Mississippi College (United States)
The Visa process, in my case, was not a linear one. I began to gather the necessary material about two months before my appointment and when the day arrived, I had everything required. However, even though I had satisfied the online checklist, the consulate still requested a few more documents which they allowed me to send in the next day. I then waited about a month for the return of my passport with the visa only to discover that I had been denied. This was very confusing because I knew that I complied with their guidelines. As well, they sent the denial documents in Spanish which I had a difficult time reading.
I immediately contacted Programa AC and over the week they helped me put together an appeal which I submitted to the consulate in August, about a month before my departure date. Then the waiting game began. Two months passed and I heard nothing about the state of my appeal. I got a part time job and accepted the fact that I probably would not be going to Spain. Out of nowhere, mid-November, I received an email from the consulate informing me that my Visa was ready to be picked up. I communicated with Programa AC and they were able to find a January placement for me instead. I was a little late, but I made it to Spain.
The paperwork once in the country was incredibly easy compared to the Visa process. I appeared once at the town hall to confirm my residence and I also appeared at the police station to apply for my NIE. The appointments lasted about five minutes and there were no problems. The overall process, though difficult, has been a positive one. I’m grateful for the help that Programa AC provided with the Visa denial and their willingness to accommodate my late arrival. My host family are also to thank as they have helped navigate the paperwork in the country and accompanied me to both appointments. Through it all, I had ample resources to draw upon.
I arrived in Spain with only the faintest idea what any of this would look like. I knew that I was living with a host family, I knew that I would be assistant English teaching at a school for the next six months, and I knew that I was a little nervous. From stepping out of the airport to my host family’s welcome to meeting the teachers and students at the school, the experience has been wonderful. My host family are incredibly thoughtful and have done a great deal to welcome me into their home and make me a part of their family. They take great joy in showing me around Cataluña and introducing me to aspects of their culture, usually with a large helping of seafood on the side. The teachers at the school have also been enthusiastic in helping me figure out my responsibilities or giving me advice if I run into problems. I have enjoyed working with students from every level. The job is fun, though that is not to underscore its difficulties. Every day requires patience, humility, and the willingness to challenge myself to question how I could be a better teacher the next. I’ve learned so much in one month and I look forward to all that I am sure to learn in the next five.
Thompson Rivers University (Canada)
I am having the best time of my life. I would definitely recommend to others as it is a great experience and something that I get to learn from. I am improving things about myself as well as helping others to improve and build their characters. This is definitely something that I feel everyone that is open-minded and has the want to help others and teach others should try at least once in their lives. To be able to see the smiles on the children's faces when they know they got something right and to watch them take my advice and apply it to their work instead of ignoring it, it really is something else. These kids look up to me and wave to me smile and hug me and say "Hello!" every time they see me. The teachers at the school are so kind and they try to speak to me even though it is hard for them. I feel like I found my home away from home in this place and I really couldn't be happier. To have such an amazing opportunity given to me is a dream come true.
Newcastle University (United Kingdom)
I arrived in Barcelona anxious to get started but also quite nervous - this was a big step out of my comfort zone and I didn’t know anybody else participating in the programme. I was relieved to meet some of the other assistants at the airport and spent the afternoon exploring some of Barcelona with them before meeting the rest of the participants at dinner. I was fortunate because my host mother’s twin sister was also hosting an assistant who would be living about 10 minutes from me and working at the same school, so I basically had a cousin which was very reassuring! I needn’t have worried about meeting my host family the next day - they were amazing from the start, very chatty and very interested in finding out about me and helping me out in any way they could. We returned to Tarragona where the Festival of Santa Tecla was taking place, so the first weekend was a whirlwind as we were out very late most nights watching fireworks or the famous ‘castells’ - I was glad to have the rest of the week to settle in and explore the city at my own pace!
I began school officially on Monday October 1 but met my tutor and the teachers I would be working with a few days prior to that and received my timetable. I wasn’t always sure what I was doing during that first week but worked closely with the teachers and focused on getting to know the students better (being primary school children, they had lots of questions!), and by the end of the second week of teaching I was much more comfortable and understood my role. Everybody, from Eva at Programa Ac to the family to the teachers, has been so helpful and supportive. I definitely made the right choice in choosing to participate - it’s given me an insight into life in Spain that I would never have had otherwise and the family drives me to places such as Altafulla or Cambrils that would otherwise be quite difficult to get to!
