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Photo by Suzannah Larke
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Supersurgeon - How to change your life
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Took a stand-up comedy workshop "If I could be paid to write comedy all day, I’d do it, but I’m not. The pressure of writing material, rehearsals and gigs is immense"
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Completed a MBA at ESADE business school "“Going back to university as an adult gives you a whole new perspective...”
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Took courses in in flimmaking and photography at IDEP "Now I have my own business. I do production, and at the moment we are working on two documentaries. We do other things too: video clips for example."
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He did a four-year psychology degree with the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. "I was pleased with it, though I did miss feedback"
Deirdre wanted to get ahead in her profession, Rune felt ready to follow his true vocation, Nicolas saw a unique opportunity in Barcelona, and Barney found a hobby becoming a serious pursuit. They are four foreign residents who retrained locally, and found their lives moving in new directions.
Deirdre Field (30) grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She completed an MBA at the prestigious business school ESADE, in April 2007.
I worked in Asset Management before I arrived in Barcelona in 2001. For the first six months I taught English, [then] I worked in financial relations at a multinational company. I did some research on websites and in publications such as The Financial Times and The Economist, and ESADE and IESE came out very well. In business, everyone knows ESADE: it offers one of the top European MBAs, and also had a 12-month full time programme, while many only offer 18-month programmes. Everyone I spoke to told me to do it full time.
The mandatory courses were all in English, as were most of the optional ones. It was difficult—the programme is very intense, you have to work very hard. Financially, you have to think longer term, because you're going to be without a salary while you're studying, plus you have to pay for the MBA, which cost me around €39,000. Most people take out a loan. It's important to manage your expectations too, know what you want to get out of the experience and find out if it's going to be possible.
I loved it. Going back to university as an adult, with several years' work experience, gives you a whole new perspective on things, and it added a local touch to my formal qualifications. I changed companies following the MBA and entered a new industry. My employer looks to these schools to hire, so it definitely helped. My former classmates are working all over the world in different functions and industries.
It's well-known that during a recession applications to an MBA are up—people consider bad times a good time to upgrade themselves.
Rune Skretting (38) was born in Stavanger, Norway. He did a four-year psychology degree with the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
In Norway, I worked for the broadcasting corporation. I came to Barcelona in 2000. I'm a teacher and translator [here], and also occasionally work at the Norwegian consulate, all of which I did while studying.
Psychology was always a huge interest. My choice was between the Spanish Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). The Catalan version is only 10 years old, and is based on the British Open University. It's cheaper than the UNED, and I found the website easier to use. To get in the course I had to get my Norwegian qualifications validated by the Spanish Ministry of Education, but I found the procedure so infuriating that I did a generic access course instead. It's a virtual course, lasting half a year.
For the degree I paid between €600 and €800 per semester [six months]. It includes all the material, which is in Catalan. I wrote assignments in Spanish. You can opt for one final exam but I went for continual assessment. The degree was divided into five subjects a semester, each worth six credits, and I did four papers per subject. To complete the degree you need 300 credits. At the end, you do an oral test to check that the work is your own.
In every subject there's a virtual classroom, so you have contact with other students and with your tutor. You also do group work. I was pleased with it, though I did miss feedback. In Norway we are encouraged to ask questions, but here it's more about memorising.
My future depends on the job market. If I'm to work as a psychologist, I need to specialise. A Catalan degree is recognised in any EU country, but in Norway the course is six years, so I would have to work under supervision for two years.
Nicolas Guilleminot (44) trained as a veterinarian in Florence, Italy but decided it wasn't for him. He completed two courses in filmmaking and production, and then in photography at the private school, Institut Superior de Disseny i Escola de la Imagen (IDEP), in 2006.
I came to Barcelona in 2005. I knew I wanted to make documentary films. The IDEP course was 40 hours a week, the photography evening course around 15 hours a week. The film course cost €5,000, but it provided all materials and equipment. It was well organised and practical, and covered everything from the formation of an idea to putting it into practice. Classes were in Spanish. Teachers were locals and all were specialised in different areas: editing, short films, documentaries….We also did our own projects: five during the course.
We were put into groups of four. I was lucky that we gelled as a team, and we were all motivated. I thought it really interesting, but it was my first year in Barcelona and I was learning to speak Spanish at the same time.
Now I have my own business. I do production, and at the moment we are working on two documentaries. We do other things too: video clips for example. I work with three fixed freelancers, otherwise it depends on the project: we could be 20 people. I have to invest everything back into the business, and costs are high. Barcelona is a good place to do this in one sense, but for historical and cultural reasons it isn't easy for a foreigner in this line of work, because it requires a lot of trust.
The economic climate hopefully won't affect us: we're small and flexible, and can adapt to the market better than a large firm with employees and set expenses.
Barney Griffiths (41) insists that doing one stand-up comedy course organised by Giggling Guiri does not constitute a career change, yet is tellingly passionate about what he does.
I was born in Manchester and arrived in Barcelona in 1995. I've done lots of odd jobbing. In Australia I worked with the Australian Volleyball Federation organising beach tournaments. In Japan, I became an English teacher. Now I do teacher training and translation.
I'd always been a big fan of comedy, and I've been writing sketches and things since I was 30. I went to one Giggling Guiri comedy night and Stephen [Garland], who runs it, was handing out flyers for a stand-up comedy workshop. The teacher was Logan Murray, who is well-known in the UK. He's been running workshops for years, but this was the first time he'd done such an intensive one. It was Friday, Saturday, Sunday and then that night we did a performance. Even he wasn't sure it would work.
I can't speak highly enough about him. The course seemed to lack structure, but he was trying to get us to be spontaneous and to exercise our ‘comedy muscle'. Also to ‘exorcise our social editor'. One of the big obstacles to comedy is to listen to the voice on your shoulder, telling you that you can't say that. The final performance went well for everyone…who showed up!
If I could be paid to write comedy all day, I'd do it, but I'm not. The pressure of writing material, rehearsals and gigs is immense, but we are serious about it. The last Monday of every month we do a show at Ryan's bar. Ideally, we would like to perform in different bars around Spain, so we could really hone the same material. Our group is open to anyone interested, and more workshops are in the pipeline.