I have just moved to a small town called Úbeda in southern Spain to work as a language assistant in a secondary school in an even smaller town called Baeza. I’m here for 9 months to improve my Spanish, but let’s be real, it’s mainly to eat tapas and drink sangria. My parents travelled with me to Spain and stayed for a few days. I thought they were coming to help me find a place to live, sort out logistical things…they just wanted an excuse for a holiday. Luckily for us, finding a flat was wasn’t too hard and we loved the first one we saw. So with all that out of the way, mum and dad got to have their holiday after all. It was nice having them out here with me, because it put me at ease and it did actually feel like I was on holiday. I’ve been here almost a month now and to be perfectly honest, I still feel like I’m on holiday. Teaching just happens to be this inconvenient thing I have to show up for a few times a week throughout my 9-month holiday.
I live with two other English girls who are also language assistants in my town. Our teachers put us in contact in the summer, so we already knew we wanted to live together before we arrived. It’s so nice living with other English speakers here as I feel more at home, but it’s probably not doing much good for my Spanish practice. Still, we had no Wi-Fi for two weeks so we watched a lot of Spanish TV shows (in between napping and eating). I like to think that helped.
The first week of school was interesting. I wasn’t put in any of the classes with the students. In theory, I was meant to familiarize and plan lessons with the teachers. In reality, I hung around in the staff room for a couple of hours before being told to go home. It was actually a pretty boring start. Since being in classes though, it’s been better and I’ve gotten into a good routine. The most interesting day that week though, was the orientation day. We met some other language assistants living in the same town as us (more friends, yay!), which was pretty exciting, as we thought we were the only language assistants in this tiny town.
After that weird and confusing first week, the real work started. Each subject is different, because it depends on what the teacher plans for the lessons. Some lessons incorporate English more than others. There are times when I’ve really enjoyed a lesson because I feel like I’ve been useful and helped the students in some way. Other times I wonder why I’m even there when all I do is dictate a few sentences every now and then. I do sympathise with the teachers though, because it must be hard trying to fit English speaking into a geography, physics or maths lesson when it’s just easier to explain their topic to the students in Spanish!
In general, it hasn’t been too hard to settle in. With the short hours, the constant dining out, beautiful weather and views; who could complain? We’ve even managed with our broken Spanish pretty well. The most frustrating thing, however, was the logistics – things like getting a local SIM card, sorting out Wi-Fi, doing endless amounts of university paperwork, getting a foreigner’s ID card and opening a bank account. You wouldn’t expect these to be too difficult, but somehow with the overly relaxed Spanish pace of life and their weird opening hours, something ended up going wrong every time. After a month though, I can finally say everything is sorted (for now!) so all is good.
Now that I’m settled in, it’s time to explore.
Next blog post: weekend trips!