Thursday, 16 March 2017

Decisions, Job Interviews, Visitors, Social Life - A busy and Educational Couple of Months!

Seven months already!! I think I need someone to pinch me!

It's incredible how much can happen in seven months! Especially when you are living abroad! When I look back on the time that I have spent here in Sevilla since September, I find it incredible to think that seven months ago, a lot of the people that I know now and a lot of the experiences that I have had were completely unknown to me. In fact, little did I imagine that I would be feeling as comfortable as I do now when I arrived here seven months ago. 

As those of you that have been reading my blog for a while will already know, I came to Sevilla as an Erasmus student two years ago and did a six month work placement in an office in the city center. For this reason, I was already familiar with the city when I returned here to work as a language assistant last September. However, now that I have worked in two different places in Sevilla and lived two different experiences here, I have learnt that all experiences are different even if they are in the same city. And I have been very lucky because although my experiences of work in Sevilla have been very different, I have learnt an awful lot from both of them and gained different sets of skills from them. For example, as a Language Assistant I have managed to overcome the fear of public speaking that I have had all my life. Although I still have butterflies in my stomach when I speak in front of large audiences, I have now managed to make it more discreet to my audiences as I have been standing up in front of groups of 30 students at a time on a daily basis and have therefore got used to having lots of pairs of eyes on me at once. Over the past few months, since I came back from the Christmas holidays, it has been a busy time because I have been reflecting a lot on all of the positive things that I have learnt and got out of being a Language Assistant as I have become very conscious of the fact that time is blazing by and that my year at this school in Sevilla will be ending on 31st May. And as I am a graduate, this means that I am having to make some decisions about what I want to do next.

For me, making big decisions has always been something very stressful because I am somebody who often overthinks things and worries about the possibility of regretting a decision once I have made it. I mean, it's hard to know how I will be feeling a year from now whether I am in my current job or in any other job. But as well as which job I want to aim to do, I also have to think carefully about where I want to be because at the moment I am living abroad which although is fantastic and a lovely experience, it means that I am a long way from my family and friends at home, and also living in a Spanish speaking country which is not my mother tongue. For these reasons, I went through a phase a couple of months ago where I was doubting staying in Spain when the summer comes as I felt like moving closer to home might be a good idea. However, when I sat down and thought through everything more carefully I came to the conclusion that I am very happy living abroad at the moment because I'm constantly immersed in a foreign language, having lots of opportunities to travel to amazing places for cheap prices, and I'm also meeting people from all over the globe which for me is a very exciting and educational experience. And in the end, it was for all of these reasons combined that I made the decision to apply for some other jobs in Sevilla and also to re-apply to be a language assistant for a second year in the school that I am currently working in.

Now its easy to think that once you have sent off job applications that most of the work is done. However, this is definitely not the case, as between January and March I have had a fair few interviews in various different companies. Job Interviews are always scary but doing them entirely in a foreign language is a challenge on another level due to the fact that you have to think about what you are saying but also to think about how you are expressing yourself, speaking grammatically correctly, and using the correct vocabulary and syntax to come across well. Not to mention those awful pauses when you are having a vocabulary blank and really cant think of a particular word. But don't panic! Interviews in a foreign language are actually a very rewarding experience as you come out at the end really feeling like you have achieved something due to the fact that you have managed to speak in a foreign language for a considerable length of time when you are feeling nervous. In fact, I'd say that if you can do oral exams at school or university then an interview is not much different to these, apart from the fact that the employer is usually focusing more on what you are saying than on the language. As I have some experience in teaching English as a foreign language, I mainly applied for teaching jobs in language academies but I also applied for a couple of sales and marketing jobs that were looking for people who could speak both English and Spanish. And although I didn't manage to get any of those jobs I have remained positive as I am grateful to have had a few more experiences of job interviews as I know that this will help me a lot in the future. I have also now sent off my application to be a Language Assistant for a second year and have almost definitely decided that this is what I'm going to do, as long as I get it, as it is proving to be a very fulfilling, rewarding, and challenging experience that is giving me lots of opportunities to develop as a person and learn new skills that I can apply to future jobs.

So although I am pretty much through that period of uncertainty and decision making, I have still not completely arrived at a final decision as I am currently working part time and would ideally like to start working full time as of September in order to earn some more money and spend more time at work as I am at a time in my life where I am single and don't have any responsibilities such as bringing up children so more time at work would be ideal for me. However, as a Language Assistant contract is part time, I have decided that if all goes well and I can continue in my school, I will do so but also try and find another part time job in a cafe or restaurant to do at the same time. I think that having two jobs at the same time would be good for me, now that I am confident and settled with my work as a Language Assistant, as I would be having two different experiences at the same time and spending more time immersed in Spanish which I think would help me develop my language skills even more.

So for the moment, I am keeping that idea in mind as I feel very happy in my work as a Language Assistant and would therefore like to continue with that. However, adding a few more working hours into my week somewhere else could also be very beneficial in many ways.

So I know that today's post has all been about work and job hunting and you are probably thinking that this is all that I have been doing recently. However, I have also been really enjoying the social life that I have found in Sevilla as I have been spending a lot of time going out to parties with my friends, going out to try various Spanish cuisine, going to the cinema, relaxing in the beautiful parks in Sevilla, and generally really making the most of living in such a lively, exciting, and sociable city. I have also had a number of visitors from the UK and also one from Finland since Christmas which has been lovely!.  At the start of February my cousin Alice came here for a few days and I enjoyed showing her around the city and relaxing in the sunshine and enjoying trying local food and drink. I then had my friend Alyy here who is a good friend from university and also showed her around the city and shared some of my new life in Spain with her. Then more recently I have met up with my next door neighbors from home for a meal as they were travelling around Andalucia and came to Sevilla for a couple of days along the way. I also had a lovely lunch with my friend Irmeli and her mum who are from Finland and were recently on holiday in southern Spain.

So although I haven't done any big trips out of Sevilla in the past month and a half, I have had a lot of visitors coming to Sevilla and I have also had a lot going on with job interviews, thinking about the future, and really embracing all of the opportunities that Sevilla has given me.

So all in all although it has been a bit stressful recently, I will also look back on the past two months as being very educational, and very happy as I have been really spending good amounts of time with my new friends and also my friends from home.

So I will end this post here as I think I've covered most things. However, please watch this space over the next two months as I have a big trip to Morocco and the Sahara Desert coming up in just three weeks time and I will also be posting about my experiences of the Easter week in Sevilla and La Feria de Abril as these are both very beautiful and fascinating experiences to have in Sevilla. For this reason I would like to share them with you and also post some pictures so that you can see some of the traditional festivals and customs of Sevilla.

So good bye for now but I will be back in a few weeks, firstly, with a detailed account of my travels in Morocco!

Hasta muy pronto! 

Friday, 27 January 2017

From Malaga to Heidelburg - How to make the most of your weekends as a Language Assistant.

