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Reverse Culture Shock: the good, the bad, and the utterly bizarre

The weeks and days leading up to moving abroad look more or less the same for everyone: constant back and forth between nerves and excitement, everyone you encounter asking if you’re ready, packing crises and double, triple, quadruple checks of travel documents. And of course culture shock worries that will make your head spin: What will it be like? Can I live without peanut butter? Will I like the food? How easy in the transportation system? Do I even speak Spanish?!


Yep, anticipating culture shock to the point of obsession is totally normal no matter who you are and where you are going. But what we all tend to give less thought to is what will happen on the other end of your journey. I’m talking re-entry and reverse culture shock.

Re-entry might feel a little different depending on where you are and when you’re coming back. Whether or not you’ve traveled before and how long you’ve been away from home are big factors. If returning home from my second 8-month jaunt in France was difficult, I can’t imagine what it would be like to come back from a one to two year stint in a non-Western country. Still, I think it’s safe to say that everyone—everyone—experiences some degree of reverse culture shock.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the utterly bizarre things you will experience upon re-entry:

The good:

    • Friends and family. This is by far the most exciting things about coming home after being abroad for an extended period of time. It's a mini reunion party everywhere you go!
    • Home cooked food. Your mom is so happy to have you back that she’ll cook you all your favorite meals for about a week (warning: this wears off quickly so take advantage while you can). Plus your dog is there. 
    • Everything is so darn easy! You know exactly where everything is located in your home town: Your bank, post office, grocery store, favorite restaurants—they’re all right there. Plus, no language barrier! You’re suddenly the most competent person in the world. #adulting


The bad:

  • Missing foreign friends and family. Returning to one set of friends and family inevitably means leaving another. The first couple days back will have you feeling a little off kilter in light of their absence.
  • No more delicious, foreign food. This is one of the greatest tragedies of leaving abroad life—no more melt in your mouth baguettes or steaming bowls of bun cha or juicy, green olives. Get ready to cling to any restaurant that comes close to recreating your favorite delicacies.
  • Everything is so darn easy! Yep, this is a good and a bad. While knowing your home town by the back of your hand feels nice for a while, it will eventually feel too The challenges of living abroad can be exciting and overcoming them results in incomparable growth.


The utterly bizarre:  

    • Everyone is speaking English! It is so weird to walk around and not have to have your translating hat on all the time. Get ready for the first time you try to order a coffee in a different language.
    • Readjusting to customs and rituals. No more cheek kisses, no more language barrier, no more wondering which greeting you should use or how to address someone. The customs and rituals that were once second nature suddenly feel foreign!     
    • Going back to “the real world.” For many travelers, going home often means buckling down. Desk jobs and time clocks can feel really strange for people who have just spent a year or more in an unconventional work setting like a foreign classroom.


In your moments of panic and frantic searches for plane tickets back, take time to remind yourself that switching gears can take some time. Re-entry should be treated as delicately as initial culture shock since it is similar in so many ways. Be patient with yourself and those around you who might not fully understand the experience you’ve just come from.  

For those who have yet to squash their travel bugs, remember that travel isn’t going anywhere—especially with the option to teach English. A nomadic lifestyle requires some give and take so if you’re not ready to be done, trust that you’ll find a way back after some time of hard work and patience.

Good luck with the good, the bad, and the utterly bizarre aspects of re-entry and remember, we’re all in it together!

This week’s hottest couple: Study Abroad and TEFL

Here at CIEE TEFL, we’re pretty much teaching English as a foreign language gurus. We understand exactly the kind of person who is getting TEFL certified: young, adventurous, nomadic, but also career-oriented and practical people. TEFL-ers are out to achieve the best of both world scenario: professional development and serious adventuring all at the same time!


But there’s one thing we just can’t seem to figure out: if these are the kind of people getting TEFL certified, why the heck aren’t more study abroad students doing it?!

Anyone who has studied abroad—which is almost anyone who is now teaching abroad—knows firsthand what a semester in a foreign country does. Some do it to push themselves outside of their comfort zone. Others hope to satisfy a budding sense of wanderlust. For some, it’s an integral part of their academic track. Even though everyone has different reasons for going in the first place, most come to the exact same conclusion: study abroad is just the beginning of their international adventures.


