A month before embarking on the CELTA course, at nearly 32 years of age, I had moved back home to my parents in a small town in the middle of Ireland. A place I hadn’t lived in since I was 17. I had travelled back from Canada, having left my partner of ten years behind and my cosy full time job. I did not give all this up for CELTA. However, I no longer had a home, a job or friends in this new life I was starting. CELTA, you gave all this to me and more. Initially, you gave me a focus. Ultimately, you gave me new skills, a career and lifelong friends.

I have always wanted to live in another language.

I spent the months before my departure from Canada applying unsuccessfully for jobs in Spain. I started to notice that a lot of job opportunities I was overlooking were for English teachers. I wasn’t a teacher. My mother ran a Montessori school. I spent my school holidays working there and I took Speech & Drama Lessons up to Irish teaching standards. But my mother was a real teacher. My dad, too, was a real teacher in the local secondary school; my sister a primary school teacher. They all have a degree in teaching. I have a degree in Drama and Spanish that I spent years glossing over with rehearsed answers in interviews. I worked in Finance. I wasn’t a teacher. Or was I…

Muirne in SevilleI started to look into what it took to be an English teacher. Some places didn’t need a certificate. Great! Some places needed TEFL. I had vague recollections of my university days. Wasn’t TEFL something you did while backpacking in Thailand? I didn’t want that. I did more research and the information was endless. And contradictory. A degree is enough! You don’t even need a certificate! You can get one on Groupon! The acronyms were just as confusing. EFL, ESL, TESOL, TEFL. When I saw that people with experience were seeking advice on forums for certification, I knew I needed to be properly certified. CELTA it was. I figured if I was going to invest in this, I may as well go for the gold standard of CELTA – International House. Seville was one of the few to run off-peak in September. So with no savings, my lovely family pooled together for the next flight to Seville, temporary lodgings and the CELTA course. I packed my bag for four weeks. I didn’t come back for four months.

Following the course – the survival of which merits a post of its own – I stayed put. I had fallen in love with teaching. On paper it was a bad time of year to get work. But armed with the information we were given on job hunting (they didn’t just kick us out the door), I ploughed on, vowing to give it one more week. On a CELTA course there is no time for procrastination. I would have previously considered myself a procrastinator, a perfectionist. I taught my first private class the very next day. I lined up three interviews with schools that same week.

On returning to Ireland for the Christmas holidays, I found myself feeling obligated to pay my family back what I owed. Living so happily in sunny Seville made me feel a little guilty. So I took a finance job in the new year instead of continuing on in Seville.

My thoughts have turned to teaching again now that I am debt free and the new school year is upon us. I don’t just have a certificate. I have a crew. During this year, feeling unfulfilled and dismayed on rainy days, I found myself inspired by the journeys this crew has made. With their support, I have forgiven myself for not staying in Seville. Just the other day I was speaking with Kate going to Granada; Ellie prepping for Italy or maybe Korea. The opportunities are endless and, like anything in life, what you make of it. I have saved every penny and I am now ready for the job hunt for the new school year in Spain. I cannot describe the feeling of job hunting and finally searching for a specific profession. Because, yes, I am a real teacher.

Muirne Burke

Muirne de Búrca

Muirne de Búrca, Higher Education, Canada

After writing this article in the summer, Muirne went on to spend the academic year teaching in Spain. She has since returned Canada, married the boy and continues to be happily surrounded by students, working in a local university.

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