Working abroad – WIYA and External Placements – Spain

Emma (Modern Languages), worked in Madrid

Emma Spain

My year abroad was a refreshing break from study. It opened my eyes to so many things, not all exclusively Spanish but applicable to life in general. I secured my own work placement teaching English in a school just outside Madrid. Teaching mostly primary school children certainly had its moments, but ultimately, it was incredibly rewarding.

My colleagues quickly discovered my musical background and put me to work teaching the children British songs and dances. Outside of school I gave private English lessons and played in the town band as well as regularly visiting central Madrid and travelling to all corners of the country.

Tracy (Modern Languages), worked in Reinosa

Photo student experience

I worked as a language assistant in Reinosa, a little town up in the mountains in Cantabria, Spain. In a way it reminds me of St Andrews, in the middle of nowhere but there’s something about it that you can’t help but love. Being in the mountains, however, meant that instead of the image of “sunny Spain” that everyone has in their mind, I found myself knee-deep in snow in January and it even managed to snow in May!

The secondary school that I was assigned to has a bilingual program, so I got to help out in many different classes including maths, music, history and ethics as each year group studies two subjects in English. This meant that I was able to do a great variety of activities with my pupils. I even taught them ceilidh dancing in the last few music classes! I really enjoyed my classes and have decided I would like to be a teacher (hopefully teaching English in Spain). Working only 12 hours a week gave me the opportunity to travel to other parts of Spain. Aside from exploring Cantabria I was able to visit many places, such as Valencia, Madrid and Mallorca.

Speaking in public used to scare me; I soon realised how much my Spanish has improved and the confidence I have gained from my year abroad. I feel that I’ve learnt a lot in the time I’ve spent in Spain. I have made a lot of good friends who I’m really going to miss. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Corrie (Modern Languages), worked in Andalucia

Photo student experience

I have fallen head over heels in love with Spain. Immersing yourself in a new culture and foreign language sounds rather daunting but you soon settle into a routine, your diary becomes full of coffee dates or intercambios, and step by step you find yourself becoming part of the community. Looking back on my year in Spain, it has quite honestly been the most incredible year of my life. I have fallen head over heels in love with Spain, its traditions, its love for fiestas and its sacred siestas! The ‘no pasa nada…do it tomorrow’ mentality will make going back to university deadlines quite challenging! The seafood, wine, tapas, dancing, sunshine, beaches have left me glowing and healthier than ever. Immersing yourself in the day to day pueblo life is priceless as you learn about the traditions, values and way of life. A year of being a social butterfly has left me with countless memories, wonderful friends and an andaluz accent!

The year abroad is a fantastic scheme and opportunity for learning a language, gaining work experience in a foreign country and offers you heaps of free time to explore. You only work 12 hours a week. I also had around three hours a day of private tuition, which is actually another great way to learn Spanish and earn some dosh to explore. My travels ranged from Lisbon, to Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Morocco, Lagos, Italy and even the Canary Islands. You will love the flexibility of your position as a language assistant. Be responsible and reliable in your job. I followed this commandment: work hard, play hard! So enjoy!

Hannah (Modern Languages), worked in Barcelona

Hannah Lucas - Barcelona

It didn’t quite hit me that I was moving abroad until I was actually on the flight, so I really hadn’t prepared myself mentally and I arrived with a crazy mixture of emotions! However, my tutor and her friend met me at the airport so I felt welcome straight away, and later that night I met some fellow assistants for the first time to enjoy the last night of Barcelona’s summer festival together – a fantastic opportunity to get to know some of the people who would become my firm friends over the following months. The first few weeks passed by in a blur of training sessions, meeting colleagues and students, sorting accommodation and paperwork, and generally settling into a routine. I made sure I accepted every invitation to go out and about and meet new people, building up a great circle of friends and contacts, and getting to know the amazing city which I could call my own. I soon felt settled and comfortable in my new surroundings, although almost every day I learnt something or was confronted by a new experience – but this only served to improve my language or teach me interesting and important cultural differences (for example, what not to order on a menu, or how to blend in more with the locals!). All my colleagues at the school were friendly from day one, and I have excellent professional and personal relationships with them. I had no idea what to expect from the students, but I had a brilliant response from them. Every day in the classroom is different, but each day they make me laugh! Saying goodbye to all the incredible people I’ve met was really hard, and I feel like I left a good part of my heart in Barcelona! I will definitely be returning, I have had one of the best experiences of my life and will never forget it.

Sara (Modern Languages), worked in Madrid

Photo of Sara who worked abroad in Spain

Working abroad is undoubtedly the best way to learn the language and to immerse yourself in the culture of the country that you are in, as well as giving you the opportunity to travel.   I found the best way to meet people and to improve my Spanish outside of work was to join local clubs. The highlight of my year was probably a choir exchange to Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. Teaching private classes gave me lots of teaching experience and gave me a greater understanding of the bilingual programme which was the subject of my year abroad project. Overall my Spanish has improved a lot and living in Spain has given me a great understanding of Hispanic culture. It’s definitely added to my CV and I’ll be returning in the future!

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