I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in teaching English or learning more about life in Spain!
George Washington University (United States)
My time in Barcelona has been great so far. I enjoy the time I spend in the classroom with students and I like that they all have different and distinct personalities. All of the teachers I have met have been very supportive and welcoming. They do not hesitate to answer my questions and help me look for the answer if they don´t it. Teaching is a challenge and can be an even harder one when there is a language barrier. Persistence, flexibility, and an an open mind go a long way to making sure you have the best experience possible. It is important to realize that your initial reaction to certain situations is often motivated by your past experiences and can sometimes prevent you from having new ones. If you allow yourself to adapt to the situation you can learn alot and also enjoy the work you’re doing.
University of British Columbia (Canada)
I live with an active, enthusiastic, and open-minded family. My host family has been very accommodating and welcoming. My host mother and father have been helping me with processing my documents, and I spend a lot of time with my three host brothers. They have also shown me a lot of the city and surrounding region. Today we were in Girona and tomorrow we are going to Montserrat! We have the right chemistry, and there is always the right amount of social interaction. I could not have been placed in a better home.
Because we are all so busy, we save our family time for dinner and the weekends. We discuss our activities and exchange new words and phrases in English, Spanish, and Catalan. My host mother can speak English well, and my host brothers can speak a little English. I found this to be very important, as my knowledge of Spanish and Catalan is limited, and it helped me feel more at home. We live in an apartment in the center of the city, where I am conveniently close to all of the city’s shops, metro stations, and tourist attractions.
I work at a private school in Sant Gervasi, in the north of the city. The view from work is absolutely spectacular – the whole city lies sprawled out at your feet. My morning commute takes about a half hour by both bus and train. The school pays for my transit costs, as well as a hot meal every day. Everybody at the school has been so supportive of me in all that I do, and I really feel like a valued member of a team. So far, I have been getting very positive feedback from both students and teachers.
I am responsible for developing diversified lesson plans that correspond to curriculum demands and student proficiency. My primary objective is always to get the students to speak so that I can correct their pronunciation and conversational skills. I teach students from ages ten to sixteen – a great mix that challenges my ability to create educational and engaging lessons for each group of students. Class is never dull, because the classes vary in proficiency and interests. This past week, I have been discussing the issue of mental health with my students. Last week, I was giving specialized presentations on Canada and Canadian culture to each of the English classes. I am currently preparing a lecture on aboriginal Canadian history and culture for the advanced students. I really enjoy the work I’m doing.
Wolverhampton University (UK)
I have been in Spain for 2 and a half weeks now and I am really enjoying myself. On the first day I arrived, a small group of people on the programme got a coach together to the hostel where we stayed on the first night. A girl from the programme came with us and told us the information we needed to know. That evening, me and some of the girls went out for lunch and dinner to get to know each other. There was a Programa AC meeting held in the morning at the hostel which gave us our Spanish text books and information about our stay. My family (mother, father and 11 year old daughter) came to pick me up from the hostel and drove me back to my new home in Vilanova I La Geltru. They were very friendly and welcoming and made me feel at home straight away.
I had the next few days free to get a Spanish bank account, and register my stay in Spain which the father helped me with. They took me around the local area showing me the shops, chemists and everything I would need, and we got to know each other well. We always eat dinner together at around 9-9.30pm which has taken some getting used to! They always ask me what food I like/dislike which is good as I can be a bit fussy!
A few days after being In Vilanova I La Geltru, I started at the school. The daughter is at the same school so we walk to and from the school together as it only takes 5 minutes. The teachers and pupils have made me feel very welcome and I am like a celebrity here with the pupils always wanting to talk to me! I was given my timetable of primary and secondary school classes and I was introduced to all of the teachers and where things were at the school. I have some free periods which I can stay at school and work, or go back home and have a sunbathe! In these classes I talk with the pupils, take small groups out, lead the whole class and work 1:1 with a high achiever. I am a fully qualified teacher so it has been really nice to work with many different ages and abilities, and in a different education system. I start at 9am each day and 8am on a Friday. On Tuesday and Friday I have the whole afternoon off, otherwise school finishes at 5. The lunch break is two hours long!