We get it! Four or five months just isn’t enough time for those who had their worlds rocked by the transformative power of cultural immersion. Chances are you’re already thinking of ways to get back if you are currently studying abroad or recently arrived home.

Stop thinking so hard and get on board with TEFL! Whether you want to return to your study abroad host country or try somewhere new, a TEFL certificate can and will get you there. It really is the simplest and most practical solution for rising seniors or recent graduates looking to get back out of dodge as soon as the caps and gowns come off.


Here’s are five key reasons why:

1. You don’t have to put off professional development to travel. In fact, with TEFL and teaching abroad, career growth and travel adventures are kind of a package deal. So no one can give you any heat for traveling after graduation. Ha!

2. Keep that professional momentum going! You’re coming off a huge milestone in your professional and personal timeline and are now more qualified than ever. But at graduation, you’ll realize just how many people are leaving with exactly the same qualifications. A TEFL certification adds a gold star to that diploma and helps you stand out in a huge stack of applications that look more or less the same.

3. If you’ve studied abroad, then you’ve undoubtedly gained huge confidence and independence. Although they offer some fantastic programs, you don’t really need a middle man to apply for positions abroad if you have a TEFL certificate. This means you could be in the driver’s seat of your abroad experience—work location, age level, and learning environment are your calls to make!

4. There is no better time to travel than right after graduation—which is why so many people are taking off as soon the dorms have been emptied and the textbooks have been burned (well, more likely returned). After your senior year, there are absolutely no strings attached. No job, no lease, no big commitments, no problems! As you get older, it only gets more complicated to up and leave. So get it in now! Plus, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll be able to link up with friends abroad since it seems everyone’s out there somewhere!

5. TEFL isn’t just about teaching. It’s about deepening intercultural competence. If you hope to be a lifelong traveler or spend more time abroad in any other way, TEFL could be a key piece of this puzzle. TEFL and teaching abroad get you one step closer to becoming the international citizen you set out to be when you studied abroad.


So study abroaders, if there is one piece of advice we could give you for your newly wide-open future, it’s to get serious about not getting too serious. There’s no need to settle for a highly demanding job right away. The great thing about TEFL is that is opens up endless opportunity abroad without committing you to anything. It’s exactly what you need to calm your post-grad freak out (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

Again, if you have any questions, ask us TEFL gurus. Of course we think everyone can benefit from getting TEFL certified but we’ll tell you one way or another how it might fit into your post-grad path. Pack your bags, it's time to kick start your next big adventure!


-The CIEE TEFL Squad

East Side, Best Side: A quick guide for exploring Eastern France

Oh France, the land of cheese, wine, and baguettes. The food alone makes France feel like a dream but add the beautiful language, cozy villages, stunning mountain ranges, and a sparkling blue Mediterranean and you’ll realize that dreams really do come true!

When you only have a week in France, Paris definitely has its perks. One big, easily accessible, and diverse city that provides visitors with endless adventures, regardless of touristic preferences. While Paris should be on everyone’s bucket-list (definitely worth the hype), so should a road trip through Eastern France.

Here’s a route that will hopefully inspire you to jet-set to France, rent a car, and cruise through the beautiful French countryside to discover city after city of quintessential bliss—and of course amazing food!


Stop 1: Nice

Who knew that one of the most well connect airports in France (and possibly all of Europe) would be located in Nice?! Well, it’s not too surprising given that the funky Mediterranean city is so well connected to France’s biggest attractions: stunning beaches along the southern coast, ski resorts in the breathtaking French Alps, pizza and pasta on the Italian border, and dozens of iconic French cities like Marseille, Montpellier, and Lyon. Nice really does have the best of both worlds.

The best thing about this town is that you can experience it in so many different ways according to what fits your lifestyle and travel habits. You might spend your time riding bikes along the Promenade des Anglais and exploring the harbors filled with tiny, colorful fishing boats. Maybe your foodie side feels like feasting on seafood and attending wine tastings all day. Or maybe you spend all day on the beach and all night in the clubs! The great thing about this city is there is absolutely no pressure—no matter what kind of tourist you are, the only thing you have to do is relax!