Being a Language Assistant involves responsibility, dedication, reliability, and hard work just like any other job does. In fact, I can safely say that starting school at 8am came as a bit of a shock for me at first after always starting at 9am in England. However, these early mornings have made me feel like I have a good routine now and also give me many reasons to really get the best out of my weekends when they come round. And that is what I have written this post about. The ways in which I have been making the most of my weekends through travelling, speaking Spanish, spending time with friends, and enjoying the buzzing night life in Sevilla. After all, a three day weekend gives me plenty of time to really enjoy Sevilla, Spain, and all that they have to offer. I've definitely been going to quite a few parties lately :)

So I think it's probably best to start by telling you about my recent travels, as I feel like I've managed to see a lot of Spain since I began my work as a Language Assistant. First of all, I may have told you about this in a previous blog post, but back in October I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a day with some of my Spanish friends in a village called Cortelazor in the province of Huelva. I was very lucky to be able to go there as it was somewhere that could only really be reached by car. Whilst I was there, I enjoyed an amazing lunch of various Spanish dishes such as Tortilla de Patatas, Croquetas Caseras, and Carne. I then went for a walk in the hills with my two friends and we enjoyed the stunning scenery of the Huelva province. We even climbed down to a rocky ledge at the bottom of a waterfall which felt very adventurous. Two weeks after this trip, I also enjoyed visiting another small town called Utrera which is very close to Sevilla, and again is very beautiful and typical of Andalucia. 

In December, I decided to go travelling a bit further afield as a friend of mine from university is working as a Language Assistant in a secondary school in Germany. For this reason, I had the opportunity to go and visit her in Germany and see the region in which she is living whilst I was there. It was really lovely to see her after so long and also to enjoy travelling together whilst catching up. And I certainly did see a very good amount of the region of Rheinland-Pfalz whilst I was there! We managed to visit Ludwigshafen, Mannheim, Worms, Mainz, and Heidelburg in the three days that I was there which was absolutely incredible! We also enjoyed exploring the Christmas Markets in all of the towns as I went in December. We had a lovely time trying different types of Gluehwein, and tasting delicious german specialities such as Currywurst, Lebkuchen, Bradwurst, and Reibekuchen. We even treated ourselves to a delicious mug of Lindt Hot Chocolate at the Heidelburg christmas market so we really did eat well that weekend! In fact, by the time the weekend came to an end, I felt quite sad to leave because I really enjoyed seeing my friend Casey again and also exploring the amazing country that is Germany. 

But don't worry! It may have been sad to leave Germany but my weekend travels were certainly not over. Once I got back from my two week Christmas break in England, my travel bug really started to kick in as I realised that there were quite a few other places around Sevilla that I had not visited when I was here on my year abroad two years ago. I started off the new term with a visit to the city of Malaga on the Costa del Sol as this was somewhere that I had not previously visited. It was an absolutely beautiful city full of history and a great atmosphere! I visited loads of monuments including the Alcazaba, cathedral, and plaza de Toros and thoroughly enjoyed walking along the coast and absorbing some winter sunshine. It was a lovely trip! 

A couple of weekends later, I decided to venture up to the region of Extremadura which is just north of Andalucia. Whilst in Extremadura, I visited the cities of Merida and Caceres. These two cities were both stunning and incredibly interesting in terms of their history as they each display an array of incredible Roman architecture such as Ampitheatures, cathedrals, churches, cobbled streets, Aqueducts, and Roman Circus'. I loved the two cities but I would highly recommend visiting Merida especially if you are around the region of Extremadura as the architecture is really breathtaking. If you are in Caceres I would highly recommend visiting the old town because it felt like stepping back in time going from the modern downtown to the historical Roman streets. 
These trips were unforgettable and they have inspired me to do lots more travelling whilst I am working as a Language Assistant as it is a perfect opportunity to really explore Spain and Europe. I'm taking a break from travelling for a couple of weeks now as I have my cousin coming to visit me next week and then a couple of weeks later I will be going back to Wales to visit my university town which will be lovely. So there is lots to look forward to in the coming weeks! 

I'm going to round off this post here as I think I've told you about all of my most recent adventures. However, I will definitely be back in a couple of weeks time to tell you all about the exciting things that are coming up in February. 

Thank you for reading my post!

Hasta pronto! 

Friday, 18 November 2016

A Day in the Life of a Language Assistant in Spain!

There are good days and there are bad ones. There are days when I absolutely despair and feel like I'm failing and there are others when I feel like I'm helping to make a difference by preparing the next generation for the demands of the world of work. But I can honestly say that it is all of these days combined that make the experience as a whole and I wouldn't change it for the world. Yes, there are some days when I feel like I'm going to cry because my students have been misbehaving. But having now been in this job for almost two months I am starting to realize that, just like in any other job, it is the most difficult experiences that make us stronger and enable us to develop our confidence and skills. For Language Assistants this is definitely the case as we go into schools without having the knowledge and experience that qualified teachers gain from a PGCE year. We learn everything as we go along. This may seem daunting to those of you that may be considering applying to become a Language Assistant in the future, but please don't let it put you off because I can tell you very honestly that being in the classroom in front of the students is an incredible way to learn and feel confident with teaching very quickly because it is when we are in front of the students that we are faced with numerous different situations, scenarios, and challenges that require us to develop a whole range of skills such as adaptability, efficiency, oral communication, teamwork, and self confidence. In fact, I would say that the skill that I have developed the most is the skill of being able to think quickly and make decisions on the spot.  As this was something that I always found difficult in the past, I'm really happy that I am now working in an environment where it is absolutely crucial to put these skills into practice. However, I thought that today I would run you through a typical day as a language assistant in a secondary school so that you can learn a little bit about what we do.

Every week, I have twelve classes on my timetable with students in all of the age groups (11-18 years old). The vast majority of the days I start at 8:00am and finish around 2:30pm with a 30 minute break in the middle of the morning and the odd free lesson from time to time. Within this time, I also have a number of meetings scheduled with various different teachers in which we plan what I will do with the students in their bilingual classes. Now, you may be wondering what bilingual classes are because they do not exist in schools in many other countries. In Spain, many secondary schools are 'Bilingual Institutions' which means that a part of the curriculum in a number of different subject areas is taught in English. For example, students in the first year of secondary school will have about five maths lessons each week including one that is taught through the medium of English. As the school system works in this way, I don't actually have any English language classes scheduled on my timetable. Rather, I work in the bilingual part of the curriculum in a range of different subjects such as History, Maths, Philosophy, Technology, and the History of Spain. This seemed a bit daunting when I first started as I haven't studied the majority of those subjects for a very long time. However, I actually really enjoy teaching English using the content that the students are learning in each subject as it is a completely different experience to anything that I have done before and I think that it is a fantastic way for the students to develop their English vocabulary and their confidence with speaking the language. I tend to see every class in each age group once a week in one of their subjects. It is good because I work very closely with the class teachers who are very helpful and make sure that I always know what I will be doing in each class the week before in order to have time to prepare myself. I usually do activities with the classes based on the content that they have been learning in previous lessons. For example, at the moment, I'm doing a series of revision activities such as quizzes, key words' games, listening exercises, and dictation exercises, with my 14 year old students on the topic of different energy types. As they have previously learnt about Energy in Spanish, putting their knowledge into practice through the medium of English is not only a great way for them to consolidate their knowledge of the subject, but also to put their English into practice by learning how to understand and talk about a topic as complex as this in the language. I do similar kinds of activities with all of the age groups in all of the subjects as I have learnt that interactive activities are the best way for students to learn and maximize the amount of English that they speak in every class. And t is great because the class teacher is always in the classroom with me and helps in terms of the content. This is really good because it means that I can focus on the English side of the class whilst the teachers make sure that the students understand the subject specific content. So don't worry, we are never ever left alone in a classroom as language assistants! We are always busy but we always have a lot of support available.

