Hola! My name is Mitul, a third-year BA Spanish student (going into my fourth year). Over the last 8 months, I worked as an English Language Assistant in the province of Almeria, situated in Andalucía.
Almería is a beautiful region in Spain’s southernmost community of Andalucía. It is one of the driest regions in all of Europe, experiencing a significant lack of rainfall throughout the year. Its desert (Tabernas Desert) has been used to shoot scenes in several notable films- Spaghetti Westerns such as A Fistful of Dollars as well as classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
With its rich Mediterranean cuisine and warm climate, living in Almería this academic year was a stunning experience. I was in a small, somewhat secluded, coastal village named Almerimar, situated in the municipality of El Ejido. Almerimar has a population of approximately 6,000 people. It is home to quiet beaches where many people enjoy water sports like windsurfing, beautiful marinas, scenic tapas restaurants, and a laid-back style of life which understandably appeals to ex-pats from countries like the UK, Germany and Sweden. El Ejido itself is home to a considerable number of greenhouses. The fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, peppers etc.) grown in these greenhouses are exported across Europe and even the UK, making El Ejido a key figure in European agriculture.
As part of the British Council, I worked as an English Language Assistant (Auxiliar de conversación) at CEIP Almerimar, an infant and primary school. I taught English and Science to ages 3-9 years old. I can’t put into words how much I enjoyed each day. As a newcomer to the teaching field, there were challenges at first (inevitably) such as how to manage classes. This is entirely natural and normal to experience. In most of my classes, I was leading with the supervising teacher in the back. In a couple of classes, I was there in more of an assistant kind of role. For the classes where I was leading, I would construct interactive lesson plans which incorporated several different materials such as textbooks, flashcards, games, songs and other fun activities. Communicating with the supervising teachers ensured that the lesson plans I created would be a success. The pupils loved the lessons where we did Kahoot (understandably!).
My working hours were 10am-1pm, Tuesday – Friday. My normal working day usually consisted of having something light for lunch after school (tapas), creating lesson plans, working on my Year Abroad Research Project, heading to the beach to watch the sunset etc. It was a very peaceful way of life. Tranquilidad. That’s the one word that comes to mind when I think of this year in Almerimar. Peace and quiet. The beauty of my working hours was the amount of free time. With Mondays free, I would travel most weekends to new cities and countries. Some of the places I visited included:
Me being a big football fan, I made sure to experience some games while in Spain. I saw El Derbi Sevillano (Sevilla vs Real Betis)- the Sevilla derby which has historically been fuelled by bitter rivalry. The atmosphere was wild, and the passion from the fans was unbelievable to witness. I also saw Real Madrid play at their famous home- Santiago Bernabéu.
Make the most of the free time you have during your Year Abroad. Travel and see as much as you can, while you can! This opportunity is invaluable, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to do this.
In terms of difficulties, there were problems initially with obtaining the Residence Permit (TIE) in Spain due to Brexit. Delays and lack of explanation on the official websites meant that I did not receive my TIE until 21 December (just in time for Christmas, luckily). If you are coming to Spain as a Language Assistant for your Year Abroad, then I recommend speaking to your teachers if you have any TIE-related issues. The teachers are my school were super helpful with any problems that I had. If situated in Andalucía, you’ll have to open a Spanish bank account to receive your monthly stipend. Again, if you are unsure, you can ask one of your teachers or your landlord to come with you when opening your bank account. I also recommend using BlaBlaCar, it’s a carpooling app which is widely used throughout Spain. If you want to avoid the higher costs of taxis or flights, BlaBlaCar will be your best friend.
I wanted to take part in this opportunity to experience what it’s like to live and teach English in another country. My curiosity for travelling, experiencing new cultures and trying new food also played a role. The food in Spain is very special! I finished my year in Spain on 31 May. Reflecting on it all, I will never forget this year. Embrace the unpredictability. Put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone. Being thrown into the deep end ensures that you will grow and develop as a person.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey. Hasta luego!