights between Spain and Ireland were also relatively cheap and the airlines often had sales on. If you were lucky, you could get a flight from Alicante to Cork for €40.
Have you been living with a Spanish family?
I chose not to live with a Spanish family. I felt living abroad with another family wouldn’t give me the freedom or independence I was looking for.
I found an apartment on a website called Spotahome, where I was able to share with completely random people who were around the same age as me. This meant the rent was split between all of us and I wasn’t having to pay rent costs on my own. Sharing an apartment was an ideal situation for me as I was able to make new friends with my housemates.
What are the locals’ attitudes towards foreigners?
I felt the attitude from locals towards foreigners was very welcoming. If I ever needed help from a local, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask. Whenever I was in a supermarket or doing normal daily things, I was often greeted with a smile from the local people. The shopkeeper in my local supermarket often enjoyed it when I came in as he was able to practice his English with me.
Where in Spain were you living? Any local tips for anyone looking to travel there?
I was living in a coastal city called Valencia. It’s the third largest city in Spain and is known as the ‘sunny city’ as it has sunshine for most of the year. What attracted me to Valencia was the fact that it had a beach and a big city, so you had the best of both worlds. If the weather was too hot in the inner city, you could escape to the beach within a 20-minute bus ride.
A tip I would give to someone wanting to travel to Valencia is to know that they speak two languages there. So, if you know a bit of Spanish but find yourself overwhelmed not understanding what the locals are saying, they could be speaking Valencian. All their street names are written in Valencian too.
What is there to see and do in Valencia?
Valencia has activities for everyone to enjoy. The City of Arts and Sciences is a major tourist attraction. It’s located at the end of the Turía, which is a 9km park that you can spend your day chilling or exercising in. You will know when you’ve made it to the City of Arts and Sciences. You will feel like you’ve just arrived onto a sci-fi movie set with its futuristic architecture. You can visit the science museum or go to the aquarium there. There’s also an outdoor club called Lumbracle that you can enjoy at night.
The shopping street, known as ‘Carrer de Colón’, has every shop you could dream of. From all the well-known Spanish brands, such as Zara and Pull&Bear, to other global brands like Sephora, Brandy Melville, and Apple. If you are a shopaholic, Valencia is your playground.
You’ll never get bored in a city that offers nearly every possible activity you could think of. I can’t recommend Valencia enough.
Your trip was originally for going on Erasmus, but you ended up teaching in Spain as well. How did you find studying, working, and living in a new country? Was it hard to juggle?
At times I found it stressful, especially when I had deadlines or exams coming up in college. But college in Spain has a lot fewer in-class hours than it does in Ireland, so I had a lot of free time to work. I also had every weekend off, so I was able to catch up on studying during that time and enjoy myself.
What did you enjoy most about your trip?
My favourite part of my trip was making new friends. I spent nearly every waking hour with them; they almost became my second family as I had no one else out there. I found making friends in Valencia quite easy. Once I heard someone speaking English in a pub or club, I found myself talking to them and exchanging numbers. There were also many events for Erasmus students to go and meet other Erasmus students. These were very helpful at the start for meeting new people.
How did you find a job teaching in Spain? Could you explain to us the process you went through to find one?
I found my tutoring job in a unique way. I often went to an Irish pub in Valencia, and most of the people who went there were working in schools that taught English. I ended up talking to a girl one night and she told me to ring the school she was working in as she knew they were looking for another tutor. I rang up and they interviewed me, and I got the job. Although this was a bit of luck from my side, the TEFL team has a lot of resources to help you when finding a job teaching in Spain.
Did you experience any language barriers over there?
I’ve been studying Spanish for quite a while, so language barriers weren’t a huge worry for me before going over. I would recommend Valencia as a spot to travel to or live in if you have no Spanish at all. Nearly every person I met was able to speak English well enough for me to understand; most were almost fluent.
Would you teach again? If so, what countries are thinking of working in?
I would definitely teach again; I loved my experience living and teaching in Spain. I would consider moving to France or Italy as I enjoy living in a hot climate and love the European attitudes towards enjoying life. In Spain there was never a time where people weren’t out around the city eating or drinking or even just spending time with friends and family in the park. The buzz around the city would excite me for the day ahead and I can’t wait to experience it again.