In addition to the classes that I teach in the mornings, I also teach an evening class once a week for fifteen students in 2nd Bachillerato (18 year olds) who are currently studying for the Trinity English B2 exam. This is a fantastic opportunity because I teach the classes alone which gives me a fantastic teaching experience in which I am fully in control of the class and work without the help of a teacher. Although this was quite stressful in the first couple of classes, it is getting easier every week and I am starting to really enjoy it as I have gained enough confidence to be able to relax more in the classes which enables me to help the students as much as I possibly can. I prepare my classes using a book written by the exam board that contains lots of different practice activities of a similar nature to those that the students will be expected to complete during their oral exam. I therefore make sure that each class is structured to focus on one particular type of activity (topic, conversation, or collaborative task) so that the students can get to know how each type of activity works and what they will be expected to do. This is a very rewarding experience for me so I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to do it as it is not something that I was expecting to do as a language assistant. It's also a good way to earn some extra money and therefore be able to travel more and be able to afford my food and rent comfortably. So my advice to any language assistants that are given the opportunity to do classes like this in their schools, is to definitely take up the opportunity as it is a fantastic thing to put on your CV and could be very beneficial to anybody who goes onto apply to train as a teacher in the future. It's also nice because you really feel that you are making a difference for the students by helping them prepare for something that will be of great importance to them when they go onto university studies and the world of work.

Finally, another important part of my experience as a language assistant are the opportunities that it has opened up for teaching private English lessons. When I first went to the school in which I am working in Sevilla, I was amazed at how many teachers asked me if I could give them private English lessons. In fact, I was really pleased as private lessons are another experience to put on my CV, a way to get to know some of my work colleagues out of school, another way of earning some extra money, and most importantly a chance to gain more confidence with teaching which can be applied to morning classes with the teenagers at school. I am currently teaching two of my work colleagues privately and am thoroughly enjoying the experience as they are very keen to learn and we discuss a wide range of interesting topics in English at quite an advanced level. Although I teach adults in these classes, the experience is still helping me with the classes at the school as it is enabling me to develop a teaching style of my own and find different ways of explaining things to English learners. I am considering going into adult teaching in the future so this is a very good experience for me to have alongside my work at the secondary school as it's giving me confidence and experience of teaching adult learners which I am finding is very different to secondary school teaching.

So as you can see, there are lots of different types of teaching experiences that language assistants can gain. In my case, I am very lucky as I am working more hours than were originally scheduled in my timetable. But this was my choice and I chose to do it because I liked the idea of gaining further teaching experience than was originally planned, and being a recent graduate, the extra money has been very useful too. For these reasons, although I am working more hours, I am happy because I feel that I am getting a very all rounded experience by teaching my own classes out of school time and teaching both teenagers and adults. I also have a good amount of free time in which I am thoroughly enjoying meeting lots of new people, practicing my Spanish and also my French with friends, and travelling from time to time. Although I find working in a school very challenging at times, I would highly recommend a Language Assistantship to any graduates who either want to go into teaching in the future or don't know what they want to do as it is a really good way to get to know yourself better, broaden your experiences, and experience living in a foreign country. All of these opportunities are really enabling me to grow as a person and prepare myself for whatever I go on to do after my contract here finishes.

I won't keep you any longer, but just to sum up, the main message in this blog post to any current or future Language Assistants is to be positive, take on every opportunity that comes your way, and really make the most of your experience as it is an incredibly rewarding and stimulating job that I know will be very useful in later life.

Thank you so much for reading this post. Please watch this space for more news from Spain over the next few weeks.

Hasta luego! :)

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Life Is A Constant Learning Process : How My University Year Abroad Has Helped Me In My First Month As A Language Assistant!

When I think about the fact that I have now been in Spain for five and a half weeks, I begin to wonder how I have experienced so much and met so many new people in such a short amount of time! In fact, I feel so happy and at home in Sevilla now that it feels like I have been back here for months! And although I am still struggling to learn my students' and colleagues names at the secondary school where I am working, I also feel like I have been at the school for ages! It's strange because when I look back to the day that I left the UK after having spent a night in A&E due to a problem with one of my contact lenses, it feels like a lifetime ago. But that is only because I have been adapting to a new lifestyle, a new workplace, and building a new life here. And now that I am feeling settled and am really getting into everything, the time is beginning to speed up and go far too quickly!

As I wrote my last blog post in the style of a summary of everything I have done since I arrived in Sevilla, I have decided to make this one a bit different by reflecting on some of the most challenging aspects of my experience as a Language Assistant so far and in my every day life here. I am also going to reflect on how much I have changed as a person since my year abroad placement in Spain in 2015 and share with you some of the differences that I have noticed in the way that I am approaching challenging situations both in the workplace and in my social life as I think that it is important for anybody who is also currently on a university year abroad to see how much their experiences will give them so much more confidence than they had before, even if it all currently seems very overwhelming. Having come back to Sevilla to work for a second time, I can honestly say that I feel like a completely different person to the one who arrived here in January 2015 as my outlook on life has completely changed and my way of dealing with everyday adult situations has transformed. 

The first time that I really noticed a change in my confidence since my university year abroad was on my first day at school when I met all of my work colleagues. This is because although I felt nervous stepping into the school for the first time, I was able to hide my nerves much more easily than I have been able to in previous work places and when I started at university. For me, this increase in confidence is no doubt a result of my year abroad during the third year of my degree as I strongly believe that the experience of being in completely new situations with new people numerous times throughout the year enabled me to learn how to control my nerves which I have found has been very important in my work as a language assistant. This is because when I am teaching some of my more difficult classes or teaching a topic that is not necessarily within my comfort zone, having the ability to cover up any signs of stress or discomfort has been crucial in terms of gaining the students' respect, managing behavior, and also giving students the best learning experience possible. I really am grateful for my Erasmus work placements in 2014/2015 as I am pretty sure that without the experiences and skills that they gave me, I would not be managing to overcome those aspects of the work that I find the hardest and I would certainly not be able to cover up emotions and worries in the way that I can now. So any third year abroaders among you, please remember that the times when you feel out out of your depth or as if you are not coping are actually the times that will be preparing you for the future in the best way possible. I can definitely vouch for that! 

Another thing that I have learnt during my first five and a half weeks as a Language Assistant in Sevilla is how to go about meeting new people in the city who I do not work or live with. The last time I was in Sevilla, I often had the intention to go along to a language exchange group in a bar on a Wednesday night to find other people who were interested in languages to practice my languages with and perhaps also make friends with. However, I never ended up going in the end as I always felt far too shy to walk into a room full of people that I didn't know and make conversation with them easily. However, on my first week back in Sevilla in September, I decided that I felt confident enough to go along to one of the socials that this group were holding and I also contacted some people from the groups facebook page who were looking for a French/English or a Spanish/English exchange. Although I had to find the courage to do this, I soon found that meeting up with people over a coffee or a beer and speaking in both of our languages was not only the perfect way to improve my Spanish and French but that it was also a really good way to meet new people and make new friends. And surely enough this happened as quite a few of my friends here are actually people that I met through this group. So there you go! It can be really good to go along to social events with people that you don't know, if you are living in a foreign country, as it is the best way to form friendships and also become acquainted with a large number of people who you can then contact and meet up with later on. I'm really glad that I took that step out of my comfort zone in my first week as it really has contributed to creating the busy and exciting social life that I have here. 

