Yep, I am writing this in the UK. It’s grey, my daily tea intake has already gone up, and I cannot wait to go to the pub (currently off alcohol for now so that has to wait…). Although the school year is nearly over, I had to return a month earlier than planned because my recent lupus diagnosis and all the medication I have to take has caused some less than fun side effects. I couldn’t return to work so now I’m home being spoilt by family!
If any one is ever contemplating the idea of spending a year abroad to work as an English language assistant, all I can say is yes yes yes – go for it! It can be tiring work – dealing with less than enthusiastic teenagers, screaming kids and crying infants; travelling between schools after a hurried lunch and trying to keep your energy levels up and enthusiastic at all times (and dealing with undiagnosed lupus and its fatigue sometimes meant I’d return home and fall asleep for the whole evening and night…). I was sneezed on, lost my voice having to shout a few times, and once jabbed very hard with a very sharp pencil to get my attention. But really the worst parts weren’t that bad at all!
I really liked the school I spent most of my hours at. I was working with all ages, from 3-18 years old, with all different levels of English spoken. I was quizzed persistently about my love life and my opinion of Spanish food, given some wonderful (and some ‘abstract’) drawings, and received lots of hugs. I invented games, became obsessed with story books and singing songs, and had to ‘help’ in p.e. lessons. I described bizarre British culture, and learnt about bizarre Spanish culture. I also got to see great teachers at work, appreciating the profession more than ever before. I worked with many, so I could see different techniques for different kids in action. They work hard! Although teaching is something I’m open to, but not actively pursuing as a career, it’s a great experience to have a go at. I like to think I did an adequate job… Some days are better than others, but when you make the kids really enjoy the lesson it feels great.
And Burgos: cold, historical, full of friendly people. Going from London to Burgos is quite a dramatic change. Although I do prefer big, vibrant, cosmopolitan cities, I really enjoyed a more laid back year in Burgos. Being able to walk into the centre for a cafe con leche and a quiet read, or for wine and tapas with friends was idyllic. I loved walking under the funny shaped trees in Burgos and along the river, and in the evenings the families and friends would gather in the plazas and everyone would be in high spirits. Involving myself with the local Amnesty International group was an experience – I was confused a lot of the time but they welcomed me and my basic Spanish skills, and I loved seeing a section of my favourite NGO in action. I went on marches through the city centre with them, which was always electrifying! And sure the city was cold, (although a mild Burgos winter!), but for a while it was home and being there filled me with happiness.
And of course, it allowed me to explore Spain more than I ever have. Before, my experience of Spain was limited. A couple of holidays in the touristy south (plus day trips to Alicante and Valencia), and a trip to Toledo and Segovia once. This past year I visited Valladolid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Santander, San Sebastian, Valencia, Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Madrid. Each city had its own charm, character and history. It’s impossible to be disappointed by a Spanish city! There is still a lot for me to explore, I cannot wait to get stuck back in! (Fingers crossed!)
But the best part is the friends for life I made there. We bonded over wine, travelling, and they were the most amazing support whilst I was in hospital and recovering after. Everybody has to go through crap at different points in their life, but having friends with good hearts makes everything so much more bearable! I could never thank them, or friends and family elsewhere, enough for keeping me sane whilst my mind processed everything going wrong with my sickly self.
So, spending a year abroad. It opens your mind of course. Immersing yourself in another culture, not just by travelling but by living the experience for a prolonged period of time helps you understand people better than before. For a while you breathe their culture, history, language, habits and opinions. You have to leave behind your old self- my shy British awkwardness was always present but I was welcomed with open arms by Spaniards, and I felt myself opening up more and becoming a warmer person. The Spanish are ridiculously helpful and kind, and this is a habit I hope to adopt and keep for life. They are fun loving and all about enjoying life with family and friends, which is important for everyone. They are also loud, and not afraid to give their opinion. Also a worthwhile habit to pick up: don’t be afraid to voice your mind.
Te quiero España. Fue un año fantástico. No es adios, pero hasta luego ❤