Name of Volunteer Speaker
Paige Tassadit Agguini
Name of town/city where school is located
Experience in school including tasks, classes, relationship with students/teachers
My experience in the school has been overwhelming positive. From the first day, I have been made to feel welcome and appreciated and I always look forward to going in every day. I love working with the students and every class has responded well to me and my tasks and shown determination and enthusiasm to learn, converse and build personal relationships with me. Every teacher I have come into personal contact with has been helpful and taken time to get to know me. Those who speak English have made me feel part of the team and have helped with translation. Those who cannot have taken the extra effort to speak to me through others or make me feel included. Depending on the age of the students, my role has differed class to class. With the primary students, I have assisted them with their projects and have given them the opportunity to speak about what they are doing in the lessons. Here, I feel my role is important as I am allowing the space to experiment with the language in a professional setting without judgement and offering help when needed. In the secondary classes, I feel my role is much more personal. I spend time talking about the projects they are working and try to form personal connections with the young people to give them the chance to practice conversational English. We talk about their career opportunities and their interests, and I make sure to push their language learning further to accommodate to their future needs.
Experience living with your Host Have they made you feel welcome, relationship, activities, etc…
I could not ask for a better host family to be placed in. Since entering their home on the first day, they have gone above and beyond to not only make sure I feel welcomed and understood, but part of the family too. Every member of the family has taken the time to build a personal connection with me and vice versa. In times where I have felt a bit homesick or overwhelmed with the language barrier, they have been supportive and incredibly kind and thoughtful. As a young adult, they have given me the perfect balance between my own space and family interaction. During the week, I attend the daughter’s basketball matches with the family, spend time with their friends, watch films with them and attend Yoga classes with Elsa. They give me recommendations for my own free time and allow me to use these moments to see Barcelona and enjoy my time here. I am more than grateful for being placed here and I am looking forward to visiting every year to see them!
Your general experience whilst on the program from prior expectations to your current experience
My initial exceptions were high but I was very unsure as to how it may pan out. It was always going to be strange and difficult to adjust to a new setting, new people and most importantly a new language but the experience has been once in a lifetime. Every day I am thankful to be here experiencing what I am experiencing in the school, with the host family and in Barcelona.
Changes/Improvements in both personal and professional development
The biggest personal change for me has been my confidence level. After working in a job, I really despised and losing a lot of my spark, this experience has built me right back up again. I have put myself out there in more ways than one and it has benefited my general state of mind and my personal development. In terms of professional development, working in the school has allowed me to have more trust in my decisions, be more flexible to changes and strive for more in and out of the classroom. I feel this will benefit me in the long run as I can bring a more well-rounded version of myself to any job role.
Advice for the any new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your town/city (best places to visit, things to do, activities with host family, favourite restaurant, bar, …)
Barcelona is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to. Apart from just being a great place to walk around, it is also rich with culture, art, good music and fantastic food. My biggest piece of advice about Barcelona in particular is firstly, take your time. You do not have to see everything in one day or one week. Spread your time out evenly between things and really appreciate the atmosphere and the experience you are having. Don’t spend too long cramming everything in very early on. Many things here cost money, not a lot, but enough that if you rush things, you won’t necessarily feel as though you can go back. If you are anything like me, I can’t think of anything worse than paying for something 2, 3 times because I didn’t see everything when I could have.
If you are looking for cultural and art experiences places like Park Guell, Barcelona Cathedral, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Museum of World Culture and Palace of Montjuïc are breathtaking places. My favourite thing to do here on my days off has been to choose one of these places and tackle the surrounding area at the same time by exploring and walking around to see what I can find. If you are looking for a different kind of experience, take yourself out to dinner or to a bar for a beer. I have had the chance to meet people from all over the world in little bars on street corners and it has really helped me whenever I am struggling with the language barrier. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
My last piece of advice (if this is something that you also enjoy), spend some time looking for a coffee shop. In the first two
weeks, I went to so many and tried to find the one where I felt most comfortable. Coffee and the atmosphere surrounding it has always been very important to me so I wanted to have somewhere familiar I could go when I didn’t want to go home or wanted to be out in public. I have made several friends from coffee shops who have not only allowed me to practice my Spanish but also allowed me to have likeminded people to talk to – and who make a great coffee too. This is not conditional to coffee per say but find your place – somewhere you feel safe and comfortable because there will be times you really need it.
Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers placed in your school?
Working with anyone that uses English as their second language and so on requires a lot of patience, but this is increased tenfold when working with young people. Don’t expect all the students to be able to or even want to talk to you in English straight away. Allow them to meet you halfway, engage with them on a level they understand and gradually they will begin to open up to you and the language. In particular, the students in Vedruna Gracia are open hearted, open minded and love to talk so you will never have any trouble forming relationships. Just make sure to be patient and show them from the beginning that they can trust you with their language journey and that you will show no judgements if they get things mixed up or wrong. Moreover, the kids in this school love to laugh, so laugh with them and show you have a genuine interest in what they say and do. I personally can’t stand football, but I watch the Barcelona games whilst here to give the kids, especially the ones with limited English knowledge, the chance to talk with me about something they love.
Advice for new/future Voluntary Speakers in relation to living with your host family or Spanish families in general
Communication is very important, possibly the most important thing when living with a family that is not your own. You are in their house and entering into their lives so engage with them as you would expect them to with you in your own house. Be sure to spend adequate time with each individual and be very honest and upfront when you are having a hard time, need to ask for/to do something or if you would like to spend time on your own. From my experience here, my host family has been generous enough to invite me to absolutely everything, and I have been very keen to say yes to it all. But, there is nothing wrong with mentioning that you need rest or would like to do something different on your own – just be upfront about it. Another very important thing is to be honest about the things you do and don’t like to eat. If you do not do this from the start, you may be left in a situation where you feel uncomfortable to say no or it may even come across rude. You can’t be expected to like everything, but by being honest from the get go, you will save yourself any awkward situations. I have learnt from living with a host family for an extended time that you do not need to give up on the things that you enjoy, the routines that you have or the way you chose to live your life, you just need to think about what may be appropriate at what time and when, the same as when you are living in your own house. Communicate if you are not going to be home for dinner before they make it. Communicate with the other members of the family about how long you like to have in the bathroom after your shower or before school. Communicate when you are feeling homesick and you need to call you best friend for an hour. They will not find you rude when you do these things, they will know that you are just trying to live your life around theirs respectfully.
Share some of the best moments in your school, host family and in general whilst participating on the program
I feel I have had too many to recount here but I will note down some that have particularly stuck with me:
- Spending the whole lesson with one child who wanted to try and translate his entire presentation on the Dahlia Lama to me. He is an incredibly shy boy who would get very inverted every time I spoke to him so I kept our conversation very personal. But this day, he decided he really wanted to try and talk to me and I sat through the whole thing helping him with pronunciation. Now, every time I see him, he gives me a hug.
- Laughing so much with a boy of 14 years who told me that he loved Titanic and when he came back into the next lesson I was in, he had drawn me a labelled diagram as to why Jack and Rose could both have fit on the wooden door.
- Explaining what to my host family what a riddle is and spending 2 hours at the dinner table telling each other the hardest riddles we could find on
- Seeing the view of Barcelona from the Palace of Montjuic for the first
- The parents of my host family finding out I like The Smiths and proceeding to try and outdo each other for the best Smiths
- Every Sunday when Gregor makes homemade pizza, and we watch a film in English
- Travelling to Girona for one day on my own to see the Game of Thrones filming
- Having lunch with the teachers every day.
Any regrets joining? Would you recommend the program to others? and what would you say to someone thinking about teaching English abroad for the first time and thinking about joining this program?
No, I have no regrets. Not a single one. This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I COULD NOT recommend this enough. Whether you want to teach English or not, the people you meet and the experiences you have are second to none.