As well as going along to the Language Exchange group in Sevilla, I have also attended a couple of training courses (one in Madrid and one in Sevilla) that I had to go to as preparation for my work as a Language Assistant. The course in Sevilla was just one day and was a good way to meet Language Assistants from other schools in Sevilla and the local area as we had a series of talks in the morning and then were provided with a buffet lunch at the end of the day which was a great opportunity to talk to people and find contacts. The course in Madrid was similar except that it was two days long and we stayed in the hotel where the course was run for the night. This was another fantastic experience as I learnt a lot about the role of Language Assistants' in Spanish schools and also met more new people who were going to be working as language assistants all over Spain. I was once again quite nervous when I arrived as I was alone and didn't really know what to expect. However, I very soon got talking to people and found myself enjoying a cheeky Sangria with other people on the course on the first evening and also exchanging contact details with people so that we could stay in touch and share our experiences. And it is nice because I really have kept in touch with a few of them and have met up a couple of times with other assistants in Sevilla so it was a really good thing to go to. However, although the course was amazing and enabled me to meet some lovely people, we all somehow managed to get food poisoning from the lunch that we had on the last day in Madrid which was a bit of a shame as most of us were very unwell for about 24 hours after we left Madrid. The journey back to Sevilla was pretty hard going as a result! However, we all got better within a couple of days and were well enough to go to our schools the following Monday so all was fine in the end :)

So all in all, my first five weeks as a Language Assistant in Sevilla have been fantastic! I've met loads of new people, made some lovely new friends, realised that I CAN go to social events where I don't know anybody, and also that I am enjoying my work in the secondary school and am able to learn from my mistakes, put the bad days behind me, and focus on the good ones, which are definitely the majority. I know that it would be unrealistic to think that every class and every day will be top notch because each class is different and depending on the time of day and the group of students that I have, I need to be able to adapt and remain confident as this, I have learnt, is crucial when working with teenagers.

The main message that I want you to get from this blog post is that we are constantly learning so when we make mistakes, it's very important to remember that they are not necessarily negative as they always teach us how to improve in the future. I have certainly found over the weeks that some of my classes have gone better than others and that I have dealt with certain situations in the work place in various ways some which have worked well and others which have not. But I always tell myself that this is all part of a learning process and that I need to keep going even if I do feel that I've failed or embarrassed myself in some way. Each day that I am at the school, I leave at the end of the day feeling different to all of the other days that I have spent there so far because no two days are the same. And this makes it a very interesting and rewarding job to be doing! But one thing's for sure, and that is that I am working in a nice school with a fantastic group of colleagues who I know are always willing to help me if I need it. And for that I am very grateful as it is always challenging starting something new. However, I look back on each day as if it were a small part of the experience as a whole or a stepping stone towards further building my confidence and skills. So like with my year abroad placements in the hostel and the housing company, I can see that step by step I am working my way towards fulfilling another fantastic year of adventure, experience, and enjoyment in Spain whilst also working to make a difference for children and teenagers in Sevilla in terms of their English studies.

Thank you for reading my post. I will try to write the next one in about two weeks time so keep watching this space if you are interesting in finding out more about my adventures in Spain. I hope that you are enjoying reading my posts and I hope that they are useful for anybody who is currently working or studying in a foreign country or is thinking of going down this path in the future!

Mil gracias y hasta luego! 

Monday, 10 October 2016

A new Spanish adventure that is teaching me more about myself every day!

Muy buenas tardes a todos!

So here I am! Beginning my fourth week in Sevilla! I repeat, FOURTH week in Sevilla! I literally have no idea where the time has gone as it seems like five minutes ago that I was at home in Bristol feeling nervous and excited about coming here to work as a language assistant! But here I am four weeks later, absolutely loving life and feeling so settled that I feel like I have been here for months rather than weeks! And that's great because it means that I am really feeling happy in my new life and filling my time with positive experiences rather than feeling lonely and homesick.

Now, before I start to go on about how happy I am feeling here, those of you who are new to following my blog will probably want to know a bit about what I am doing here. In fact, I will begin by telling you all about my first three weeks at work as they have certainly been busy, exciting, and extremely rewarding!

Having just graduated from Bangor University with a degree in French/Spanish, I am somebody who absolutely loves to travel, meet new people, and experience new cultures. And I very much discovered this aspect of my personality when I did a year abroad in the 2014-2015 academic year as a part of my degree. During that year, I spent six months working as a receptionist and a teaching assistant in France, and the other six months working in a housing company in Spain. In fact, the second half of the year when I worked in the housing company I was actually in Sevilla! I had a fantastic year abroad, but it was particularly amazing in Sevilla where I felt extremely welcomed by the people that I worked with and lived six of the most amazing months of my life travelling, practicing my Spanish, and doing my internship in the housing company. For these reasons, I very much felt that Sevilla would be the perfect place to live after university. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to go and work as a language assistant in a secondary school in Sevilla, I didn't even have to think twice before accepting the offer. There was no doubt about it. I was going back to Sevilla! :)

The school that I am working in is a state secondary school in an area of Sevilla that I did not previously know. It is not in the city centre but is in a very good location as I can walk there from where I am living and I am also living in the centre so have everything that I need right on my doorstep. At first, I felt very nervous about working in this school as I never imagined myself to be somebody who would get on well as a secondary school teacher. However, I have been proven wrong as I really can honestly say that my experience at the school so far has been fantastic and I have learnt that the secondary school environment feels very different now that I am an adult. I have been extremely touched by how welcoming and friendly all of the staff at the school have been with me and I have been really chuffed at how well behaved, friendly, and enthusiastic my students have been with me so far. Having been very worried that I would not be able to gain the respect of classes of teenage students and that I would not be able to teach them well, I have been very pleasantly surprised and very happy to see how well they have responded to me in class and how interested and enthusiastic they are in their English studies. I also have never been a natural at public speaking so this was understandably a concern of mine when I walked through the school gates on my first day. However, I am surprising myself more and more each day as I confidently deliver presentations and classes even though a few years ago I wouldn't have dreamt of standing up in front of such large groups of people.

Although I am a language assistant at the school, the post is very interesting and stimulating as I have a timetable in which I am very actively teaching classes through the medium of English. As I am in a Bilingual institution, the classes that I am teaching are not English language classes but are in fact History, Maths, Technology, Philosophy, and Biology classes. Now although this seemed a little daunting at first being the languages graduate that I am, I very soon realized that it is actually perfectly manageable to give classes in these subjects and is in fact, a very interesting and effective way to teach English. I have been amazed at the way in which students in Spain are expected to study a certain percentage of their courses in English and can very much see how it is very beneficial for them when I compare the level of English of the students in the first year of secondary school and the final year. The 16-18 year old students speak very good English and understand some very complex concepts in classes such as philosophy and I am convinced that this is very much down to the way in which they receive an all rounded education in English through the application of the language across the whole curriculum. Having now been working at the school for a few weeks, I am really starting to get to know my students and also the staff and I am really seeing how much this experience is growing me up as a person and giving me a huge confidence boost in terms of my natural fear of public speaking and my past worries about teaching at secondary school level. It is good because the class teachers are always in the room with me when I am teaching so I am able to really focus on delivering my classes to the highest standard possible without having the added responsibilities of discipline and full class organisation. In fact, my job is to maximize the use of English in the classes and to expose the students to native English as much as possible which is a really rewarding job as I really think that having a native speaker with them in classes is making a difference in terms of the amount that they practice and their knowledge of English speaking countries.

In addition to my weekly schedule of classes, I have started teaching a couple of private English lessons each week and may be taking on more very soon. This is a fantastic experience for me as I am gaining more teaching experience, working with adults as well as teenagers, and also earning some extra money which is very useful. As well as this, I am already scheduled to accompany some school trips to places in Spain that I have not yet visited which is another way in which I am really getting into the life at the school! On Thursday I will be going on a trip with the 17 and 18 year old students to a town in the province of Cadiz so I'm very much looking forward to experiencing a school trip as a member of staff and also seeing a new place at the same time!