At the moment I haven´t really met any young people who speak English, but I meet up with other people on the programme regularly and I have also met the language assistant from last year who has stayed in Spain. There is so much to do and see that I always have something to do, and my family love taking me out to different places which is lovely.
Simon Fraser University (Canada)
On my arrival to Barcelona´s airport I was greeted by both employees from Comodin Ac and my host family. After completing all the administration papers with Sylvia at the airport, I set off with my host family.
Upon arrival to my new home, I was given a tour of the apartment. My host family immediately went over the routines, rules and practices of the household. This made my transition into the family very easy and comprehensable. My host mom is a teacher at the school that I work at, so it is very convenient to get to work, and it also allows us to bond over a mutual interest. The family is great and I could not have been placed into a better home. I live with a very active, enthusiastic and open-minded family where I feel extremely comfortable and right at home. There are three children, who are all respectful, friendly and fun. The family provides me with just the right amount of privacy and social interaction.
Additionally, two of the kids go to the school that I teach English at. Therefore as with the mother, we have a mutual interest which allows us to communicate more. Dinner time is where we do a lot of our talking, and most of our conversations are in English. This helps me feel a part of the family rather than feeling left out. It also helps that the family is interested in learning English, so they are always trying to communicate in English. I think it is very important that the host family speaks basic English or is keen on learning English when they host an English student because it makes me feel less segregated. Sometimes during the week I help the kids with their English homework, and sometimes I do chores such as cleaning up after dinner and emptying the dishwasher. Helping with the housework helps me feel at home, and there is nothing that I do that is out of the norm from my daily responsibilities at my home in Canada. The apartment that I live in is located in the heart of Barcelona city. I feel very fortunate to have been placed at such a great location because all of the tourist sites, shopping centres, and metro stations are a short distance walk. In addition, I can use the city´s convenient bike rental network,“bicing” to get anywhere around the city at little cost.
I work at a private school located in Castelldefels; a 25 minute train ride and 40 minute drive from Barcelona. I work Monday to Friday from 8am to 3 pm. The first week of work was calm, as I was transitioning myself into the workplace and the teachers were organizing my work schedule. My actual work began on week two, where I was given a stable work schedule and was provided with fixed classes that I would be working with for the entire school year. Fortunately, the headmaster at my school is very flexible and allows me to have some say in what I do. Therefore, I am able to work with kids of all ages rather than staying with specific age levels, such as just the Eso´s.
My current duties are as followed:
Monday, Wednesday and Friday Anna and I organize and create the Primary-level newscast which is posted on Youtube daily for the students parents to view. The news broadcast is spoken all in English and discusses school events and Castelldefels community news.
There is another girl from my University named Anna, that works at the same school. Her responsibilities are the same as mine however, we have different schedules and teach different classes at different times. Having a friend who comes from the same country as me has really helped me with my work and social transition. My school provides me with metro passes (transportation) to and from work, a sandwich at break, full meals at lunch and a full-serviced mobile. I have to say that my current employer, has treated me very well and are very accomodating of both my needs as an employee and foreign worker.
Lastly, on my free time I have chosen to participate in LANGUAGE EXCHANCE PROGRAM from Online Spanish Lessons. Recently, I have acquired a Spanish language partner. My Spanish language partner and I will meet once a week for an hour to practice both the English and Spanish language. A goal of mine is to learn the Spanish language so, I am very excited to enhance my Spanish language skills with both the online course and language partner :).
Southampton University (UK)
From the very first moment in Girona I have felt welcomed everywhere I go. The school and the host family have been so endearing which put me at ease straight away and has enabled me to integrate and become a member of the community.
My daily routine begins with getting ready for school between 7 o’clock and 8 o’clock in the morning and having breakfast with the family before leaving for school at 8:15. We arrive at school around 8:45 and I go in and prepare for the day before heading to my first class. I assist in classes where the students are between the ages of 3-18 years of age. This is very interesting for me because I am able to see the very beginning of the process of English language acquisition to the more intermediate and higher levels throughout the school. If I have a break between lessons then I can focus on my own work such as carrying out activities to improve my Spanish such as meeting up with people or using the work book, or I carry out my own research into topics that might be interesting for the students to learn.
