< SWITCH ME >

Crazy parties, attractive girls and plenty of job opportunities - Scotsman Mark McLaughlin promotes the language of globalisation around the world: "The Queen's English, all the way from Glasgow". But following your vocation to change everything isn't just about adventure and a fabulous lifestyle.

The English Teacher

Photo: Annika Bethan
www.youthphotos.eu
Feel like swimming?

A summer vacation changed Mark's life. While swimming in the Bulgarian Sea he looked at his watch and shuddered thinking that he would be returning to his boring banker's job the following week. It was time for an adventure. Back home in rainy Glasgow, he abandoned his well-paid manager position at Barclays Bank. He left family, friends and his beloved football team, Celtic Glasgow, behind and moved to Spain.

The 26-year-old dropout with short gelled hair had holidayed in Barcelona several times, so he decided to give Spain's other big city a chance - Madrid. He didn't speak any Spanish, nor did he have any concrete job opportunities. But in a time of European coalescence, it's easy to find an occupation for native English speakers - as a teacher, to promote the language of globalisation around the world.

In cities like Madrid, you will find unskilled teachers with heavy accents, as well as Mexican tutors who say "frontier" when they mean "border". Therefore, Mark, with his fine British articulation and a "Teaching English as a Foreign Language" certificate under his belt, quickly became one of the best and most sought-after teachers in Spain's capital. He taught youngsters at a language school, as well as company managers and Spanish soldiers.

At the end of the day, he returned to his crazy eight person flat on Madrid's famous boulevard, Paseo del Prado, where he lived with fellow adventurers from all over the world - including myself. I met Mark in the kitchen just a few minutes after my arrival in September 2005. He spontaneously asked me to go for a pint, and it quickly turned out that we had more in common than our affection for football and cosy after-work beers - even though our friends spoke reverentially about the "Scottish-German drinking school" when suffering from hangovers after going out with us.

Photo: Andreas Kröner
I love Europe!

We were more relaxed than the hyperactive Madrilenian party people, though we thoroughly enjoyed acting crazy with them from time to time. We weren't desperately looking for "chicas" as our flatmates, though we appreciated their attention to our seemingly interesting hint of foreignness. We enjoyed the Spanish lifestyle and weather to the full, though we didn't lose sight of the drawbacks of living abroad.

For example, Mark stopped hanging out with his students after he realised they were not interested in him, rather interested in the additional English lessons after school. He spoke English all the time: at work, in his flat and while he was out. Thus, his Spanish remains basic, even after four years in Madrid. Mark also missed his parents and friends, so he started oscillating through Europe, teaching nine months in Spain and the rest of the year near home in Britain.

Careers across Europe rarely follow a straight business plan. More often than not, they look like zigzag lines that are driven by chance and gut instinct. This year is no different from every year for Mark, who says, as always, that it will be his last one in Madrid. He wants to go for something new, whether it's back in Britain, in Tokyo, Oman or somewhere else. When he is he going to decide? Probably this summer, while swimming in another sea somewhere around the world.

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