Alongside my life at the school, I am living a very active social life in which I am meeting lots of new people and enjoying participating in cultural events in the city. In the last few weeks, I have made lots of new friends and also enjoyed seeing friends that I made on my year abroad again. I have been to the cinema, been out clubbing, been to language exchange socials, gone out for meals, and gone for walks with the new friends that I have made. I also really enjoyed taking part in the Carrera Nocturna del Guadalquivir which is an 8.5km run that thousands of people in the city take part in every year. It was really lovely because I ran it with my friends from the company where I did my internship in 2015 and also some other people that I had not met before. We then went and had a few beers at the end to celebrate as we all made it to the finish line which was a great achievement! The atmosphere that evening was incredible as the whole city came together supporting each other and having fun with friends and family so it was a really lovely event to get involved with. It is definitely a lovely memory that will stay with me :) A week later I then went to the Noche en Blanco which is an evening when all touristic monuments in the city are free to visit and there are a number of different activities, shows, and musical performances going on around the city centre. I went along to this event with a group of girls who I have made friends with here and we had a lovely time taking in the amazingly buzzing atmosphere and making the most of all of the opportunities on offer. We particularly enjoyed watching the singing groups! They were very impressive! :)

So as you can see, my first few weeks in Sevilla have been absolutely packed full of wonderful experiences, socializing, getting used to my new work place, and settling into a new flat with new people. I am living in a lovely flat in a fantastic location so I couldn't be happier! I am also really enjoying spending a lot of time out and about, socializing with different people, and really maximizing my cultural and linguistic experiences as it is making me feel really happy and settled where I am. Having spent most of my final year at university worrying about what graduate life would be like, I am pleased to say that my experience of it so far has been brilliant! I really miss university and often feel very nostalgic when I think about the time that I spent in Bangor but I'm also really pleased to have discovered that I can feel really happy and settled somewhere else too. In fact, I feel very grateful for my time in Bangor and the friends that I made there, as I strongly believe that all of this has led me to where I am today and has made me able to cope with going into new situations that aren't necessarily in my comfort zone and to learn and develop from them as I feel that I am doing at the school. If I'm honest, the work is challenging for me but in my mind that is very positive as it is very stimulating and no day or class is ever the same. That's why I am learning so much from it!

Anyway, this post has been long enough so I will end it here! I will be adding a photo page onto the blog for this year in Spain so please watch the page for that if you are interested! I have lots of lovely photos to illustrate this post so I promise they will be up shortly! :)

Thank you for continuing or starting to follow my blog. It is a pleasure to share my experiences with you! I will try to update it regularly throughout the year and am hoping to have the next post published within the next two to three weeks.

Hasta muy pronto! :)

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Volcanoes, Roman Architecture, Hiking, Sightseeing, Trains - A Week of InterRailing in Italy!

Leaving Cannes was once again an emotional experience for me! Having settled down there even more this year, it was even harder to say goodbye to everyone. On my last night there, I went to a picnic on the beach with a group of friends which was lovely because it gave me the opportunity to spend the evening with some of them seeing as it will probably be at least a year until I next go back there. However, as you can probably imagine, I didn't half cry when I left them! It seemed to suddenly hit me that I was leaving! However, even though I felt sad leaving Cannes, I did have an awful lot to look forward to as I was about to embark on another major inter-railing trip around Italy! So, my summer travels didn't end at the end of my placement in Cannes! They ended on Friday when I returned to England after an incredible, exhausting, and fun-filled week of adventure in Italy! I therefore thought that I would share some of these adventures with you in a blog post. So sit back, relax, and I will take you on a journey to Florence, Sorrento, Positano, Mount Vesuvius, Pompei, and Rome.

The week began as soon as I left Cannes city centre on the Airport Express bus. I caught the bus at 10:30am in order to get to Nice Airport in time for my midday bus to Milan. After six hours on bus, I took the metro to the centre of Milan and met up with my cousins who I would be traveling with for the next week. As we had all traveled either from France or England that day, we were very tired and therefore spent the first night getting an early night before setting off early the next morning to travel to the city of Florence in Tuscany, where we would really begin our adventures.

We spent two days in Florence and I can honestly say that I completely fell in love with the city! The constant buzz, the friendly nature of the people, the food, the stunning architecture, and the traditional looking streets were enough to make anybody want to stay there forever! And to top it all off, we saw most of the well known sites whilst we were there! On our first day we climbed up to a viewpoint where we got an incredible view of the city from all angles and also the hills of Tuscany which were absolutely stunning! We also visited the cathedral, Boboli Gardens, and ate some fantastic pizza and ice cream in various restaurants. Having now seen the beauty and charm of Florence, I would highly recommend it to any of you who are thinking of traveling to Italy in the future. It is not too big but has many beautiful monuments, and lots of history that is very interesting to discover!

Once we had finished in Florence, we used our inter-rail passes to travel down to the town of Sorrento in Southern Italy. Now Sorrento was an adventure of a different sort as it was completely and utterly different to Florence! Some of my friends have told me in the past that Northern and Southern Italy are completely different from each other, and after my visit there, I can totally see that! Having previously visited Venice, Ventimiglia, Bologna, Milan, and Florence, I was really taken by the cultural differences between the North and the South of Italy! And I absolutely loved both of them! One of the things that I really loved about the south was the constant music that could be heard in the streets, on the trains, and in stations. When we arrived in Napoli, we changed to a local train line in order to travel to Sorrento where we would be staying. And I think that my journey on this train was one of my favorites of the whole trip which was thanks to the musicians who played catchy music on their accordions and drums throughout the journey. I couldn't stop dancing in my seat for the entire hour! I just loved the energy and enthusiasm that the musicians put into their performances as it really woke me up and got me ready for the day as we traveled to various places in and around Sorrento during our three days there!

As well as seeing the cultural differences between the North and South of Italy, we had perhaps the busiest stay of all in Sorrento. The first day that we were there we managed to visit Pompeii and climb Mount Vesuvius in one day! Having always wanted to climb a volcano and see inside the crater, this was an incredibly exciting experience for me as I got to explore the crater once I had made it to the top. Although the climb was physically very challenging, it was totally worth it to see the crater and also to see the views of the bay and city of Napoli. It really was quite something! It was also nice to learn about the volcano when we were in Pompeii as I didn't know very much about it previously. In fact, Pompeii was also an incredible place to visit! It was absolutely enormous and took us about three hours to walk around the ruins of the city. Whilst we were there, we saw the large Roman Amphitheater which is still in very good condition. We also explored Roman Temples, ruins of houses and shops, cobbled streets, and we saw a selection of paintings that are still on the walls of some of the ruins. It was very interesting but also very sad as we learnt about how Vesuvius erupted and wiped out the entirety of Pompeii's population during the Roman era. Although Pompeii is now a popular tourist attraction, I couldn't help but imagine the inhabitants of the city going by their day to day activities around 2000 years ago. Although that day was exhausting, we learnt so much about the local area that we felt satisfied that we could go away at the end and recount what we had learnt to friends and family in England (which I have certainly done!). We also enjoyed some nice Italian pizza in the evening before going to bed early. We were exhausted after climbing the steep slopes of Mount Vesuvius and walking around Pompeii for three hours! Exhausted but very satisfied and excited about the next/our last day in the south.

