How it all started…(part 2)

During the end of summer, I spent a lot of time on Facebook trying to find anyone else going to Águilas for their year abroad. Plenty were going to Murcia, even some were dotted around in other little nearby villages but it took a while to find someone going to the same place as me. Eventually, I came across a Dutch girl who was going to be staying there and even had a place lined up that I could stay in until I found my own. She even offered to drive me from Alicante airport for the cost of the petrol, and with my virtually non-existent level of Spanish making me scared to use trains and buses, I took that offer.

First impressions of the town: beach, bing! Although it was by far going to be the smallest town I had ever lived in, being able to walk from one side to the other probably in a good thirty minutes. It was also so, so quiet. This was winter, completely out of any sort of tourist season anyway but it didn’t even seem like there were any people around in general. Some older couples wandering the street, people out shopping during the day, of course, but it was like there was a curfew after 10pm.


I ended up living with the Dutch girl for a few days before finding my own flat with the help of my school. Not that it would have been difficult as it seemed like every other flat had a ‘for rent’ sign hanging out of its windows. I’d later find out that Águilas was a lot more full in the summer and it was normal for tons of places to be available over autumn/winter. The flat was two bedroom, two bathroom, a reasonable size and had a view of the sea. And cost less than 300 euros a month. Winter was truly a dead time.


I already had some ready-provided friends thanks to the auxiliar de conversación program, the previously mentioned Dutch girl, two French girls and an American guy. All of us bar one (sorry only guy) would be working Mon-Thu with a nice three day weekend for partying (that started pretty early) and, I’m embarrassed to admit it but I will, all spoke English to a high level which made it far easier for me. I could’ve tried harder at the time, I really could have, but my Spanish was so low and I was always just so nervous to speak it. I also, at this naive time, didn’t even know how strong the accent of the region was. I do regret it now, even though my Spanish has improved since, that I didn’t plunge into the language a lot faster but I also don’t think people truly realised how nerve-wracking it was at the time.


So, there I was, in a Spanish coastal village in the beginning of winter with a 16-hour week of teaching English to loud, unimpressed teenagers ahead of me…

Students always surprise me

 

 

So, I have a student at the moment who is an absolute beginner in English – can’t really form full sentences, very little vocabulary and very little comprehension. He is improving day by day, but up until this week I hadn’t really heard him say much of anything without a lot of prompting and guidance.

This week, as we were taking a trip to a museum, the student in question was having a bit of a tiff with another student in their native Arabic. Suddenly, said student snaps “F*** you!”, clear as a bell and with impeccable pronunciation. I didn’t know what to say, but I was actually pretty impressed.


I should have the second part of my TEFL journey up soon! It’s slow going as I am working a lot of hours at the moment (morning and evening!) but at least that should provide me with more fun student stories. Thank you to the people who are following me now!

Presents!

Some lovely presents a Russian student bought for me on her last day of school. She has been at the school for nine months and has been accepted into a UK university. She bought all of the teachers their own presents, along with a massive pile of Russian chocolates and sweets. Most of them were dark chocolate, which I'm not a fan of, but it's the thought that counts!


I got some postcards of Moscow (32 to be exact!), a fridge magnet that looks like a teapot and a scarf/shawl that you can either drape around your shoulders or over your head babushka-style. Hoping for more generous students in the future.



How it all started…(part 1)

Tinto de verano - one of my earliest Spanish discoveries

Águilas, a small coastal town in the region of Murcia, Spain, wasn’t actually my first experience of teaching English. That honour belongs to Albacete, a larger town in the more central region of Castilla-La-Mancha. It was a short 4-ish month placement in a primary school as part of my Spanish with History (Spanish for my love of sun, tapas, sangria and incredibly loud conversation and history only as a combination so as to be at least semi-employable) BA at university. The Auxiliar de Conversación program, if you’re familiar. The children were almost unbearably adorable, the teacher’s English levels ranged from very good to so-bad-I-wouldn’t-even-dream-of-allowing-a-native-to-work-with-me, everyone was friendly, everything was cheaper and I got to see the sun for almost the entire time I was there. In short: couldn’t fault a thing. Well, I lived with two English natives and only went out with teachers/students who spoke English so never actually improved my Spanish level (and whose fault is that?) but, in all my naivety, I thought ‘what could go wrong? Plenty of Spaniards speak English!’


Enter: my second placement. This one would be a whole terrifying 9 months, and with the majority of it being in the winter period! As part of our course, we were given two options: take university classes or work as a teacher. Now, my placement in Albacete had been considered ‘practicas’, basically voluntary, and so I hadn’t received a salary. For this placement, if we were to choose to be a teacher, we would receive 700 euros per month + 100 from the EU as well as our usual student loans/grants. Despite repeated warnings from our lecturers to not choose teaching on a whim solely because of the money, well, most people did. We were university students, chronically poor, and in a mindset of grabbing any money thrown at us – who could blame us?


The next step was choosing the region. The regions/cities are separated into groups, as people tend to overwhelmingly choose the same three or four (Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia for sure) so this is to avoid everyone choosing the same place. I immediately ruled out any region that had a second language, as I was convinced I would need 100% Spanish on the street and also basically ruled out the north. Nothing against it, it’s beautiful, but at the time I was purely sun-chasing. I settled on Murcia.


My assigned town came during the summer break: Cehegín, a very small village (population around 16,000 – maybe not so bad for Spain) located further north in the region. It looked pretty enough but, horror of horrors, there was no beach! I’d really had my heart set on a beach, really I had. I did get a stroke of luck, however, the school that I had been assigned to sent me an e-mail saying that their previous language assistant from the year before wanted to stay on and had family who lived close to Cehegín, so, please please, would I consider a trade? Her assigned placement wasn’t far away, a coastal town by the name of Águilas. Quick check on Wikipedia gave me a beach and the trade was complete. It was July 2011, my birthday had just passed, and I was relaxing, half-heartedly studying Spanish from my notebooks and waiting for October to come.