Stop 2: Cannes

During your stay in Nice or on the tail end, jump on the local SNCF train and hop on over to Cannes (pronounced like soup can just FYI). Even though you’ll want to stay on the train all day, the five euro journey takes no more than thirty minutes and is a beautiful ride along the picturesque Mediterranean coast.

There is one rule of thumb when exploring these southern cities without a map: when it doubt, walk towards the ocean. You’ll discover all of Cannes magic along the ocean, whether it be in a beach side café, local artist market, or the climb up and through Le Suquet, the old quarter of Cannes that overlooks the beautiful bay, filled with boastful yachts and quaint fishing coats alike.  

Don’t forget that this city is the sight of the famous Cannes Film Festival. Remnants of Hollywood royalty like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe can be found throughout the city, lending to a mystical, retro vibe. Be sure to walk along the path of celebrity handprints to see which celebs have dazzled the crowds at this world-renown festival.  


Stop 3: Lyon

Hop on a train or rent a car and cruise your way to Lyon! This time, you’ll zoom through the French countryside: rolling, green hills, endless vineyards, and tucked away old towns. Again, you might never want the ride to end!  

Once you arrive in Lyon, you might finally be able to detach from that train seat. If France were high school, this city would be the cool new kid in town. Over the past few years, it’s become a hot spot for French and international students. The city is almost like a low-key, hipper version of Paris with trendy restaurants, a thriving art scene, and quirky storefronts.

Like Nice, your time in Lyon can totally be tailored to personal preference, but no matter what type of tourist you are, you have to get in on this food scene. Lyon is known as the gastronomy capital of France and in a country known primarily for its mind-blowingly delicious cuisine, that is really saying something. For the full Lyonnais experience, pop into one of the city’s famous Bouchon’s for a slow and savory meal. Once again, you might be stuck to your seat (and this time not by choice)!


Stop 4: Annecy  

Whether it’s a stop on your way to Paris or the final destination, Annecy is definitely worth a visit. Make your way to this alpine town from Lyon either by train or car and once again enjoy the stunning views of the countryside. In the spring and summer, you’ll see rolling hills of stunning, yellow flora and endless rows of grapevines.

Annecy is perfect for a day trip and probably one of the best cities to experience the French Alps due to its unique positioning on the lake. Gaze over the flat waters with a glass of rose and lay your eyes on one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. During the spring and summer, renting a bike and riding around Lake Annecy (or at least a part of it) is a must for active tourists!

Upon exploring the historical city, you’ll find that Annecy take on a bit of a Venice vibe with its curving canals and cobblestone streets. Wander along to discover cafes, bakeries, and on Saturdays, open air markets! If the weather is nice, which is usually is in the spring and summer months, enjoy a lengthy lunch (in true French style) somewhere that overlooks the lake!

PicMonkey Collage


So there you have it! Four stops in Eastern France that should give you a taste of all things French. By now, you can clearly see the recommendation trends in all four cities: food. When it comes down to it, a road trip through France really can be characterized by taste. Most other attractions and activities are cheap or free and lodging is more than affordable—so no matter the city, don’t skimp on food.

Feast your eyes and your taste buds for one week or more during this relaxing road trip. By the end, you’ll be floating on air (and probably plotting ways to marry a French man). Bon appétit et profitez bien !

I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a [blogger]


So you’re setting off on your next big adventure. Maybe you’re completing a destination TEFL practicum, getting ready to teach abroad, returning to a former host country, or simply putting your desk job behind you to jet set for a bit. Whatever the case, you might be thinking about starting a travel blog.

For me, blogging has played an important role in my experiences abroad. For starters, it’s helped me keep my friends and family up to date without having to call and break it down for each individual. A blog provides more than enough detail to ensure loved ones that you are safe and sound.

Blogging has also helped me on a personal level: processing and flushing out feelings, acknowledging personal growth as well as personal struggle, and connecting with a larger community of travelers and bloggers. And the best part is that all of this is forever preserved online. There is nothing like going back to a blog post from a few years ago and reading exactly what you were thinking and feeling in that moment (and maybe cringing a little at how sappy you were).

In addition to writing my own blog, I’ve also poured over countless others in attempt to decipher what works and what doesn’t. I was surprised to find that although travel bloggers are experiencing the most exciting times of their lives, that a lot of of them still fall flat. How can this be possible?!  

