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My Advice, and Some Peers’ Advice: From One Language Assistant to Another

Max, in front of a class, talking about baseball.

First and foremost, do it. In the least arrogant and cliche way possible, this has been the most rewarding, enjoyable, and greatest period of self-development that I have experienced. If you are on the fence about becoming a language assistant, I can say with certainty, at least for me and many others I have gotten to know, that the experience is way more than worth it. While I understand it’s not for everyone, it’s likely that if you are reading this then the journey is perfect for you.

With that being said, I have talked with some peers as well as having done some self-reflection to try to come up with the best advice for upcoming language assistants and to provide some things that I would have liked to hear prior to my journey to Spain.

Max and a view

Be Prepared to Grow

As one could imagine, moving to another country by yourself will force you out of your comfort zone and push you to grow in ways you couldn’t imagine. Be prepared to embrace the uncomfortability of speaking a new language every day, meeting new people, trying new foods and activities, and everything in between. It may sound silly to some, but I was scared to go to the grocery store for the first time in Spain… Things are different! The language is different, foods are different, and there’s lots of unknowns that can make normal activities like this out of the ordinary and a bit scary. However, it’s the little things like this that make you grow and develop in ways I never thought of. Be prepared to grow and become a stronger and more independent you.

Football stadium

Age Old Adage of Saying ‘Yes’

I am not encouraging you to say yes to everything, but you should try to say yes more often than not within reason. Similar to the point above, growth comes from being outside of your comfort zone and saying yes more often helps you to experience new things and activities as well as getting to know some great people. In one of my first weeks here, I was invited on a hike with virtually a group of strangers- something I am typically inclined to say no to. However, I went on the hike and ended up having a great time getting to know these wonderful people and enjoying the views along the way. I was given this advice prior to coming to Spain, and it has not done me wrong once. Saying yes more often will give you the opportunity to meet great people here and partake in activities that you may love.

Don’t Forget We Are Performing an Important Role, You Get Out What You Put In

It’s easy to get caught up in the infinite things to do while here in Spain. While it’s absolutely a great thing that boredom rarely exists, it’s also important to remember the real reason we are here. For many of us, the role of a language assistant is our first post-graduation work experience, and it should be treated that way. We have the opportunity to truly make a difference and teach students the amazing skill of speaking another language, whether you are teaching 7-year-olds or 17-year-olds. Work hard, and really try to help the students improve their second language. It’s an extremely gratifying role when you put in the effort. You get out what you put in.

Mountain top view after a hike.

On a More Boring Note… the Legalities

It’s almost inevitable that you will face problems with the immigration side of things, whether those problems arise in Spain or in your home country prior to coming. Almost every language assistant I know, no matter where they are from, has had some problems with paperwork, delays, visas, and all the fun stuff. I had to delay my start date by a month due to problems with getting my visa. Two pieces of advice for this. First and most importantly, be proactive and do not be afraid to ask for help. It can be a very daunting and confusing process trying to get everything in order, especially when trying to do it by yourself. Ask for help and use all the resources you can to make sure you have everything you need. If something needs to be done, such as getting an appointment, an apostille, a background check, or whatever it may be, do it as soon as possible. It will take longer than you think. Secondly, a delay or problem with a start date or paperwork is not the end of the world- it will get figured out. Do not give up this opportunity because you can’t get a TIE or VISA appointment yet.

While this isn’t the most extensive list, I hope it helps and gives you some confidence for this amazing journey ahead. As you go through the challenges and joys of being a language assistant and living in a foreign country, cherish the growth, embrace the opportunities, and make a lasting impact.

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