Now you may be wondering where else we could possibly go whilst on the Amalfi Coast having been to the two most well known destinations. On the Sunday morning, we set off on what was perhaps the most windy bus journey I have ever been on, to the small coastal town of Positano. Once we had got over our travel sickness and the vertical drop into the sea that was adjacent to the road, we had a walk around Positano and very soon fell in love with it's charm and beauty. The positioning of the town is stunning as it is built on winding narrow streets and steep staircases that either overlook or lead to the sea. When we eventually found our way to the sea front, we had a walk along the water front and bought delicious ice creams from a little shop on the corner of a small piazza. Mine was banana and chocolate flavor! Delicious! :)

To end our InterRailing adventures, we headed up to Rome on the Monday for another busy couple of days sightseeing!  Rome was absolutely incredible! I think because it was a city that I had always longed to go to, I was absolutely breath-taken when I got there and saw all of the famous sights that I had heard and read so much about. We visited the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and a number of other historical sights throughout the city. We did it in a good way because we went on a free walking tour that went from the Spanish Steps all the way to the Vatican City. We had a fantastic guide who gave us lots of interesting information about each place that we passed and recommended the best places to visit alone. I enjoyed absolutely every minute of our time in Rome but I have to say that for me, the most incredible place to visit was the Vatican City. The architecture was beautiful and it was a fantastic experience to be standing in such an important and historical building. It really was an experience that I will never forget!

By the time we got onto the plane to return to London Gatwick at the end of the week, we all had big smiles on our faces but we were also very ready to lie down and fall asleep. Our week of InterRailing in Italy was not only fun and interesting, but it opened up a whole new country to me. Having visited very little of Italy previously, I didn't fully know what to expect. However, Milan, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, and Positano led me to fall in love with the country and it's people very quickly! Having gone there not speaking any Italian at all and feeling as if I had stepped completely into the unknown, I came out at the end feeling as if I now know Italy, it's culture, and it's language a whole lot better and I am certainly very keen to go back as soon as possible!

However, for now, I am focusing on getting myself ready for my year as an English language assistant in Sevilla, Spain and am extremely excited for what is to come! I naturally have the usual fears of the unknown. Who will I meet?, will I like my job?, will I be happy?. But one thing is for sure and that is that I know I will be happy in the city as I spent the second semester of my year abroad there and already have a lovely group of friends there! I also know that the city is gorgeous and is a really nice place to live! On the other hand, I don't know what the secondary school in which I will be working will be like but I am going to put my absolute best into everything that I do there in order to get the very most out of the experience and to give the students the best possible opportunity to learn English.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am feeling very nostalgic and very sad to have left Bangor University as I had the best four years there! However, I know that when one door closes another always opens and I also know that my degree at Bangor University has given me the appropriate skills and the right outlook to get the very best out of this year. So now it's time to put those skills into practice!

I will be flying to Spain on 15th September which is unbelievably in less than two weeks time! I will be writing another blog post when I am there so please watch this space to hear how the beginning of my new adventure goes!

See you in Spain! :)

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Truly Wonderful Start to a Second Year Abroad!

Hello again!

Long time no speak! 

Having not updated my blog since August 2015 you may be wondering why I have suddenly returned to it! 

Well, during the past year an awful lot has happened in my life. I did my final year at Bangor University, graduated with a 2:1 in my degree in French and Spanish, and made the big descision to return abroad to work and travel as a graduate. Now you might be wondering why I didn't decide to apply for graduate scheme jobs and start thinking about settling down in the UK. Or why I didn't decide to go into postgraduate study. I will admit that I often worried about moving back abroad back in January when I made the decision to do it. I mean, lots of my friends and course mates were going into permanent jobs, postgraduate study, or PGCE's so I naturally questioned whether I was making the wrong decision financially and also whether I would be using my degree in the best way possible. However, I eventually decided that having enjoyed my university year abroad so much, it would be lovely to have the chance to live the same adventurous lifestyle once again. I also feel that I am not quite ready to settle down yet and need time to reflect on what I would like to do in the long term, so going abroad and getting some more international work experience whilst getting to know myself better seemed like the perfect plan! And here I am, back in continental Europe! 

So you may be wondering what I have been up to over the summer and what I will be doing for the next year!

On 15th July (2 days after my graduation), I returned to Cannes in France where I had previously completed two summer placements on either end of my year abroad. This is because I had arranged with the language school where I had worked and studied previously to do some more work there for one month. I thoroughly enjoyed returning to the school, seeing friends that I had made from previous years, putting my French into practice, and getting used to the school environment once again before a big new start in September. I always love going to this language school in the summer as the people there always make me feel very welcome, help me improve my French, and teach me loads about teaching and also the local culture and traditions! 

In addition to my mornings at the language school, I also had loads of free time in the afternoons during which I could travel the region, spend time with friends, and teach private English classes to earn some extra money whilst gaining valuable teaching experience! During the four weeks that I was in Cannes I taught eight private lessons to children and adults which gave me the opportunity to meet more new people and also increase my confidence with teaching. The extra hours made me very busy but I still had plenty of time to travel to some new places! I found myself visiting Saint Paul de Vence, a small traditional French town located in the Alpes, as well as Ventimiglia in Italy, Le Trayas beach, and Mandelieu de la Napoule! So as you can see, I managed to see more of France and even stretch over the French/Italian boarder and experience a completely different country in one day trip! 

As those of you who read my blog last year will know, my placements in Cannes are also packed full of exciting social events and night life with the lovely friends that I have made over my three summers' there! This year, I stayed with my good friend Manel who once again showed me Cannes beyond the famous places and events that are known to tourists. She always made sure that I was really immersed in the culture and language, meeting new people, enjoying myself, and really building a good social life in Cannes! And she did a really fantastic job! I am so grateful to her because I spent the month really feeling a part of the community and her circle of friends and building wonderful memories at parties, daytime outings to brunches, watersports events, and music festivals! Having previously spent a year abroad in 2014/2015, I very quickly learnt that socialising with local people is one of the best ways to integrate oneself into a foreign community and to feel really happy and I would say that this summer was my very favourite of the three that I have spent in Cannes so I really am very grateful to Manel and her friends for making this possible! 

Every time I go to Cannes, I fall more and more in love with it thanks to the welcoming and friendly people there! And as my friendships with them strengthen, I further realise just how lucky I am to have studied modern languages at university where I developed skills that have led me to wonderful ppeople who have had a very positive impact on my personal development over the years alongside my university lecturers and fellow students. 

I was very emotional when I left Cannes because I really settled down there this summer and often forgot that I was only there for one month. However, I went straight from Cannes to Milan to meet my cousins for a week of InterRailing in Italy so I am now onto more new adventures that I am thoroughly enjoying! I will write a blog post about my week in Italy next week when I am home in the UK. 

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I am going to be spending the next year abroad but realise that so didn't really explain what I will be doing and where I will be. 

During my final year at university, I was very unsure about what I wanted to do in the future and was also finding the workload quite intense so I decided to apply to do a British Council assistantship in Spain as teaching is something that I have always considered going into. I will be working in a secondary school in Sevilla, southern Spain which is in fact the Spanish city where I did a work placement in 2015 for my degree. As those of you who read my blog last year wil know, I had the most incredible time in Sevilla so I am very excited to be going back in just three weeks time and staying for an entire academic year this time! During the year, I will see how the placement goes and use the time to think about what I will do after that. I feel confident that it will be a very interesting, productive, and enjoyable year that I'm sure will help me make the next big life decisions.

On this note I will say goodbye for now as this post has turned out to be quite long. However, I will write a post about Italy shortly and I will also be back in a few weeks time when I will start writing fortnightly blog posts about my experiences in Spain! I will also add some new photo pages next week when I get home from Italy so please watch this space if you are interested in seeing Cannes in pictures!

 But for now, See you next week in Italy! :) 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Greatest Challenge That Became The Most Incredible Life Experience!