It doesn’t take much digging to realize that lackluster blogs all suffer from the same maladies, which for the most part are easily curable. You don’t have to be a professional to write a great travel blog, but you should follow some universal guidelines to make sure that your blog really packs and punch! Some of the best blogs I’ve read are also the most modest in size and following, but were consistently engaging nonetheless.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from reading these blogs:

  1. 1. Show, don’t tell! This rule was likely seared into your memory somewhere between the fourth and sixth grade but should really be reinforced to travel bloggers. Remember, you’re a blogger, not a historian. Chances are that unless they live under a rock, your followers can plainly see where you are and often where you are going via social media. So scratch that tedious chronological recaps and dig into some juicy detail.
  2. 2. Ditch the five paragraph essay! I know, it can be scary going beyond the traditional “intro, body paragraphs, conclusion” format but at some point we all have to ween ourselves off those English 101 comfort objects. I’m not suggesting that abandon all forms of structure, only that unconventional structures are not only okay, but way more interesting to read. 
  3. 3. The backspace button is your best friend. This sounds strange but the most useful tool in your editing toolbox is probably the delete button. My suggestion is to find all the places where you could delete words or phrases without compromising the meaning of the text—and then delete them! Redundancy and wordiness are big no-no’s for any writing style and especially in blogging. This is one major way to cause readers to disengage. 
  4. 4. Stream of consciousness works. Even if you’d never heard of this writing style, you pretty much already know how to use it—unless you talk like a robot. Stream of consciousness writing is the imitation of the spoken language in written form, which “depicts the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind.” This lends a more human quality to your writing and allows you to better showcase your personality. I love reading blogs where I feel like the author is talking directly to me—it’s inclusive, entertaining, and often hilarious!
  5. 5. Travel blogs are not always about travel. It’s not the most intuitive suggestion, but I wouldn’t make your travel blog all about travel. Although logistics are sometimes necessary in establishing context, I am personally always more interested in the blogger’s emotional response to a foreign place or culture. I understand that it’s not easy for everyone to wear their heart on their sleeve (or should I say homepage?), but allowing your emotions tell the story often leads to more intimate and unique blog content.

Of course there is not one right way to write a blog. If there were, all of them would look and sound the same. Keeping these five tips in mind, be careful not to abandon your personal blogging style and even more careful not to try to carbon copy someone else’s’. No two blogs should ever be the same, but all bloggers should write with clarity, authenticity, and creativity.

To check out my personal blog as well as some of my favorites, check out the links below:

This Little Piggy (my blog): https://hammyem.wordpress.com/

Hannah and Julie: https://www.facebook.com/hannahandjulie/

World Towning: http://worldtowning.com/blog/

Vagablonde: http://www.vagablondebasecamp.com/my-story/

Present Perfect: https://presentperfectblog.com/

Alexa Goins: https://alexagoins.com/blog/

Dreams Abroad: https://www.dreamsabroad.org/

After 70 Years, Teaching Abroad Matters More Now Than Ever

70th anniversary blog

Yesterday, CIEE celebrated our 70th Anniversary as world leaders in international, educational exchange. Board members, team managers, coordinators, temps, and even the brand new summer interns gathered in our newly updated facility in Portland, Maine to celebrate an extraordinary seven decades of cross-cultural bridge building. We extend our deepest gratitude to you, teachers, for helping to make it all.

Even though I am only an intern who started a mere four weeks ago, I’ve already come to appreciate what this company does and all that it stands for. Over the past seventy years, staff has come and gone, but one thing remains the same: CIEE’s dedication to fostering healthy international relationships and cross-cultural competence. Whether you’re a past participant or current staff member, we all are working toward these goals.

While CIEE has been around for a while now, our contributions to the international community are more important now than ever. Today’s contentious political climate proves that there has never been a more necessary time to send Americans overseas and host foreigners on our soil.

When it comes to repairing strained international relationships, diplomacy can only take us so far. Given the current state of government, it’s unclear how far that even is. This is why we must take it upon ourselves—as an organization and individuals—to strengthen our standing in the global sphere. The world must know that America as a whole does not stand for hate or intolerance. It is up to us to prove it.

