A Day in the Life of a Teacher in Cordoba, Spain
A Day in the Life of a Teacher in Cordoba, Spain
by Elisa di Folco
I do not know if there is such a thing as “travel addiction”. If there is, I am affected. In the past eleven years, I have lived in three different countries: the UK, Jordan, and currently Spain, and it seems I cannot get enough. Discovering new places, experiencing different cultures and trying new cuisines are my daily boost. It could be argued that travelling is my morning coffee, my vitamin juice, my energy drink, all wrapped in one.
Since I became an ESL Teacher, I found the perfect opportunity to combine my passion for teaching with my thirst for travel. The International House community was a great start for me: I am now writing to you from Cordoba, Spain, where I have been living for the past seven months, working at the very first branch of the IH organisation. So far, it has been an exciting work experience, especially if you add to it the perks of living in the warmest city in Spain.
A regular day at Academia Británica
As we mainly teach in the afternoon, I can dedicate my mornings to preparing classes, correcting homework, and enjoying a café con leche in one of the many cafeterias around town.
Doors open at 9:30 am here at Academia Británica, and you immediately feel a bubbly atmosphere; as you head towards the reception, the indoor patio charms you up at every step. I have a little chat with Pilar at the front desk who also helps me practise my Spanish. Then, I make my way to the teachers’ room where I usually find Matt working on his PowerPoints, discussing the latest on U.K. and U.S. politics while I browse through the books, followed by Joanne’s entrance who lights up the mood with her classic funny jokes. Finally, I go to my classroom where I finish planning my classes.
At lunchtime, I usually eat at home and then come back after lunch or have a quick bite at the town centre. Among my favourites, there are the Argentinian empanadas at the shop next door, the Arepa from the Venezuelan, or the classic bocadillo con Jamon, from one of the restaurants in the main square. After lunch, I sometimes treat myself to a cookie from the local café.
The Academy is composed of twenty-four classrooms, divided by two sides of the building. The newest includes all the English courses and extra activities; while the more traditional-looking side called the Academia Hispánica, is focused on Spanish classes and the organisation of related activities.
It’s a lively place to work, there’s always something going on, ranging from theme-based events to craft-making classes, to teacher-student get-togethers. Don’t be surprised if you find a table set with a delicious traditional Spanish breakfast, it’s the Hispánica team welcoming the new students from the Spanish exchange programme (lucky them!).
The lessons start at 3:30 pm, and my last class ends at 8 pm. After I escort the children to the front door for the parents to pick them up, I go back to my classroom to finish my last admin duties. While it might seem late to finish working at 8 pm, Spanish timing makes it the perfect moment to be out. The streets are buzzing, families are queuing up at restaurants and ice cream shops, while others chill by the square. I usually go for a late aperitive with some tapas, especially during spring, when the bright and warm weather makes it hard to say no. Some other times I would go to the gym, spending my last energies of the day with an energetic-yet-tiring cycling class. Finally, at 10 pm, I round off the night with a homemade dinner.
Spanish people love to celebrate, making the nightlife enjoyable for all ages. There are many bars and restaurants to go to, for a drink and a bite on the terrace, even in winter.
A bit about Cordoba and what to visit
Cordoba is a city in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain. Andalusia is best known for its Roman and Islamic influences which characterise its cultural aspects and scenery. The Mezquita, for example, is the most characteristic and unique feature of this city, while also being a Unesco World Heritage. It’s a vast mosque dating from 784 A.D. and it became a Catholic church in 1236.
Córdoba has the largest historical centre in Europe. You can walk through history by simply taking a stroll around the Judería (the Jewish neighbourhood), home of the famous Bull-fighting Museum, the Municipal Market and the Synagogue.
Another important landmark is the Alcazar, a huge fortress, once the residence of the Christian Monarchs (from the 13th century); inside you can visit the old rooms with precious mosaics and wander around the charming gardens.
The riverside is popular for the nightlife, thanks to the many bars and clubs but more importantly for The Roman Bridge. It dates back to the early 1st century BC, is an imposing structure made of 16 arcades and two arched doors on each end.
Among all the stunning attractions of this city, the Cordoban Patios remain my favourite. The patios are characteristic of older buildings, featuring an open ceiling area with a fountain, surrounded by flowers and colourful tiles. You can easily find yourself in one of these patios but do not make the mistake of not stopping because you’ve already seen one, they are all uniquely beautiful. During the Festivales de los Patios in May, all the patios are open for tourists to visit for free.
At the weekend, I love walking in the old town and getting lost among the narrow streets, typically decorated with red flowers in blue pots across the walls. Resembling a middle eastern town, the shops top the charming atmosphere with colourful scarves and dresses displayed outside.
As mentioned before, Cordoba is a lively city and the Cordobans love to celebrate. There are festivals all year round, but May is a special month for celebrations. The largest ones include Semana Santa (Holy Week), a religious festivity which takes place during the week before Easter Sunday and includes processions throughout the town centre, alongside musical bands. The 1st of May features La Batalla de las Flores (The Battle of the Flowers), a procession of floats where people dress in traditional clothing, throw flowers to the public and vice versa, as in staging a battle. During Las Cruces (The Crosses) the centre is filled with installations of crosses fully decorated with flowers, and locals usually celebrate with drinks and food. Finally, the Feria, known to be the greatest festival in Córdoba, is a week of entertainment for all ages and locals wear traditional Flamenco clothes.
A few things to know before moving
Cordoba has warm weather during the year, with a light winter. However, it gets very hot during summer, with temperatures reaching forty-five degrees, so be prepared. Shops and some offices usually close for the “siesta” between 13.00 and 17.30.
Having lived in the UK for the past nine years, it was hard for me to get used to the Spanish eating time, but now I have lunch between 2-3 pm, and dinner at 10 pm.
Cordoba’s average rent for a flat goes between 400-800 euros, allowing you to rent reasonably priced apartments in the centre, whilst rooms are between 100-300 euros. The cost of living is balanced with the average salary, and you can eat out during the week without breaking the bank. Cordoba is fairly big but most of the services are within short walking distance.
To work you need an identification number called NIE which is used as an ID to access any services here in Spain. You will apply for this number once you arrive and through the Academy, which facilitates the whole process.
When I arrived in Cordoba, I stayed in Airbnb for the first 10 days and the school gave me all the information for requesting the NIE and renting a flat. Usually, estate agents speak English but for any extra help the school staff are kindly available to support you.
My name is Elisa Di Folco. I’m originally from Rome, Italy, but I moved to London at the age of 19 where I graduated in Journalism and worked as a freelance journalist for various online publications in English and Italian. I have been studying Arabic for the past 4 years. My passion for languages and travel led me to take up teaching. Now I work at the IH in Cordoba, and continue studying languages.