I have always wanted to travel to Europe. When I found out about this program, it was a convenient excuse to save up and travel to Europe! I always told myself that, when I retire, I hope to teach or be a lecturer at a university. So this was an opportunity to see how teaching is like and I loved every bit of it! The administration of ConversaSpain was also very helpful every step of the way, which helped me a lot in terms of what to expect and settling in the new environment.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
ConversaSpain assisted me with most of the admin work. They gave me an outline of all the steps I needed to take from applying for the visa to settling at the school. So, for most of the forms I had to fill-in (i.e. from the embassy), ConversaSpain would send a "cheat sheet" to help me fill the form right since most of them were in Spanish. Now I was responsible for fulfilling the steps that ConversaSpain outlined, like physically going to the embassy, getting my background check, medical certificate and plane ticket.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
It is quite a challenge to get through the first month. In the first month, there are a lot of expenses, e.g. rent plus the deposit and travelling expenses as one will be sorting out the admin at the ministry of education. Also, since one will be new to the place, it is merely through trial and error that one discovers the right amount of money to allocate for food and social life. So my advice is that you must come with a financial cushion of about 2000 Euro to make it through the first month. Unfortunately, I wasn't financially prepared, but thankfully I survived!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
My school is in a town near the city I live in. I leave the house at 7.30 am to catch a bus to the city centre, then catch another bus to Molina de Segura, the town where my school is. The teacher may ask me to prepare a presentation on a certain topic, like Valentine's Day, Easter, etc., and present it to the class. On other days, I have one-on-one conversation practice with the students. When the teacher wants to introduce new vocabulary, in most cases I say out the words so that the students master the pronunciation. Also, games and songs are very helpful in teaching the children.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was feeling home-sick. While I was still in South Africa, the thought of being more than 5000 miles away from home was a bit intimidating. Once I got to Spain, I really did feel far away from home! But the solution is to make new friends - people to spend time with, people to show you around and people to make memories with. First, I ensured that I maintained a good relationship with my fellow teachers, then I made friends with the people I stay with and they have helped me travel around Spain and feel at home, away from home.