Upon signing up for the British Council Scheme to become a English teaching assistant in Spain, I knew basically nothing about where I would be for my year abroad. In this scheme you are given a placement, you don’t choose one, and whilst you do pick regions that you prefer, they take pains to state that these do not guarantee a slot there. The only solid information, I concluded, was that I’d end up in Spain. You can imagine my surprise therefore, when I was instead assigned a placement in Andorra, a microstate nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains and, decidedly, not Spain. I’m Sam, a not quite 4th Year Business Management and Spanish student and in this post I will offer a retrospective on my year abroad.

Snow on the mountains around Sant Julià

As it turns out, Andorra is quite a nice place. The culture seemed to me to be a sort of mix of Spanish (particularly from Catalunya) and French, they celebrate similar festivals, such as Castanyada, an autumn festival that’s celebrated by eating chestnuts. Despite how small the country is, the population is very urban, so it never felt particularly empty, especially given the rush hour traffic jams. In winter I was able to do some skiing, as the principal thing it’s known for is the ski resorts, which were nice, although there wasn’t too much snow during the season and then during the warmer months there are many hiking trails dotted through the mountains, which I also took advantage of. However, due to the size, inevitably there isn’t such a variety of different things to do, and commuting out of the country without a car was quite limited, I could only really choose between Barcelona, Toulouse, or Lleida.

The school that I worked at was a primary school located in Les Escaldes, one of the two principal cities in Andorra. The official language of the country is Catalan, but where I worked was a Spanish speaking school that was sponsored by the ministry of education of Spain, so thankfully I was able to communicate well with the teachers. Most of my job there was just being around to speak English to the students, so they can improve their fluency and pronunciation, although sometimes I led activities, or walked smaller groups through activities. For the most part, I enjoyed this, although sometimes communication was a problem, particularly with the younger students.

Overall, I’m definitely happy that I ended up there on my year abroad, and the fact that I did a year abroad in the first place. I feel like it’s taught me valuable skills that I can take into future employment, such as the ability to teach, and also how to communicate with others, even when there may be a cultural and language barrier.

The blossoms of Parc Central in Andorra La Vella
A Year Abroad in a European Microstate

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