Every day I have lunch with the teachers and it is nice to talk to them and learn their culture and attitudes. After lunch, I socialise with the teachers further over coffee and then begin the afternoon lessons at 3pm. The school day finishes at 5:30pm and I wait for my host family to pick us up to go home. The daughter usually has an extra-curricular activity after school so we drop her off and I return to the house to relax or to do my own work. Sometimes, some teachers and I go out around Girona as it is nice to socialise outside of the school environment as well. When the daughter has returned from her activity, we sit down to eat at approximately 9:30pm and then talk, watch television or work before going to bed. I am now accustomed to the daily routine, characteristics and gastronomy of the people of Girona, and I am enjoying every aspect of life here.
During the classes, I take part in many activities. Primarily, I listen to students speaking and corrected their pronunciation and grammar and repeated it to the rest of the class so as they can all learn the correct form. Furthermore, during classes with the older students, we have approached speaking in a number of ways. To begin with, I have prepared a few presentations about where I come from, traditions and interesting topics to show to the whole class in order for them to listen to my own pronunciation and use of phrasal verbs and idioms so that they can hear how a native speaker of English sounds. Then on an individual level, I ask them questions related to specific topics in order to listen to and improve their use of grammar, idiomatic phrases and pronunciation. With this type of teaching they are able to ask me questions relating to their own learning and acquisition of English.
In other classes, especially with the younger students we sing songs, do repetition activities and use flashcards. Moreover, I help students in different subjects which are taught in the English language. For example, I support the science teachers in their lessons as some concepts and the pronunciation of scientific words in English can be tricky.
With regards to my host family, I am very happy and comfortable with the situation I find myself in. I feel as though I have been accepted into the family. They have welcomed me and I enjoy living with them. I am able to speak Castilian with the family which enables me to practice my Spanish and I speak English with the young daughter in order for her to become more confident and proficient in English. In spite of my concerns that I would only encounter the Catalan language, I have found that they are willing to help me improve my acquisition of Spanish. I could not have asked for a better welcome and beginning to my time here in Girona; I love the city, the people and the school. I am excited for what the rest of the year has to offer!
University of Limerick (Ireland)
For my six month work placement I was situated in the lovely town of Olesa de Montserrat. Everybody here is friendly and it didn’t take me long before I was in love with my surroundings. I will begin by saying I’ve never done something like this before. I’ve never left my home country to stay in another for such a long period of time. I was anxious before leaving (of course), worried about leaving my family and friends (and pets!) behind. The first two days were the most difficult and I was very homesick. Luckily, my host family turned out to be amazing and they did what they could to make me feel like a part of the family.
My first week at the primary school was just brilliant. On my first day there was a large assembly in the playground just to introduce me. At first I was intimidated but all the teachers were incredibly friendly and my tutor Maria was just amazing! She quickly showed me the ropes and at times even gave me some words of wisdom (and plenty encouragement). This is certainly a great opportunity and a life-changing experience. The students are just wonderful, even outside school hours I get the friendliest of greetings. I actually enjoy going into school every day, the children are so charismatic and full of life, it’s impossible not to be affected by their happiness! I’ve learned so much from my time here already and I hope to learn even more in the coming months.
I’ve been here almost a month now and it has been an absolutely fabulous experience. I would definitely encourage anybody and everybody to avail of this opportunity!
University of Limerick (Ireland)
When I arrived in Barcelona I was met in the airport by my host family, Monica and other members of Programa AC/Comodin. After signing administration paper I set off for Palamos, a small coastal town in the province of Girona. It was actually a lot like where I am from, just with better weather!
On arriving at my host families home I was given a drink and a snack as it was late. The next day I was given a tour of the house and I was told how to work the machines, as just like in my own home I would have to do my fair share as regards chores, keeping my room clean and doing my laundry. My host mother, Janina, then took me to the supermarket so they could buy food that I would like. I spent the next few days with my host family before I started at the school. We all got on very well including the grandparents who unfortunately did not have any English. Our communication was through a series of hand movements and helpful translation from Janina. I felt that this prepared me for students with a poorer level of English.
