San Sebastian is one of Europe’s most idyllic cities. A key location in the Basque Country on the north coast of Spain, close to the French border, the city is also truly picturesque. Nestled between huge, arcing golden beaches and beautiful mountains in the distance, it is full of charm, culture and fine cuisine. The location is the host of the world renowned San Sebastian Film Festival and combines stylish living with a down to earth feel. It is certainly a superb choice of place to get qualified to teach English. We chatted with with San Sebastian CELTA course tutor and Head of Teacher Training and Development, Karen McGhie, to ask her about what it is like to take the Cambridge CELTA via this superb location…
For people who don’t know San Sebastian well, what is the city like?
San Sebastián, or Donostia in Basque, is one of the most beautiful cities along the northern coast of Spain. Situated in the heart of the Basque Country, it is only half an hour away from the French border and is surrounded by picturesque towns and villages. The city itself is architecturally reminiscent of leafy Parisian suburbs whilst possessing its own unique character and charm.
San Sebastián is a foodie’s haven, with the highest concentration of Michelin stars in Europe and there are currently 11 Michelin starred restaurants within a ten-minute drive of the city. But if haute cuisine is not for you, then you are never far from an excellent local restaurant serving the freshest and most delicious dishes.
The city is also unique in that it is home to three sandy beaches, one of which is hailed as a surfer’s paradise. The centre in Donostia is only a ten-minute walk from the closest beach (La Zurriola) whilst also being equally close to the city centre.
If hiking is something you’re into, then there is no shortage of mountains to conquer in San Sebastián and the surrounding areas. The city itself has three mountains: Igueldo, Ulia and Urgul, which are always bustling with locals and tourists alike who want to make the most of the fresh air and spectacular views on offer. ‘Monte Igueldo’ is also home to a theme park which has been operational since the early 20th Century and still retains all of its original charm. Accessed by a traditional wooden funicular railway, it boasts a popular lookout with arguably the best view of the city.
How is the CELTA at San Sebastian unique or special?
Quite simply, we love what we do and are passionate about helping our trainees become the best teachers they can be. I think one thing which also sets us apart is that we are all teachers, meaning we always deliver the course from a teaching perspective rather than an overly academic one. It’s important for us to transmit to trainees that we go through the same teaching issues as everyone else, and I think this shows in the way we run our courses, both face-to-face and online.
We know that the majority of our trainees go on to teach classes of Young Learners (under 18s) and for this reason, we dedicate more time to this topic during input sessions than other CELTA courses. ‘The YLs Course’ is an online course which we created in-house with CELTA graduates in mind and is offered at a discount if candidates sign up for both courses at the same time. You can ask about it at the CELTA interview stage of the application process.
Our Teaching Practice (TP) groups are also special in that they are from the local community and our students often come back year after year because they love the experience so much. This creates a lovely atmosphere during the TP classes and one which feels friendly and welcoming to all those trainees who take our courses.
On the first day, all trainees, tutors and administrative staff at the centre share a ‘pintxo’ lunch in which we sample some local food, wine and cider and get to know each other a little better before embarking on the course. As a smaller centre than some of the others in bigger cities, we are able to give more personal attention to every trainee and there is more of a closeness in the to the day-to-day life of a CELTA trainee at the San Sebastian centre. Trainees are able to immerse themselves not only in the course, but also in the local culture. Even the people who work in the local café get to know the names of the trainees (and their coffee order) by the end of the course!
Of course, as I mentioned in the previous question, San Sebastián is a fantastic place to spend a month (or longer) and I can think of no better reason than that to take a CELTA course here and enjoy everything the city has to offer.
Describe a day in the life of an average English language teacher trainee in San Sebastian
On the intensive 4-week courses, the word intensive plays a big role in the day-to-day life of a trainee. When I interview candidates for the course, I make sure I emphasise the potentially stressful nature of the workload, but people don’t believe me until they experience it for themselves!
