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Graduate Story: James Kalmanson

CELTA course Barcelona


James is a photographer from Florida, United States and he completed our Cambridge CELTA course in Barcelona in August 2019. He now hopes to start working with teaching children and gaining his Spanish citizenship to stay in Barcelona. In this blog post, he describes his reasons for taking the course and gives some tips for those thinking about moving to Spain.



What were you doing before you took the CELTA course?

Before the CELTA course I was working as a photographer. I worked with a fashion handbag company, assisted on different photo shoots, shot for a semi-professional football team and was a photo ambassador for a clothing company. I specialized mostly in types of photography that are more natural and don’t require people to be posed. I love photography and it is still a big part of my life and a field that I want to keep working in.

What attracted you to Barcelona/ Spain as opposed to other locations?

This question is easy for me to answer as I love Barcelona. Maybe IN love with it?
I’ve been visiting Barcelona (and Lleida) since I was a kid and I developed an immediate attachment to it. It doesn’t have to try to impress you or make you love it, it just is the way it is. From the gothic, nature-inspired architecture to the incredible pastry shops offering handmade moments of sweet deliciousness to the various parks which offer an escape right in the middle of the city, Barcelona has everything I and a lot of others could ever want. While the other cities have their own advantages, the choice for me was always Barcelona.

What has your experience learning Spanish / Catalan been like?

I have family in Lleida and friends in Barcelona, so the two languages have always been a first-hand experience for me. My Spanish started with my Cuban nanny back home but evolved into Castellano, which I am still trying to get a fluent hold of. For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in learning and speaking Catalan, even if I don’t have any formal education of it yet. I figured that if I have family who is Catalan, and I want to live In Catalunya I might as well try to learn the language. When you just look at the conjugation of verbs between Spanish and Catalan alone it becomes even more complex, but also more interesting.

Why did you take the CELTA course?

I took the CELTA course for two reasons. The first being that moving to Spain would be a lot easier if I were able to work in the teaching English industry. Secondly, the desire to want to show someone how to do something new and make a positive difference is very high for me. After researching the different TEFL-based programs I realized that the CELTA course would be the most comprehensive and sensible for me.

Why did you choose Oxford TEFL as your course provider?

I did so because it seemed to me to be the most professional and practical school to choose. There were others that offered the same course but just didn’t give me that same level of comfort. There were two main reasons for choosing Oxford TEFL. The first was all the reviews I read on the GoAbroad website. Literally every review had the word “intense” in it, with varying but similar degrees. And all of them noted how beneficial it was to take the course. People with years of experience, people with no experience all found it equally intensive and strenuous to get through but everyone stated how great a decision it was.

The second reason I attribute to one of the teachers named Justin. Like me, he knew nothing about grammar, teaching English and was throwing himself into something completely new. This gave me some confidence that I could take the course and pass it. A month, many late nights, a breakdown and a group of very good friends later here I am, a graduate of the course.

CELTA Barcelona
James with his CELTA group

What was your experience on the course like?

It was more than I what I was told it would be. Again, the word “intense’ comes up. For a month I focused on the course, with a few deserved days/nights of fun in between, and nothing else. It felt like even with so much devotion towards studying and assignments there still wasn’t enough time. That’s wrong obviously as it all worked out in the end. Whatever I thought the course would be like, it was far more than that. The only way I got through it was with support from teachers and classmates who I’m so happy to call my friends. The teachers are there to help you whenever you need it but without friends, there’s no way you’ll pass. The way in which we helped, motivated and sympathized with each other makes it clear that we have become so close and I wouldn’t choose anybody else to have done the course with.

What have you done since you graduated with the CELTA?

In the first week after the course I, and others, properly enjoyed ourselves with some well-deserved late nights out, dinners and sightseeing around Barcelona as well as trips to different pastry shops, of course. After a bit of healthy separation from teaching I started to get some things in order. I’ve updated my CV, had a couple of interviews and made accounts with online teaching websites to set up one-on-one/private lessons. Oxford TEFL provides a very good careers service so I have also been working with Tim to help me get my first teaching job.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I always get hesitant at this question because I genuinely don’t know. However, I would like to have improved my English teaching ability well enough to either teach classes in a school, numerous private classes or in-company classes. It would be very rewarding to make a decent living from that. The addition to that is photography. As I said, it’s a big part of my life and being in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the opportunities are endless.

What advice would you give to a someone thinking about moving to Spain?

My advice is to have some sort of plan before moving here. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, but taxes are high, and wages are enough to get by. You need to be at least financially comfortable, so you have something to stabilize yourself while you either look for a job or try to apply for residency. However, if you’re smart you can really thrive here. You don’t need to be rich to live in Barcelona, even in the heart of it. Barcelona is a city where people live decently and still have the time of their lives. If you do your research and know where to look you can find some great deals and pick up a few tips of your own. Also, figure out which neighborhood suits you best and explore the area around it. There are so many cool spots to find down narrow streets and on block corners. Not to mention the incredibly peaceful parks to escape to which are located right in the middle of the city. Pretty much, Barcelona is a relaxed city with so many qualities that give it its trademark easy way of life. If you can fit into this type of lifestyle then pack your suitcase.

If you are thinking about teaching abroad and you would like to give yourself the best possible start, why not consider the Cambridge CELTA course? Get in touch to find out more or apply here to get started on your adventure.

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