On my first day of school I was introduced to my tutors, one from the primera and one for the secondaire. They then should me around the school and introduced me to all of the teachers and all of the classes. After I was given my timetable and some materials I would need for teaching at the school. Both the teachers and the students made me feel very comfortable and at home in the school. A lot of the teachers spoke English and made a big effort to practice speaking with me. Sometimes I felt somewhat like a celebrity walking through the school because all of the children want to see “Hello” to you and show you something and ask questions which was brilliant. Their enthusiasm about speaking English made my job a little easier. The younger children are a bit more forthcoming the older classes did make an effort to say hi if they saw me.
My typical day at school has me spilt my time between the primary and the secondary parts of the school teaching children between the ages of 3 to 18 of all different levels. In the youngest class, who were three years old, I would sing songs with them and we played counting games practicing the numbers they have learnt. In the primary classes; 1st and 2nd, I help out with their art classes and speak with them in English. I take small groups from 3rd and 4th class and play word games with them testing the vocabulary they learn during the week making sure they understand it. I take the 5th and 6th class for reading classes and we discuss what happens in the text and sometimes play games related to the vocabulary learnt. I then take small groups from the secondary classes, for the 1st ESO up until the 2nd BATX class, for small oral classes about prepared topics sometimes with prepared cultural comparison slides, where I compare Catalan and Spanish traditions with Irish traditions.
University of Limerick (Ireland)
I am a teacher’s assistant here at the secondary school here in Palafrugell, Girona. My first day of work began on the 8th of January 2014 and here are my thoughts up to now!
After the initial introductions with my co-workers and tour of the school, I was given the opportunity to discuss my aims and objectives along with my preference of class sizes, one-to-one tuition exercises etc… I immediately felt very comfortable and relaxed by this discussion because it allowed me to contribute to the system in which the school wanted me to operate. I also liked that 2014 was the first year that the school decided to join the English Auxiliary Programme. Therefore, we were all new to the system and all the same page!
There are three English teachers here and are all more than helpful. They provided me with teaching materials and other methodologies of working in a classroom environment. This was certainly a great aid to me especially since this was my first teaching position. They were also very open to my suggestions and appreciative of the preparatory work I have provided up to now. The overall atmosphere and working environment in the school is very positive. Both students and teachers are very welcoming and enthusiastic. Their willingness to learn and understand my mother tongue and culture is certainly very reassuring and admirable. I feel like I have been here for longer than just two weeks because the school has made me feel very comfortable and also an equal member of staff.
I deal predominantly with smaller groups. Personally I find this method of teaching very effective and more beneficial. Both to the students and to myself. I feel that I can give more attention to the students by giving them more one-to-one attention and, therefore a more long-term effective teaching experience. I am thoroughly enjoying my experience here at school and I am looking forward to my next few months here!
After an awkward misinterpretation of cultural greetings (i.e. two kisses on the cheek, not three!) I met Albert and Pau Requena. My host Father and son. I knew from the start that these people were excited and appreciative of my arrival as I was greeted with a yellow Lily, a big handmade welcoming sign, and a detailed guide of my new home town; Palafrugell.
We arrived at the house after an hour and a half journey from Barcelona to Palafrugell. I was greeted at the door by Beatriu and Estel: The mother and daughter of the house. I was shown to my bedroom, packed and slept! I was surprised by the standard of the English that the Requenas had. Their fluency level was certainly at a high level which gave me a great foundation to work with. They are appreciative of my help with regards grammatical corrections, pronunciation and syntax.
Some of my duties as an English assistant at home include helping with homework, corrections of compositions and general conversations that allow the family to feel more confident with their fluency abilities. This, I find, is very important as it gives both parties the opportunity to learn and exchange information about our everyday habits and how they differ. Both linguistically and culturally.
I also take part in family activities such as visiting relatives, sight-seeing and trying ‘Sardana’ dancing and singing in a Catalan choir which I enjoy very much! Generally, I am very happy with the whole organization of Programa a/c and the facilities they have provided for me. I am experiencing some things that I have never even imagined and I am truly grateful for that. I am accompanying the school on a skiing trip (which is a first for me!), singing at a wedding on the 15th of February with the choir and also part-taking in the Spring festival that they host here in Palafrugell every year! So far, it has been a very exciting, successful and positive experience!