As an international teacher, I understand that it can sometimes feel like you are making backwards progress. There were times that I felt like a complete failure when I walked into the classroom after months of asking the same questions only to say “How are you today?” and have my students enthusiastically respond with “It’s SUNNY!” These are the moments that you have to step back and remember why you decided to teach abroad in the first place.

While improving English competency around the world is critical to cross-cultural development, chances are that getting your TEFL certificate and moving your life overseas was not for the sole purpose of improving the English of foreigners. Most likely you did not go into this experience with the goal that your students would be fluent by the end.

On the contrary, I would bet that the majority of you in this self-selecting group set out on this path of greater purpose: to learn about, connect with, and grow a personal understanding of a foreign culture. By the end of your experience, you will have learned that this is a mutually beneficial and enriching exchange. Trust that this impact goes beyond a certain time and place. Your contributions in and out of the classroom will be remembered and utilized for years to come.

In honor of our 70th anniversary and in light of global politics, we must recommit ourselves to the future of strong international relationships. This means teaching English, learning foreign languages, immersing ourselves in outside cultures, and befriending locals in places we would have never imagined. In these commitments, there is plentiful hope for a more peaceful and tolerant world.

Congratulations to all on seventy inspiring years of international exchange. We cannot wait for many more to come!

5 Ways To Use Your TEFL Certification At Home

We know what you’re thinking: “If I invest time and money in getting TEFL certified, that means I have to go abroad to make it worth it.” While a TEFL certification can unlock endless ways to travel, we understand that not everyone is ready to pack up and ship out right after completion. 

If your readiness (or lack thereof) deters you from getting TEFL certified, we have one piece of advice: don’t let it. Of course you should get as much out of your certification as possible, but that doesn’t mean that you have to move abroad right away.

There are as many opportunities to use your TEFL certification at home as there are countries in this world! In fact, people who are qualified to teach English as a foreign language are needed on domestic soil now more than ever. Across the country, TEFL teachers bridge cultural divides between Americans and immigrants and help to foster more tolerant and harmonious intercultural relationships. In light of today’s political climate, it is up to the public sphere to achieve these goals.

So how can you use TEFL to contribute to society and without going overseas? Here are 5 ways to use your certification on your home turf:

1. Assist English programs at your university.
There are thousands of non-English speaking students on campuses across the country looking to improve their language skills. You can use your TEFL certification as a student volunteer or a paid teaching assistant, which could help you pay your way through school!


2. Teach at an English literacy program, school, or summer camp. You know what they say: just because you speak English doesn’t mean you know how to teach it. All of these types of programs constantly seek paid workers and volunteers to help foreigners improve their English. Your TEFL skills are invaluable in these specialized classrooms!

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3. Teach English online. Online English programs are more popular now than ever. Teaching through an online platform can help you to experience a country from the comfort of your own home. You’ll still get to connect with locals and learn what life is like through their eyes, all while helping them in a big way (and making some cash!).

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4. Utilize your cultural competence in any profession. It is no secret that international experience gives you an edge in the job field. They respect and seek out people who are interculturally competent in order to promote innovation and better interpersonal relations in the workplace. In an ever-globalizing world, being able to work with people from all walks of life is a must!

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5. Host international exchange students or work for an inbound exchange program. Living with a TEFL-certified host is a HUGE bonus in any exchange experience. While most host families help with English, they don’t necessarily know how to teach it. Plus, if you’re not ready to move abroad, hosting foreigners or working for an inbound exchange program brings the country to you! This can also be a great source of supplemental income.

* * *

Just like that, we’ve eliminated all excuses to not get TEFL certified even if you're reluctant about moving abroad. Whether you’re not ready to live in a foreign country, haven’t saved enough money, or simply don’t want to uproot your life in the U.S., rest assured that there is ample opportunity to use your TEFL Certification right here at home. You can make a full-time career out of teaching English in the U.S. or use it to earn some money on the side.

Remember, your contributions in your home country are just as valuable as the ones you make abroad. We need you now more than ever, TEFL teachers! Help your country to create a more tolerant, accepting, and culturally competent world.

Impressions of Vietnam

The-Sea-Mountain-Vung-Tau-Clouds-Panorama-Scenery-1538102Vung Tau. Photo by Creative Commons Zero, 2016, via Max Pixel. 

