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Be an English Conversationalist in Spain: CAPS Program

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Teacher Support

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Being here has changed my outlook on life

When I started this program I knew I wanted a different experience but I wasn't sure what I was going to get. In Canada my life is very busy and tiring working with preschool and nursery children, being involved with my family, friends, the gym, and other events! Being here has changed my outlook on life and I am having an amazing experience so far!

I have made so many friends from the program and others from my town and other programs similar to CAPS. I feel that I am very lucky to be in the host family that I am in because they are very nice. I am grateful they are letting me stay with them for the whole time! They treat me like I'm part of their family, let me do whatever I want, have showed me around, and we have brought English into the family because since I've been here they have been speaking English a lot more. They have also been helping me to learn Spanish and Catalan. We spend a lot of time together for example during meals (I even introduced them to some Canadian food and we made a meal), movies, meeting other family members and generally showing me around.

My town is very small but it's nice with very friendly people, and beautiful areas to hang out in and walk around, such as the mountains and the centre. At school I'm also having a wonderful experience. My tutor and the other English teachers are really nice and are always helpful. I am involved with students form the whole school. The children and teachers mostly speak Catalan and Spanish, however the students and English teachers speak English with me. I am primarily involved with three English teachers and the classes are with students aged between 3 and 16 years of age. All the kids are very sweet, nice and fun!

I have had the chance to experience some very interesting and amazing Catalan traditions with my host family. They have become my extended family, the food and the holidays have all been great! I spent Christmas time with them and their extended families. The Catalan Christmas traditions were wonderful as I saw and ate many different foods and witnessed the Three Kings party, among other things. Despite being busy with school and the family, I also have a lot of time to do my own thing. I have visited Madrid, spent many Saturdays exploring Barcelona, met people from England, the US, Canada, and we have a lot of fun together. We go shopping, visit many tourist sites, and try a few restaurants in Barcelona. In my town I completed a 5 kilometer run with a friend on Christmas morning, and a 13 km run up Monsterrat which is a very famous mountain in Catalonia. I have also found the time to take up zumba and an aerobics classes.

This experience has been amazing for me so far and I love it! I will have a lot of memories that I will always look back on. I'm really looking forward to what I'm going to experience over the next few months! I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for a new and exciting experience!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The Employer

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I grew professionally and as an individual

When the Conversation Assistant Programme advertised itself as “an experience of a lifetime”, they were not lying. I arrived on carnival weekend which was absolutely fantastic. I was hit with culture through dance, music and confetti all in the beautiful streets of Reus. I could not have asked for a more spectacular welcome that instantly trampled any worries I had.
Living with a host family has been a wonderful opportunity. My host mum is a teacher at the same school and my next host family has students, at the school. By the time my first few days were over I already felt like a member of the family, laughing and joking every day.
Every evening, over dinner, we discuss many things from our day at school to cultural differences we find funny and interesting. I help them with their English vocabulary and pronunciation and they return the favor by helping me with Spanish and Catalan. The family is very welcoming and friendly, and I felt comfortable with them straight away, they always give such kindness and hospitality and I feel very lucky to have been placed with a family as wonderful and lovely as this one. I will truly miss them when I move on to my next host family.
Col·legi La Presentacio, is a beautiful school established by a group of nuns, and caters for Pre-School, Primary and Secondary meaning one hour I am explaining idioms to a secondary class and the next hour explñaining emotions to a pre-school class. Every day is new and exciting, the students always want to learn and practice their English with me and I am often caught in the playground chatting to the primary classes. My classes are half the size of the normal classes allowing me to focus and help individual students with my lessons. I have really enjoyed being involved with a wide range of ages (5-17) as it means I can create a range of diverse lessons catering to the different ages and levels. It has provided me with the opportunity to experience being in a classroom setting with different ages and develop my skills.
The teaching staff at the school, are more like a little community than co-workers. Every day they each take the time to check I am well, to suggest new places to visit and to ask me any cultural or language questions they have. I have been fortunate enough to have 3 tutors: 1 for Pre-School, 1 for Primary and 1 for Secondary. That has been a great help as each of them provide me with constant support, whether giving feedback about my activities or helping me to develop teaching techniques. Not only do I have 3 tutors but the headmaster of the school has been fantastic. She picked me up from the airport, handled my NIE paperwork, assisted in opening a bank account and supports me both professionally and personally. Every weekend she offers to spend the day with me exploring Catalonia. Thanks to her undying support and caring attitude, I easily settled into my host family and school.
This CAPS experience thus far has already granted me the memories of dancing in the street dressed as a pirate, walking along the glistening beach of Salou, celebrating my birthday in style, climbing a mountain in Picamoixons and strolling through the forested beach of Tarragona. This is not a tourist holiday, this is the wonderful life of Catalonia where I have grown professionally and as an individual and for that I am forever grateful.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The Employer

