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Repeating a Year as a Language Assistant

meddeas language assistant laura hawkins with friends

Laura H. graduated from University of Wales Trinity Saint David, in the UK, and she longed for some international experience. She was not sure where to start, untill she came across Meddeas Language Assistant Programs. Here she tells her story on how she ended up moving to Spain, teaching English in a Spanish school, and enjoying it so much that she decided to stay for a second year.

“I was eager to learn another language”

1. Why did you take the step to become 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.

“The entire experience has been one I won’t forget”

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 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.

“I am a lot more understanding of people and their situations”

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 improved your 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 studied 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.

“Try to participate in everything”

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 of 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!

9 Responses

  1. I love this post! I also would love to be able to do a second year with Meddeas due to the wonderful experiences I’ve had. When I first arrived in Spain, I had no idea what to expect from this experience; I had done some tutoring in the United States but had no experience in the classroom. This year has been groundbreaking. I have learned many valuable skills that will come in handy whether I continue teaching after my time with Meddeas or if I choose to pursue something different.

    I also agree with the importance of learning Spanish. I was relatively fluent when I arrived in Spain, but being able to practice the language every day has only furthered my skills. Being able to speak more than one language, especially languages like English and Spanish, is an extremely important skill to have today.

  2. Wow this article resonates with me so well! Despite the challenges and obstacles I’ve had to overcome, I’ve really loved my time here and am considering doing a second year as well. I also knew very limited Spanish before arriving the country. Upon my arrival, I learned that people in Spain actually speak Spanish and very few people are fluent in English. Thus, it’s a great opportunity to learn Spanish! My Castellano skills have improved immensely as well and I hope that if I continue again, I can improve even more. Additionally, my favorite part about Spain thus far has been the relationships and friendships I’ve built. My two language assistant colleagues at work have been an amazing support system helping me find solutions to any problems I may have. My school tutor and principal are also extremely helpful in making me feel comfortable and at home. While at first it was hard to get used to the people in Spain due to it’s laid back culture, I’ve definitely become more accustomed to it–and sometimes, sometimes I’ve found myself showing up a little late to events as well.

  3. Wow this is such a great blog post…I’m at the point now where I need to decide whether to stay for another year or not – it’s such a hard decision! My advice to anyone wanting to make the most of their time in the placement is to be very clear with yourself from the start exactly what you want to experience/achieve/learn. This will then give you something concrete to focus on and help decide if a second year will bring you closer to these goals!

  4. Time is flying by here! I agree that 9 (8 months for me) goes by so quickly. I would love to stay in Spain for another year to keep building on the teaching experience I’m gaining here, to keep improving my Spanish, and to keep enjoying this wonderful country! I agree that people who participate in Meddeas should be open to any and all experiences and to really embrace the culture and opportunities that a year in Spain presents.

  5. I’m so glad you loved your experience! The advice you’ve given at the end is spot on. It is much easier to immerse yourself in the culture with a host family, but there are still so many things you can do to really throw yourself into the experience!
    Good luck with your PGCE and thanks for sharing your experience and insights!

  6. You definitely made a great point about never being alone. I was slightly afraid that living in the suburbs with a host family would leave me trapped with no way of meeting people my age, but I was quickly introduced to my host sister’s friends older sister and later my tutor’s daughter who was attending college and later a university student who was completing a 3 week practicum. My favorite part about all this was that these people were all native Spaniards. The comparisons from life in the US vs Spain to language differences were endless.

  7. Totally agree-I originally came to Spain for one year and decided to stay a second because one just flew by and I wanted more! Honestly I couldn’t have imagined going home after just 9 months. Even after a year and a half I am still learning new things everyday!

  8. I was also someone who didn’t want to dive straight into a masters and job at home. I thought the best thing to do was to take a year break and experience life in another country. I am so happy that I chose Spain as it has been an amazing experience. I also wanted to experience some sort of classroom practice to see if I liked teaching and I’m glad to say that it has made me realise that it’s the job for me. My bit of advice for anyone who is unsure of taking the plunge, I would like to say that it has been a great experience. I have made a lot of friends here who I meet up with every week and also travel with occasionally.

  9. That’s so cool you traveled with friends you made in Spain! I’m hoping to do a second year as well, such a great program to be a part of 🙂

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