Fourteen months ago, I wrote my very first blog post in which I introduced myself and talked about how I was coping with preparing for my first placement of the whole year. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from my year abroad and how it would feel to get to the other end of it. In June 2014 when I boarded my first Easyjet flight to Nice on the south coast of France, I was nervous, overwhelmed, vulnerable, anxious, and completely unprepared for the challenges that I would later face. However, now that I am at the other end of it all, I feel completely different. Although there were some very tough times throughout the year and it was not all perfect, I now feel blessed to have had so many incredible experiences and met people who have had such a positive impact on me as a person. In fact, if I had my chance, I would most definitely do it all again which this time last year I never ever imagined myself feeling. It goes to show how many changes can take place in a year!

My year abroad was organised through the Erasmus programme but it has been very different to the average Erasmus year abroad. This is because I chose to do work placements which were completely self organised and led me to cities and regions that my university had no previous links with. For this reason it was an adventure on a whole different level as I went to work for companies that I knew very little about. Although this prospect seemed very daunting to begin with, I am very glad that I did it as it gave me a year of very individual experiences during which I fully immersed myself in the languages, cultures, and communities that I lived in.

My year abroad started off in the French city of Cannes where I did a self organized study placement in a French language school for one month. This was a fantastic month because I lived with a French family which gave me the opportunity to really gain confidence with the spoken language whilst studying the technical sides of it at the language school. I also traveled completely independently for the first time in my life which was a very important thing to do at the beginning of my year abroad. During this month I traveled to Nice, Monaco, Mougins, Grasse, and Antibes, This was a great preparation for the whole year as I learnt how to confidently use French trains and buses which later became something that I did a lot of.

 At the end of August 2014, I set off to the city of Grenoble in the French Alpes where I worked as a hostel receptionist for five months. This was the most challenging part of my year abroad as it was the first long placement and was also the most demanding in terms of the work that I had to do. When I was in Grenoble, I really struggled to get across my true personality as I had a language barrier to deal with as well as constantly feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and homesick. Although there were many points during semester 1 at which I felt as if I would drop out at any second, I managed to stick at it and for this, I learnt an incredible amount of French and made some good friends so I am pleased that I did not let my initial struggles get to me too much.

The second semester of my year abroad was the most amazing semester ever but also came with some huge obstacles and difficulties that I had to face. I set off to the city of Seville in Southern Spain on 4th January 2015 to work as an English teacher in an adults language institution for six months. I worked in this language school for three weeks and then very unexpectedly received an email from the company's central office informing me that my contract would be ending the following day due to financial issues and that I would therefore have to leave the institution within 24 hours. This was an extremely difficult situation to be in as I had been living in a hostel for the past three weeks due to not having been successful in finding accommodation. I also had no idea what to do as I felt as if it was my fault that I had lost my job and was terrified as to what would happen to my degree as this year abroad was a compulsory part of it. However, as the days passed and I was informed that I had done absolutely nothing wrong and that it was completely a consequence of over-staffing and financial problems within the company, I started to think about what I needed to do in order to get my year abroad back on track as soon as possible as I was aware that I would possibly have to go back into second year if I did not. I therefore traveled back to my university in North Wales where I received the support that I needed with paperwork and finding a new work placement in Spain. I also spent the two weekends that I had back in the UK at home with my family as it was very important that I spent time with them during that challenging period of my year abroad. After two weeks in the UK, I managed to organize an internship in a company called Roommates Sevilla. I was quite knocked by the previous bad experience for a few weeks, but as time went by I started to really enjoy my work at Roommates Sevilla and got to the point where I felt so happy and comfortable with the people and the routine that I did not want to leave when it came to June. In fact, I was an emotional mess on my last working day in Sevilla because I was sad that such a fantastic few months had come to an end. When I look back on my year abroad I find it incredible how a semester that started off in such a bad way turned out to be so perfect in the end. I left Sevilla almost two months ago now but I miss it everyday as well as the lovely people that I met there. Because of this, I have already arranged to go back in November and visit because I really want to go back and see everybody.

I rounded off the whole of my year abroad this summer by doing a five week internship in the language school in Cannes in which I studied during the summer of 2014. This was a very different and very very good experience as I worked as a French assistant in the school. This involved working with groups of children of varying ages, teaching grammar, playing games, and singing songs. I also attended adult classes for myself which really brought my French on from where I left it off at Christmas. I am very grateful to the school for giving me this opportunity as it helped me put my French into practice after six months in Spain. It was also lovely to see some of the people that I met last year again as I got to know them better and had a fantastic time with them.

So this is a summary of my year. It has certainly not been easy as I have faced a number of obstacles that I did not expect to encounter at the age of 20-21. However, I have got through it and most importantly of all I now look back on the year extremely fondly as I am very grateful for the opportunities to learn French and Spanish to a high level. I also feel very thankful that I met so many wonderful people who have had such a positive impact on my life. Now that I am at the other end of my year abroad, I have wonderful friends from the school in Cannes, the youth hostel in Grenoble, the Language School in Sevilla, and the Housing Company in Sevilla and I know that many of them will be friends for life. There are not many people my age who have friends from all over the world so I feel extremely privileged to have found these friendships in which I am continuously learning new things and making wonderful memories.

Now that I have finished my year abroad, I think that the most important aspect of the year was the people that I met. After all, it is impossible to learn a language in an environment where you do not feel at ease with the people. However, the most incredible thing for me is that the people who I met on my year abroad gave me a new found level of confidence that will stay with me forever and help me enormously in everything that I go on to do in the future. For this I am extremely thankful to them as although I was not a shy person before my year abroad, there was something within me that was stopping my full personality from breaking through. However, I now feel as if I am my complete self and am therefore ready for the next life adventures that await me as I have the confidence to do my utmost best in absolutely everything that I do.

Living abroad is not easy but if you overcome the initial barriers that most year abroaders face, like me, you end up surprising yourself and seeing life from a completely different perspective. I know that the third year of a modern languages degree is commonly referred to as being the best year ever but I would like to really emphasize how true this really is to all future year abroaders. Each time you are faced with a challenging situation, look at it as an experience rather than a disaster. After all, there is no harm in gaining life experience. It is the key to employment in the end!.

I think that this is a good note to end on as it sums up the year abroad in the best way possible. It is certainly not all perfect but it leads to incredible things. It is a year that will always stay with me as it was completely different to any other and I think I learnt more in that one year than I have in my whole life!

Now that I am back in the UK and experiencing the beginning of reverse culture shock, I am going to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog throughout the past twelve months. It has been really nice to know that I have been able to share my adventures and experiences with you and hopefully help any of you who are going to embark on a year abroad in the future. I will very much miss writing my blog but I am hoping to work abroad for a few year after my degree so I might very well be back to continue the blog where I have left off in the not too distant future :)

So for now thank you very much for your interest and support! I hope that we will meet again soon for more foreign adventures :)

A bientot/ hasta luego!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Livin La Vie De La Cote D'Azur!

Bonsoir a tout le monde!

So I am now three and a half weeks into my time in Cannes and am starting to realize that I really only have a week and a half left here! I can't believe that! It is as if I arrived here, blinked, and then was suddenly at this point in time! It certainly shows how time can fly when you are having fun!

And I certainly am having a fantastic time!

I think this year, the time in Cannes is going so quickly because I already knew the place and the people at the language school when I arrived. As those of you who are regular readers of my blog will know, the first month in a new placement is always very difficult and always goes slowly due to the natural settling in period that all year abroaders go through. However, this year in Cannes I was lucky enough to be able to launch straight into the life as although I did not necessarily know everyone really well, I knew people well enough to feel settled and at ease very quickly.

