I took a year off school and I wanted to do something more than just work before I went off to university. Travelling was something I really wanted to do in my life, so now seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it. I knew that going abroad would allow me to go out and experience the diversity of the world. I have always loved to travel, because I believe that it helps your grow as a person, build character, and broaden your horizons.
Why did you choose Escuela Entrelenguas?
Before I started backpacking around Europe, I wanted to participate in a meaningful program. I wanted to come home from my trip knowing that I made a positive impact in the community and learned something new. I work with kids at home (teaching swimming lessons) so volunteering at a preschool was something I was really excited to do! Learning another language was really intriguing to me too. I wanted to do more than just volunteering, so it provided me with the best of both worlds.
What was your favorite part about Spain?
Ronda, Spain is such a beautiful city! I loved the small town, real Spanish feeling that it had. Ronda has such captivating landscapes that makes you fall in love from first glance (and I took so many pictures of the same spot because I was in awe every time I walked by). I really appreciated all the nature, and more specifically, the mountains!
What made your experience abroad unique?
One thing that made my experience so unique was how immersed in the culture I was. I learned Spanish very quickly because I had the volunteering (with little kids), Spanish lessons, and I lived with a host family. I was able to learn the basics from the kids, technical stuff from Spanish lessons, and everyday conversation with the host family. I really liked how all three aspects allowed me to learn quite fast!
Also, in many of the cities surrounding Ronda, they have big organizations and companies that offer Spanish lessons. I wanted somewhere that was smaller and more intimate, and Entrelenguas seemed like the perfect fit. They all seemed very passionate about their work, which made it a more desirable choice.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The staff at Entrelenguas are amazing; I cannot begin to describe the love I have for them! They go above and beyond to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime. Mar, Alex, and Javier are a tight knit group running the show and all have big personalities. They take the time out of their days to get you know you, which definitely adds to the experience. Prior to the program, Mar was very responsive and always willing to answer my numerous emails of questions. If there was ever an issue, I could go to any of them and they helped me work through it.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The only thing I would have done differently is stayed longer. I had a two week program booked, then added on another week, but I would have loved to stay even longer.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
In the morning, I volunteered from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at a local preschool. I was mainly helping the teachers and kids with activities, and they would get us to teach a bit of English (i.e. colours, animals, numbers, etc.). I then had free time for a couple hours and was home around 2:30 p.m. for a big lunch with my host family (lunch is an important meal in Spain). After the meal, I went to Spanish lessons from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and then had a couple more hours of free time before dinner with my host family around 9 p.m.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I spent my free time wandering around Ronda's hidden trails. I did so much walking in Ronda because there is lots to explore, such as the new bridge, going down the gorge, etc. I also really enjoyed grabbing an ice cream and sitting on a park bench that overlooks the mountains. Ronda is a very outdoorsy city, so I spent most of my time soaking up the views.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived with a host family for two out of my three weeks there. I lived with a young couple and their very cute dog! They live within a seven minute walk from the city centre, which was ideal. They made me feel very included from the moment I arrived.
My favourite part was when we would eat together and they would help me have a conversation in Spanish. They challenged me to speak in only Spanish, so I could get the most out of my stay with them. They would make delicious, local, home-cooked meals. We would always laugh and joke around, which made it very enjoyable.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
You really have to be ambitious and willing to step out of your comfort zone, especially if Spanish is all new to you (which it was for me). You have to be eager to learn and ready to jump right into it. Having a positive attitude is crucial. Sometimes it can be a little intimidating if Spanish is all new to you, but if you are willing to try your best, then you will absolutely fall in love with everything the program has to offer (i.e. Spanish lessons, volunteering, a host family, and experiencing local life).
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
Entrelenguas has impacted my life significantly. They are definitely my Spanish family and I made connections that will last a lifetime. I know that if I ever wanted to go back and do the program again, I would love it just as much.
It was so rewarding being able to learn so much Spanish in such a short amount of time. The volunteering with kids helped me realize that it's something that I could really see myself doing in the future. This program definitely helped me step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. I have become more confident in speaking to people (in Spanish) and ultimately, trying new things.
Would you recommend Escuela Entrelenguas to others? Why?
I would most definitely recommend this volunteer/learn Spanish program to anyone and everyone! Entrelenguas is an amazing school with fantastic people working there. They make you feel right at home from the moment you step through the door. They provide small, intimate Spanish classes to ensure that you learn the most you can in your stay. The volunteering part of the program is an added bonus because you are able to give back to the community by assisting locals, and it was one of my favourite parts of each day. This program with Entrelenguas sets you up for success in every aspect of it!
Hannah is from Kitchener-Waterloo in southern Ontario. She graduated from high school recently and she will be attending university to study kinesiology in September 2017. Hannah is a lifeguard, swim instructor, and water aerobics instructor currently. She also volunteers and works at an overnight summer camp, and she loves to be outdoors anytime.