“You know how it smells after it rains? It smells like that all time,” CIEE Alumni Emily Muscat says of Vietnam. It is this country that gave her the first big dose of wanderlust and ultimately led her to study abroad in Senegal with CIEE and later, teach abroad.

Emily was lucky to experience the countries in the relatively early days of American-Vietnamese exchange. In 1995, former President Bill Clinton formally normalized relations between the two countries after 20-years of severed ties. Ever since, Vietnam has enriched the lives of thousands of American teachers and travelers.

Although the scars of colonialism, war, and poverty still linger, today’s Vietnam has blossomed into one of the most culturally rich and visually breathtaking countries in the world. The country is now known as the land of pho and fairytale landscapes, a hidden gem of Southeast Asia.

Thailand 2Beach in Thailand. Photo by Arek Socha, 2017, via Pixabay

Emily remembers the country well. She spent time in the beach cities of Vung Tau and Nha Trang where she dipped her toes in crystal clear waters and explored ancient Buddhist temples. While in her base city of Ho Chi Minh, she took a spin on the always popular motorbike taxis. Anything goes on these things—chickens, families of seven, refrigerators, and anything else you can possible thing of that would conceivably carry using a motorbike! Although it didn’t exist back then, today motorbikes are used for Uber. Talk about an exhilarating morning commute!

Although she loved the energy of the cities, Emily’s favorite excursion was to Da Lat, located in the Northern region of Vietnam. The city is tucked into a lush valley surrounded by misty mountains, providing some of the most breathtaking views in the country (and relief from the high heat of summer).

Da latDa Lat. Photo by StockSnap, 2017, via PixaBay. 

Despite a once contentious relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam, Emily was greeted with nothing but kindness and enthusiasm from the Vietnamese people. She has fond memories of volunteering in the communities and participating in local customs, especially mealtimes. She remembers one night when she and her group went to a local restaurant. The owners caught wind that they were coming and made a special effort to make them feel at home by preparing curry with chopped up hot dog! The gesture was sweet but she still preferred the authentic Vietnamese food. Her favorite dish was Bún chả (pictured below), grilled pork served over a plate of white rice noodle and herbs with a tasty dipping sauce. As you can imagine, Emily loves Vietnamese food to this day. 

Bun_chaBún chả. Photo by Tuhang, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tet holiday, the Vietnamese New Year is celebrated in fashion around the country. Generally, the cities are cleaned up and decked out with yellow flowers and awnings are hung all over the main street. The flowers brighten up the cities and put everyone in the holiday spirit! Teacher's day is also widely celebrated. Vietnamese and English teachers alike are showered with flowers, gifts, and love from their students. 

Although it’s been several years since her visit, no time can erase the impressions of this country. Emily says she can still smell the rain, feel the heavy air on her skin, and picture the landscape: white sand beaches, gentle rivers, and mountainous jungles. She will always remember the captivating sights, smells, and sensations of Vietnam.

Barcelona in Three Days

Hold up, Vicky and Christina (does anyone get this reference anymore?), you only have a few days in Barcelona and while some cities can be fun to take on without a plan, Barcelona is one of the places where you could spend a week and still only scratch the surface. It’s best to think this one through.

Last week, some of us from the TEFL Team spent a few days in this flavorful city for the launch of our Destination TEFL course in Barcelona. We’re already in love.

If you’re only working with a few days, sight-seeing an entire city can be overwhelming. For any tourist type, this guide will give you a good place to start. 


Morning: Walking Tour

I’ll be honest: most walking tours drive me crazy. I don’t like being talked at or walking in a group of people whose outfits just scream “Rob me, I’m a tourist.” But the walking tour I went on in Barcelona was actually great! Even in spite of the rain showers and camera-happy tourists, I enjoyed myself and felt well oriented afterwards. I recommend going with Free Walking Tours - they have a lot of experienced locals as tour guides.

Afternoon: Food (duh)

I always like to take it easy in the afternoon, especially after a lot of walking. I recommend pulling up to a cozy tapas bar and sipping on some Sangria in the El Born district, a quainter part of town that might have you feeling less like a tourist. Your feet will thank you and so will your taste buds!