University of Limerick (Ireland)
When I arrived in my chosen location of Malgrat De Mar, it was very over whelming. The festive period is much different here in Spain than it back home and it was very nice to experience the Spanish culture. I was introduced to my family and their children, everyone was very friendly and kind. Of course nothing lasts forever, and when the ‘Cava ‘ and ‘turro’ ran out it was time to begin my role as a language assistant.
The principal of the school has made it very clear from the very beginning that he is at my command with whatever I need and has made me feel very comfortable with my position at the school. I am helping the teachers of P-3 up to 5è (3-11). I have a total of 25 hours a week with a few free hours within the school day. With these free hours I can prepare for classes and organise activities. Sometimes I am given my own room and the classes are spilt between me and the other English teacher, which gives the children the attention they deserve, especially when learning a foreign language. The days fly, and the teachers are nothing but helpful and nice, and I am very happy with my role here in the school.
My family here are extremely nice. They have made me feel right at home, the mother of the family speaks very good English which I feel is a very big help to my warming here. I am really enjoying the food , and feel with a few weeks I am fitting right in to the Spanish costumes, of late dinner and big lunches and long school days. My family have taken me to see many things and always offer to bring me places.
I am very close to my friend Frida who is in Blanes, which has made this experience a lot easier as we can discuss or daily routines knowing that we are all experiencing new things. Our families know each other which is very convenient, as we can visit each other whenever we like.
Stanford University (USA)
After arriving in Spain the first thing I was aware of was the fact I was now in a different country. I was scared and excited. I love traveling and seeing different countries. I believe what makes traveling fun is meeting different people from different parts of the world.
Therefore when I arrived in Spain, I felt I would be arriving to a beautiful country full of Spanish people but in reality I arrived in Catalonia. The Catalonia people are very proud of their heritage. I learned they believe they are not part of Spain but part of Catalonia. In addition I believed Arbucias would be very similar to Barcelona but it isn’t. The people in Arbucias are quite different. They are family based and since the village is petite, everyone knows everyone. One can witness different generations living near by. Which is rare in America. I feel Catalonian people love being near their family of many generations.
I was very excited to meet my host family. Never did I expect them to be such a wonderful family to live with. During the week I have breakfast and dinner with them and during the weekends my host family love to travel together to different parts of Catalonia. These past two weeks I have seen more places than I have seen in two months. During the week I also help the children of my host family learn English and I also try to learn Catalan as well as Spanish. My host family is lovely and kind. When I’m not with my host family, I’m at school assisting students in English.
Being an English Assistant is fantastic and rewarding. Assisting students in English can be a life changing experience and I feel in Arbucias it has been a great experience. My daily routine differs everyday. I work with children between the ages of three and twelve. During certain days of the week I work with toddlers and first graders; we sing and do some art projects. For the older children we have conversations and I teach them English. I even assist the Teachers with teaching the students vocabulary words in Science class. I love teaching. Teaching in a different country is grand and I hope I can continue working with students.
University of Essex (UK)
When I first arrived in Spain I was happy to see that the sun was shining and it was very hot outside, after all, it had been raining all day the night before I came to Spain!
When I first met my host family I thought that they looked like a good couple and that I would be kept in safe hands. On the first day I was shown around Palamos and the neighbouring towns which I thought were all very wonderful. I was very pleased to see that the apartment of my host family has a view of the sea from the balcony and also that my school could be seen very near-by too!
On arrival at the school I was very nervous as it was a much bigger school than I had ever been in and the idea of teaching ages from 3 up to 19 was quite scary. I was initially shown around all of the classrooms and introduced to all of the teachers and students who welcomed me very warmly, when I walk through the corridors everybody always says hello to me and it is very nice to have felt this welcomed at the school. After a couple of days teaching I now feel more comfortable being at the front of the class talking to the students and even engage students in conversation outside of the school if I see any of them near-by, at the supermarket for example.
It is sometimes hard getting up to be at the school for 9am every morning but this is mainly because I have not had to get up and be out of the House before 9am every day for a long, long time! I hope that things continue to go the way that they are going!