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Social Life

    10

An eye-opener for me

I am currently a Conversation assistant in the school of Highlands, in El Encinar, Madrid, Spain. It is a Catholic primary and secondary school merged as one. I aid in 1st and 2nd of Eso (or year), with ages ranging from 12, 13 and 14.

I chose to join CAPS as part of my 6-month work placement for university, as I am only in second year and am studying English. When I first heard of CAPS, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to travel, gain work experience and learn more about a different country and culture. I can say that I have experienced all of these things to far, from not having a kettle for tea to learning how to make delicious Spanish omelette, though I do still need practice! I think that although living with a host family may seem daunting, it really is the best way to become immersed in a new way of life. I found that Spanish people are very warm and friendly, and so I felt welcome into my host family straight away. I previously stayed with my first host family from February to April, and I am now with another as part of my contract. Both are wonderful families, and I love taking selfies with the kids!
In regards to be a conversation assistant in the school, I have really learned a lot in the past 3 months. I feel that this invaluable experience has readied me for life after I graduate, and if I do decide to go teaching abroad, I won’t have any fear of doing so. Spanish children are not shy and quite forward in asking and answering questions, which is great as having a silent classroom is everyone’s worst nightmare! The kids are also bilingual, so sometimes it’s quite funny to hear them chat in ‘Spanglish’ when they cannot remember a specific word. It took me a while to learn 8 classes of names also, but one learns them all eventually! The kids also find my pale complexion hilarious, and enjoy comparing skin colours. In class I go around and help them to better understand certain topics, like explaining certain terms in History, Skills or Science. I sometimes take some students by myself and we practice discussing certain topics, or else they go off topic completely, but once English is being spoken I allow it. The rest of the teachers in the school are very friendly to me also, and those who I am involved with most offer me guidance, which I greatly appreciate.

I got to know some more Irish and Spanish people over here by joining a GAA Football team, the Madrid Harps, which I am so glad that I did. Sport is honestly the best way to get to know people who are similar to you, regardless of whether you play or you’re an enthusiastic supporter. I would recommend joining a club of some sort, or even going to events that your embassy in the country holds.

I will admit that I was quite nervous when I first arrived, but right now I don’t regret any of it. This has been such an eye-opener for me, because I can see now that I am capable of travelling and living in a new country and carving a life out for myself! As my old school principal said; ‘Feel the Fear and do it anyway’. I now have no fear and am definitely making it my mission to return sometime after my contract ends!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Teacher Support

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

All will be remembered with the fondest of memories

As my time at school and in Sant Feliu draws to a close I have been faced with an overwhelming sense of appreciation and pride to have been part of this community. Even on my first day I could tell that I was going to be happy to live here because the teachers and students were very friendly and were always keen to make sure I felt comfortable and welcome. Of course I was nervous for the first week or so and in such a big school I was seen walking around the corridors trying to find my classroom but it was sure that someone would soon jump to my rescue and help me find my way.

Since January I have been involved with all upper school classes: eso and batxillerat. Compared to in an English classroom I think that Spanish students are better behaved. The relationship between the teachers and students here is a lot closer than I am used to but I think that is very important and means that they have a lot more respect for each other. It´s nice to be called by my first name instead of Miss, and I enjoy seeing students being able to express themselves through what they choose to wear to school each day. This is sometimes a great starter to the class. To ask them about the music band on their t-shirt, for example, and to perhaps learn one of the songs on guitar to then play for them in the following class is something that wouldn´t happen with students in uniform. The students are altogether very hard working, enthusiastic about learning English and also welcoming someone from a different culture into their own. Thank you for all of the stories, experiences and laughter you have shared with me!

I have really enjoyed getting used to the Spanish lifestyle too. Meal times are very different here and of course a lot tastier and interesting than the English cuisine. At home I would normally have lunch at 12pm and have dinner at 7pm so it took a while to get used to eating so late. I loved tasting new foods and traditional Catalan delicacies such as calçots and tortilla de patatas, but I have to admit though that my favorite dish is paella de marisco.. es muy delicioso!!

