1. Why did you come to teach English abroad with Meddeas?
I was looking to undertake the next step in my teaching career. I had taught in Italy for several months, but wanted to commit to a year somewhere new. Meddeas offered me the opportunity to teach English abroad, in Bilbao, Basque Country, and provided as much assistance as possible to ensure my transition from Ireland was a smooth one.
The weekend before I left Bilbao, a good friend (a fellow teacher from my school) and I went on a coastal road-trip of Basque Country. We went to all the small towns and sights you can only reach by car and it was a very dividing experience. I loved it, but it made me incredibly sad that I would be soon leaving for China.
3. What relationships and/or friendships do you keep from your stay in Spain?
The two girls I lived within Bilbao were the best housemates I could have asked for. They were incredibly helpful and patient with me (I can be grumpy at times) and I really miss hearing them sing in the evenings! I will be travelling back to Bilbao this summer (2015) and I cannot wait to see them and buy them a midnight dinner!
4. In what sense has your worldview changed after your experience in a school and in your teaching experience in Spain?
Completing a year in Basque Country gave me another identity, one that matches my Irish one. I now feel part of two small, beautiful cultures. I was completely absorbed by the Basque lifestyle and ideology, and it strengthened my Irish identity by presenting me a complementing one.
5. Did you improve your level of Spanish? Has this skill helped you in your professional career?
I spoke no Spanish before moving to Bilbao, and I learned some (as well as Basque), however, I have significantly improved my Spanish since moving to China, as my plans are to return to Spain and complete a Ph.D in the very near future. As such I spend 40-60 minutes every day practising my Spanish before or after lecturing. I really do love studying Spanish (Basque is incredibly difficult though, like Mandarin!).
6. How has this experience improved your CV/resume and professional life?
My experience in Bilbao enabled me to move on to university lecturing in Tsinghua, Beijing. Teaching mixed level students in Bilbao, as well as Cambridge exam preparation, really developed my CV. Now I lecture Philosophy and English at the best university in Asia. I know this position would have been incredibly difficult to achieve without the excellent experience with Meddeas in Basque Country.
7. What advice would you give to someone joining Meddeas to make the most of this experience?
Learn Spanish! Learn whatever the chief language is of your region (for me Spanish and Basque). I wish I had started learning Spanish and Basque sooner (I waited a long time before really trying) and I feel I could have traveled and enjoyed the country much better had I bothered to study more of the language. Learning the language of a new culture is the easiest way to make your stay enjoyable!
2014/2015. Posted by Conor D., NUI Maynooth (IRE).