On our course, the morning is dedicated to teaching practice, whilst the afternoon is made up of two input sessions. A typical day on the course starts at 9:00 and finishes at 17:15. When trainees arrive at 9, they have some time to grab a quick coffee and croissant and put the finishing touches to their lesson plans and preparation if they are teaching that morning. For those who aren’t teaching, they have some time to look through the material for their next lesson or work on one of their assignments. The assessed TP block of 2 hours (10:00-12:00) is shared between 2 or 3 trainees each morning. After TP, there is a short break (cue a little bit more coffee) before group feedback and lesson planning with the tutor for those who are teaching the following day.
After lunch, there are two input sessions, which finish at 17:15 after which, trainees are free to go and work at home or stay at the school until around 19:00. Trainees usually work for around 2-3 hours in the evening and at least one full day at the weekend, but I always tell them to leave some time at the weekend to mentally disconnect and go for a relaxing walk along the beach to get an ice-cream or something. It’s so important to have that mental break on the CELTA course to avoid burn out, especially around the start of week three when things really start building up.
What are the benefits of taking a CELTA course?
The benefits are endless, both in terms of teaching and the personal development you experience as a result of the course. Regardless of teaching experience prior to taking the course, there is always so much to learn and the difference in trainees’ delivery of lessons from the first week to the last is incredible. The CELTA course allows trainees to receive specific feedback from tutors and peers alike each time they teach, and are able to improve their teaching in a very short space of time.
As a tutor, the most rewarding thing to see is the growth in teachers’ confidence and ability to enjoy the experience of teaching, knowing that they are armed with the techniques and knowledge they need to make their classes effective for their students. A teacher who suffers in front of their students is not an effective one, and students mirror the positivity and confidence that the teacher emits.
On a personal level, trainees learn how to face a challenge head on and overcome disappointment or negative feedback in a positive way. They also develop their organisational skills and have to put their ability to work under pressure to the test. All of these real-world skills are transferrable to any future personal or professional situation.
What’s the best way for a trainee to prepare for the CELTA course in San Sebastian?
Like any other CELTA course, the best way to prepare is to make sure you have reviewed your language knowledge and cleared your diary of any social events! The CELTA course requires you to put into practice all the teaching techniques that you are learning, and having to learn the language at the same time can be extremely overwhelming.
And for those who want to do the CELTA online, what is the online CELTA via San Sebastian like?
Lots of people ask what the difference is between the online and in-person CELTA course, and the answer is that there isn’t much difference at all. The online part-time course is run over 20 weeks and TP is done on Tuesday mornings, whilst the input sessions are run on Friday afternoon.
Rather than the classes being taught in person, they are taught via Zoom to a group of TP students. Input sessions are also delivered on the Zoom platform. This means that as well as developing your teaching skills, trainees also get to develop their online teaching skills on one of the most widely used platforms in the world.
The great thing about the online part-time course is that trainees can complete the course alongside other work or personal commitments and take their time with both the lesson planning and assignments. If they are already teaching in some capacity, then they have the opportunity to try out some of their newly acquired techniques in the classroom alongside the assessed teaching they are doing on the course.
Finally, what post-CELTA career opportunities are available in San Sebastian, the Basque Country and Spain in general?
The career opportunities for CELTA-qualified teachers are numerous and nearly all of our trainees find a teaching job within months of finishing the course. The demand for qualified English teachers in San Sebastián and the Basque Country in particular is very high, and for that reason there are always job openings for those who have recently completed the course. There are even school owners who we trained on past CELTA courses who then hire newly qualified teachers that we have also trained. It’s a real community effort!
The vast majority of our teaching staff here at London School of Languages come from one of our CELTA courses and for me, the best thing about delivering the CELTA course in Donostia is working alongside those we have trained and nurtured from the very beginning, seeing them grow and develop into great teachers. We always strive to keep in touch with past trainees and often see them at various conferences, training courses and teaching events all over Spain, even our own annual conference which we run here in San Sebastián every March.
Apply to take the CELTA via San Sebastian, Spain today!
If you are looking to embark on an exciting career where you can teach around the world, the CELTA course via San Sebastian is a great place to start! You can apply for the CELTA through our online form. There are no application fees and the form form usually takes five to 15 minutes to complete. It is not just the face-to-face CELTA that San Sebastian offers, you can also take your CELTA online via the centre!
Do you have any questions about taking the CELTA? Get in touch with a member of our team today!