I want to say a huge thank you for the warm welcome and kindness of everybody who I have been with and who have taken care of me, everyone has made an impression on me and will be remembered with the fondest of memories.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The Employer

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Professional Development

    10

  • Social Life

    10

I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Valencia

I was fortunate to come across the opportunity with Home to Home whilst searching for different Jobs to travel around Europe. Spain had always been my preferred choice as it’s a beautiful country and I wanted to develop my Spanish. I chose Valencia and I am really glad with the decision I made as Valencia is a wonderful city filled with tourist sites and history. I have done so many things that it’s difficult to list them all here, but one event really sticks out in my mind and that was “Las Fallas”. Las Fallas is a popular fiesta here in Valencia starting with “La Mascletà” from 1st March at 2pm every day until the 19th March; these are clear fireworks that you feel through your body. The fiesta focuses on the start of spring, the Valencians build massive monuments called “Ninots”, which satirise Spanish government or pop culture and burn these great designs at midnight on the 19th March symbolizing getting rid of the bad things in life and start a fresh new leaf. During ”Las Fallas”, before “La Quema” (the burning) there are lots of things to see: the lights display, la nit de foc (more fireworks), la crida and lots and lots of parades.

The role of being a conversation assistant is the most important part of the experience; I was placed in a school in Paterna called “El Armelar” which translates from Valencian as “The almond”. I am an assistant to the teachers and involved with students from ages 4-18, so there are a variety of topics: one minute I would be singing ABC, the next I would be managing a controversial debate. Every day is different and you are viewed as the fun teacher, who organizes all the games and activities as well as the foreigner with whom you have to greet with a “Hello”.

Overall, going abroad doing an experience like this doesn’t just teach you about the fiestas and the language, but the everyday cultural customs, for example the double kiss greet seems strange for people coming from English speaking countries. The food is probably the big difference and the Spanish take a lot of pride in their food and I am the kind of person who likes to try anything with his food, so I enjoy paella (both seafood and chicken with rabbit), tortilla Española and arroz a la cubana. I highly recommend this experience for those who want to try something different, want to explore or travel, want to learn a foreign language or adapt to another custom or even want to socialise and meet people. I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Valencia and I’m not looking forward to it ending.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Pay and Benefits

    10

  • Teacher Support

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

The experience helped me to learn a lot more about myself

Before taking the role as a Conversation Assistant, I was working as a Learning Support Assistant. But I wanted to expand my work experience in the education sector in a different environment and the idea of being abroad sounding more appealing. Having studied abroad too, while studying Spanish at University, I felt this was advantageous to do this position.
I am a conversation assistant in the Secondary school “Verge de la Salut” in a town named Sant Feliu de Llobregat. The staff and students have been very welcoming to me since I began in September. After each class I give, the students always leave with smiles on their faces which clearly shows I’m doing a good job! Whenever I pass students in the corridor or when I go for a walk through the town, it’s always good to see the students smiling and waving saying “Hello Sarah!” It feels like I’m treated as a celebrity! My mentor at school has also been fantastic with me, giving me good, ongoing support and assuring me to talk to her if I come across any problems.

Although there were a few challenges faced when beginning at the school, the students fully appreciate the opportunity of practicing their speaking skills with an English native speaker. I plan activities around abilities more than age and promote as much as I can about my country including traditions, festivals and a firm favorite with the students has been listening to English songs. With the younger students, I prepare activities through presentation and role play while with the older students; we practice through debate type activities.

My current host family have been very hospitable to me and have took me to their holiday house near Tarragona for weekends as well as showing me places around Barcelona such as museums and parks. We also have a language exchange every night when we have dinner where one night we speak in English, the next night in Spanish. It’s a good way of improving your language skills while correcting each other. My first host family was also very welcoming, showing me around Sant Feliu, taking me to family lunches as well as a New Year party and kindly taking me to the doctor’s when I suddenly became ill not long after my arrival.

There is another CA at the Primary school who I have become good friends with. She and I, along with two other CA’s in a school near ours, meet up at weekends to have a coffee or explore new places around Barcelona.

I would definitely recommend this experience as it has helped me to learn a lot more about myself where I am now more open-minded, confident and assertive as well as knowing my personality fits very well into the education sector. It has also given me an opportunity to travel further around Spain and gain contacts for future careers in teaching English as a foreign language. You may be taken out of your comfort zone like I have but this has definitely been a worthwhile experience!