Night: La Rambla

It’s a rite of passage for any tourist to wander aimlessly along La Rambla, the famous main drag of Barcelona. Your tour, which starts at Plaza Catalunya will stop somewhere along La Rambla so you can show off some Barcelona trivia as you stroll down the main strip and take in the boisterous Catalonian culture.



Morning: Museums

If you’re a history buff, Barcelona will have you geeking out. Hit up the museums in the morning when you’re well rested and hyped up on Spanish cortado (a shot of espresso with steamed milk). As far as museums go, I would recommend the Picasso Museum Barcelona. The exhibits are fascinating, and the space that houses them will have you feeling like you’re back in time—rustic, spacious, and a little bit eerie.

Afternoon: Park Guell.

When you Google images of Barcelona, this park is what you will see. Park Guell is an icon of the city and one that totally live up to the hype. You can explore a lot of the park without a ticket, but I would recommend spending the seven euros to access the Monumental Zone and check out the stunning mosaics (tip: skip the tour for this one). 

Evening: La Boqueria Market

If you couldn’t tell by now, I love food and drink. So it was love at first sight for me at this market and could be for you as well. Take your time strolling through, feasting your senses, and tasting everything—juicy olives, spicy chorizo, and fresh veggies. For dinner, snag a seat at El Quim De La Boqueria—best salmon I’ve ever had in my life (and that’s coming from a Portland, Maine native).

Park guell

Day 3  

Morning: Montjuic Castle

Get up early (that’s in Spanish time), grab a coffee, and head over to the Montjuic Cable Car. Honestly, the views from the ride up to the castle might be better than the castle itself—to put to scale, the castle is stunning. From there, you can see all of Barcelona and gaze out over that beautiful blue Mediterranean. Bring some snacks and something cold to sip on at the top.

Afternoon: Beach & Siesta

Since you’re running out of time, go ahead and kill two birds with one stone: Siesta on the beach! If you really want to blend in with the locals, you should crush a nap between the hours of two and five in the afternoon. And why not do it in style on the beach (don’t forget the sunscreen).

Evening: Food and Fun

Savor your last night in Barcelona. Take it slow, find some yummy paella, and try a craftily concocted mojitos at Mamaine. If you still have the energy and enjoy nightlife, there are certainly no shortages of bars and clubs where you can listen to music, chat with locals, and maybe even try your hand at dancing!


Whether you’re a student in the Destination TEFL course, a teacher on vacation from Madrid program, a study abroad student, or just a regular old tourist, Barcelona definitely will not disappoint. As the perfect get-away spot or temporary home base, Barcelona will have you dreaming of tapas and vibrant mosaics for days.

Have you been to Barcelona? What’s on your “must-do” list?  

TEFL to the Rescue: Classroom Problems Solved

This post was written by Zoe Sand, a TEFL Alumni and a Teach in China participant. 

Nervous about teaching abroad? Taking a TEFL course is the best way to boost your confidence before heading into the classroom. Speaking from personal experience, TEFL helped me land my first teaching English job without any prior teaching experience. Most importantly, it has helped me navigate tricky classroom situations. The best lesson I learned from TEFL was to “plan for Z.” In other words, be prepared for whatever problems may come your way. Since starting my teaching position in Shanghai, I’ve encountered several problems that I was well prepared for thanks to my TEFL training. 

CIEE Teach in South Korea

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Top Phrases for Making Friends in China: Words for Having Fun (Part II)

This post is by Jennifer Rives, a CIEE TEFL and Teach in China Alumni and a current participant of our Teach in Thailand program. 

In preparation for teaching in China, you've probably found yourself digging through poorly written notes from your high school Mandarin class, desperately hoping to brush up on your Chinese. While your formal language training may help, it likely won't prepare you for the colloquial Chinese that you'll need to make friends. As a CIEE Teach in China alumni, I can help. 

CIEE Teach in China, photo by Jennifer Rives

If you're reading this, you've probably already read Part I of this series and are already a pro at the six useful Chinese compliments I taught you. Great job! If not, I recommend you check out Part I before moving on. 

There may only be four phrases in this list, but speaking from personal experience, they will to make you quite popular with many young people in China. Whether you choose to use these colloquial phrases with your Chinese friends, coworkers, or your students, you are guaranteed to get a very cheerful, enthusiastic response.

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