Laura H. has been a Language Assistant in Spain through Meddeas program during the 2014-2015 academic year. After graduating from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in the UK, she decided to spend one year teaching English in a Spanish private school. Here she tells us about her experience.
1. Why did you take the step of becoming a Language Assistant in Spain with Meddeas?
After leaving University I didn’t want to dive head first into a 9-5 job in my country. I was eager to learn another language and I knew the best way to achieve this was through moving to the country. Meddeas offers placements through Spain, and Spanish was the language I wanted to learn. I was -and am- hoping to pursue a career in teaching and this program allowed me to first-hand experience teaching in a different culture and country. I also wanted the experience of living abroad for a school year, meeting new people, experiencing their culture and teaching in a Spanish school.
2. Why did you repeat for a second year?
During my first year in Spain, I lived with a host family and taught only Kindergarten. After completing my first year with Meddeas, I decided that I wanted to repeat for a second year. Firstly I felt my Spanish needed another year abroad as I wanted to speak fluently. My ambition in life is to be a Secondary Art Teacher, and I felt that doing another year with Meddeas but teaching Secondary this time would really maximise my experience. I also wanted to live in Barcelona as I had previously visited and loved the idea of teaching there.
3. If you had to choose one specific memory of your Spanish experience, which one would it be and why:
I honestly couldn’t choose one memorable experience. The entire thing has been new and exciting, whether it was travelling with friends or festivals in the city, to the Christmas Concerts at the schools. The entire experience has been one I won’t forget.
4. What relationships and/or friendships have you established in Spain?
Since living in Spain I have made countless amounts of friends. Whether it’s the teachers at the schools, the host family I was with last year, people also participating in the programme, to friends I made off my own back. Last year I made friends with a group of Spanish people, who during Easter last year we travelled to Portugal. One thing I have not felt since moving abroad is alone, and I think this was my biggest fear when moving to Spain.
5. In what sense has your worldview changed after your experience in a school and in your teaching experience in Spain?
I am definitely a lot more understanding of people and their situations. After living in a completely different culture I have learnt to accept different, and embrace it. Being introduced to families traditions and their festivals have been an eye opener. And have taught me to involve myself completely in their culture. If anything, this journey over the past two years has only made me want to experience more.
6. Have you improve your level of Spanish? Do you think it will help you in the future?
I have immensely improved my Spanish. Before embarking on this program I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. In school we were taught French, this being the reason why I wanted to learn as it was completely new to me. Through my time here I have lived with a host family, where the Grandfather couldn’t speak English. I’m studying twice a week at an academy, then made Spanish friends where learning the language was socially necessary. This year I specifically chose to live with a Catalan woman whose level of English was very poor. Every day I speak in Spanish whether it’s a general conversation with my flatmate, buying groceries at the supermarket or helping a stranger with directions on the street. I use it every day, and as each day passes I am improving.
7. What are your plans for next year?
I have been accepted onto a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) for Secondary Art & Design. So I will begin this one year course in September which will qualify me to teach Art in the future. These courses are very competitive and I truly believe that I was accepted into my first choice University because of my two years experience in Spain. The two years experience of teaching children, and the fact that it is challenging and different to people’s usual path before a PGCE, made my application and interview more interesting as I could speak from experience.
8. What advice would you give to someone joining Meddeas to make the most of this experience as a Language Assistant in Spain?
I would suggest that they completely immerse themselves in the culture and that they make as many friends as possible. That they are open to new experiences and are willing to try anything. That they build a great relationship with the school and its teachers as it will benefit them in the long run. Try to participate in everything new so really maximise their experience here. Although 9 months is a short amount of time, build your life there. Make friends, travel, learn the language and most importantly enjoy.
By Laura H., 2014-2015