Experience in school, including tasks, classes, and relationships with students/teachers

On the first day in the Spain school, two teachers gave me a tour of the whole school. Neus, my tutor, has been fantastic; to be more honest, she has become more like a friend than my tutor. I feel I have integrated so well. The teachers are all so lovely and always make me feel welcome. Even in the staff room, when I come in, they create space and ask me to sit with them even if they are not speaking English. The students have been like a dream, even the naughty older teenagers. They cooperate and are excited to learn. I usually have small groups of around four students at a time to help improve conversation skills. They tell me they love spending time with me because they learn and also get out of another average class. TEFL teaching in Spain can be challenging at times, but with my lesson plans in hand, I have learned to manage different students with levels and abilities.

Experience living with your Host Family. Have they made you feel welcome, relationships, activities, etc…

My Spain host family honestly have exceeded my expectations. We have bonded so well from the get-go. I love the two children and was delighted to learn I was staying with two girls in primary school because my time in the school is with secondary school. I feel like I am between a sister and a friend to the girls and feel so comfortable around the whole family. The host mum is an inspiration to me. She is a single parent and a successful businesswoman with an incredible company, and we get on excellent. Just this week I went to a concert with her.

She got tickets after I mentioned the singer was playing in Barcelona. Other highlights with the family were when we all went to a theme park called PortAventura and stayed in a hotel. The family haven’t let me pay for anything so far; I have tried, but they will not accept as they know I am volunteering on this project and insist on looking after me.

Your general experience whilst on the program from prior expectations to your current experience

When I first applied, for the Spain internship, I was focused on teaching, and how this would go once I got in the classroom. I was nervous and liked to have everything organized, but it is hard to plan when you are a newly qualified TEFL graduate. I soon realized that even with the best planning and preparations, things change all the time, maybe an activity I had was for more people in the group, and I needed to learn to become adaptable and go with the flow and be creative.

This has helped me see that teaching is not only planning exactly what needs to happen but also being able to read the situation in front of the students, gauge the mood and make things work from there, which is fun. As for the host family, I had loads of doubts. For example, would we get on? Would I be treated like a third child? But as soon as Educados International sent me my host family and I organized two Zoom calls before arriving, one with the mum and the second with the family, I had a great feeling that I was going to fit right in. Across the board, the program so far has exceeded all my expectations. Educados International smashed it with my placement, family, etc.

Changes/Improvements in both personal and professional development

I have grown in confidence. Before coming out, I was a bit of a control freak planning everything to the last detail, if anything; now, I have become more relaxed and adaptable and learning to trust my instincts, go with the flow, and always look for the positive in each situation. My public speaking skills have improved tremendously, and this Spain experience has opened my eyes to what I can and am capable of. I feel I am qualified to teach English whilst gaining many transferable skills.

Advice for any new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your town/city (best places to visit, things to do, activities with a host family, favourite restaurant, bar, etc.)

Make sure before joining that you have an open mind and are ready to embrace new opportunities. If you are available and embrace them, it will drastically affect your experience. If you are closed-minded, this will affect how people will be able to welcome you into their culture. So, relax, have fun, and say yes with a smile to as many opportunities as you have. For example, if you are asked to go for coffee, then do it; you never know, and you may make lifelong friends.

Don’t be afraid to try new food, travel to new places and try and do the things you enjoyed back home. I do most things, but the difference is that here I am in the sun. I go to the gym, take dance classes, and enjoy the Spain coffee culture of living with a host family. It is by far the best way to integrate into a new culture. If you are as lucky as me, with your family, you will feel like you are a local.

Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your school?

Most teachers in my school speak quite a good level of English and at least try to make an effort to communicate with me. My advice would be to try and come out having learnt some basic phrases in Catalan and Spanish, and teachers will love that you are trying and help you bond as quickly as possible. My school is big, so don’t worry if you get lost, ask questions get your timetable ASAP, and. I also suggest asking if you can be involved with other fun things the school organized. I went on an excursion to the mountains recently. It was a great day out and gave me chance to get to know the teachers and also the students better.

Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers about living with your host family or Spanish families in general

Vic, where my family lives, is a very Catalan area. If there are good vibes like mine, try to make an effort while with them. They are hosting you for free and being fed, so don’t just sit there waiting for things to happen or be done for you. Help with chores, clean the dishes, make your bed, and even offer to help the kids if they need something or have homework. If you show you are part of the family, you will be treated this way. Try to bond with the kids, speak to them in English, and help them improve.

After all, this is one of the main things the parents want from having you stay with them. I would also recommend doing a couple of FaceTime or Zoom calls with the family before coming out, so you get to know each other more, and this will make the moment when you meet for the first time much more natural. Also, spend time with the family at home. Don’t just go into your room, close the door, and not converse with them. I usually stay out in the kitchen or living room and enjoy what is happening. We go to bed during the week at bout 10 pm, which gives me time to chill out, call home before going off to sleep.

Share some of the best moments in your school, host family and general whilst participating in the Spain program.

I have had so many. But some highlights are seeing one of my favourite singers James May concert the other night in Barcelona. I told my host, mum, he was playing, and she got us both tickets, so we had a girls’ night out. Another was when the family took me to Porta Ventura Theme Park. We stayed in a hotel and had an amazing two days. Also, I must say when my mum visited me in Spain for a few days. My host family took us out for a meal, the grandparents got my mum flowers, and we had a lovely time showing her around where I live. I don’t think she wanted to back in the end!

Any regrets about joining? Would you recommend the program to others? And what would you say to someone thinking about teaching English abroad for the first time?

Absolutely none. It has probably been one of the best decisions of my life. One thing to mention is to understand that your social life will change. You are living with a family, so things naturally change from what I might have done back home. Also, in the beginning, it can be hard to find people your age that you can easily communicate with. So be patient and try to be as open as possible to meet as many new people as possible. I also recommend getting in contact with other Voluntary Speakers on the program. We talk, share stories, help each other, and plan to meet again before we leave at Christmas.

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