However, before I go into more about the social side of my five weeks in Cannes, I am going to tell you a bit about my work in the language school as that is what I do five days a week. I am having a fantastic experience at the French school this year as I have had an extremely all round experience. I have attended adult French classes as a student, helped with jobs around the school, and worked as an assistant in the childrens French classes. I have liked having a varying timetable as it has given me a real insight into the running of the school and it has also given me some very valuable work experience whilst continuing to practice my French. I am finding that my French is improving a lot as I have spent a lot of time talking to the teachers at the school and speaking to the children in French as much as possible in order to immerse them in the language.

Alongside the mornings at the school, I have also been on a lot of school trips this year which always take place in the afternoon once the school day is finished. These are trips that are put on in order to give the students the opportunity to explore the beautiful region that we are lucky to be in as well as providing a good opportunity to get to know fellow classmates in a more informal environment. Thanks to the school excursions, I have managed to visit both Ile Saint Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat, Grasse, Gourdon, and Les Gorges du Loup. I have also visited Eze Village, Ile Saint Honorat for a second time, and Nice this week as my parents came to visit for a few days and we went and saw a bit of the region which was lovely. It was really nice having them here and it was nice for them as they did not know the Cote D'Azur before so it was a new destination for them.

Although the travelling is amazing and I am really enjoying my internship, something that has really touched me in Cannes has been the kindness of the people. I already knew that the people were lovely as I was very happy here last year. However, this year I have spent a lot of time with a French girl who works at the school and she has been absolutely amazing. She has been a lovely friend, shown me the everyday life of the local young people, and has made me feel extremely welcome from beginning to end by inviting me to events in the city and also to her house. Five week placements can be hard in terms of settling down and forming proper friendships due to the fact that they are so short. However, I am so grateful to her for making my stay in Cannes so enjoyable and making me feel as if I have been here for much longer than I have. It is nice to feel this at home in a place that I have really only spent about two months in as I know that for that reason it will always have a place in my heart and that I will definitely want to come back again in the future. I have also got to know lots of people through my friend from the school as she has introduced me to lots of her friends who have also been really lovely and made my stay top notch. As I always said when I was in Sevilla and Grenoble, my very favorite thing about doing a year abroad is meeting so many different people and making new friendships that I would have never made without my languages and this fantastic opportunity to work abroad. I can really see that there is so much beyond the boarders of our home countries that is just waiting to be explored and there are so many incredible people out there who I feel extremely privileged to have met throughout my travels this year.

I know this post is verging on a bit emotional but you will be pleased to hear (or maybe not so pleased) that this is not quite the last post. There is still one more to come. However, you are probably feeling from what I am writing that the thought of the very end of my year abroad being in a week and a halfs time is quite emotional as it has well and truly proven to be a rollercoaster of a year but one that has brought me so many positive life changing experiences that I look back on very fondly. However, for now I am going to round off for the night as I will be writing a detailed summary of the year next week in order to bring the blog that I have enjoyed writing so much to a conclusion. In the meantime, I will try and add some more photos to the 'Photos-Cannes/Cote D'Azur page' so that you have plenty to enjoy until you next hear from me.

So for now....bonne nuit et a la semaine prochaine! :)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Snails, Exotic Islands, Glamour, and Language Juggling!


As promised I have written you a post to tell you all about my first week back in Cannes! However, it is as always tricky to know where to start! That is what happens after busy and exciting weeks as I'm sure you all know! But I suppose I should start by telling you that I have so far not done too badly switching from Spanish to French! Although I have managed to say Por favor instead of s'il vous plait a few times which can be a bit embarrassing! Sshh :)

Anyway, I have now done a week and a half on the sunny Côte d'Azur and can fortunately tell you that I have had a fantastic start to my placement here. I have been taking French classes  in the mornings ready to start my work as an assistant next week and In the afternoons I have been on excursions to ile saint honorat, ile saint marguerite, and Grasse with the school! This was a great way to see some of the local area and to meet new people at the same time because being a solo traveller can get lonely at times.  

However, this past weekend was perhaps the biggest adventure of all because it was full of many activities that I did not expect that I would be doing in Cannes! I am very grateful to one of the girls who works at the language school for this as she invited me to go with her and her friends. On Saturday we all went out on a boat to spend the day cruising around the islands, swimming in the beautiful clear blue water, and water skiing. Water skiing was never something I imagined myself doing but once I had a go I actually really enjoyed it! I did a bit of a Bridget Jones skiing effort the first time round but then got gradually better and was able to stand up for longer.

Once we returned to Cannes we were all very tired so we went and had a BBQ in my friends garden. It was a lovely way to have a rest after the events of the day and relax. For some of us it really was a good idea to relax on Saturday night as we went out again on Sunday evening to the Piknik Elektronik de Cannes which was a big music festival with food, drinks, and a big dancefloor. We well and truly danced the night away at the Piknik before heading back to our houses for a good nights sleep before starting another week.

I am now half way through my second week in Cannes and am having an amazing time! I am speaking a lot of French, spending time with and getting to know lots of new people, and doing an interesting placement at the school so I am very happy. I also ate snails for the first time in my life last Tuesday so I now feel satisfied that I have had a really good taste of probably the most well known French dish!

I unfortunately don't have brilliant internet in my room but please keep an eye out for pictures of this summers adventures on the Cote D'Azur as I will put new ones on the photos-Cannes/Cote D'Azur page whenever I can!

However, I will leave it here today as it is getting late! I will be back in a weeks time with more news from the Cote Azur!

Bonne nuit!              

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Next and Final Chapter of My Year Abroad!

So here we are! Exactly a year after I first set up my blog and I am just about to set off for my final year abroad placement! That is pretty hard to believe really as the time has flown by so quickly! It is incredible how much my mindset has changed in terms of living abroad because I am actually quite emotional about the fact that the end of this incredibly adventurous year is well and truly in sight now. However, before I continue, I thought that I would remind you very briefly of what I have done during each section of the year and where I have been lucky enough to live/work. If you are new to reading my blog then this should hopefully give you an insight into my language journey so far.

I started my year abroad on 29th June 2014 in the city of Cannes where I studied French in a language school. I also stayed with a French family which gave me a fantastic insight into the culture and country that I would be living in for quite some time afterwards. I was in Cannes for one month before heading off to the city of Grenoble in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. I spent four months working as a receptionist in a hostel there which was the perfect way to improve my French and to gain valuable life experience. I found the placement in Grenoble extremely challenging but am very glad that I did it as I gained a lot from it and learnt to conquer the dreaded feeling of long term homesickness that the vast majority of year abroaders experience at some point. After spending two weeks at home in the UK for Christmas, I went to the Spanish city of Sevilla for six months. I started off working as an English teacher in a language school but my contract unfortunately unexpectedly terminated after three weeks leaving me without work or accommodation (you will be pleased to hear that I found a comfortable hostel to live in temporarily). However, I was extremely lucky as I managed to find another work placement in a housing company in Sevilla only two weeks after my contract at the school fell through. I feel incredibly blessed for the way that my semester in Spain turned out as I ended up working in a company in which all of my colleagues were Spanish, I was completely immersed in the language, and I felt completely happy and at home. For this reason, although I know I would have enjoyed working in the school, I feel that this unexpected opportunity to work for Roommates Sevilla for five months was a real blessing as I had the most wonderful time and met people who really gave me the best Spanish experience that I could have possible hoped for.

So after all of these adventures you are probably wondering where on earth I could be off to next! I am in fact going to return to the language school in Cannes where I studied last summer but this time I am going to do a teaching internship there. I am leaving the UK on Sunday and will spend the first week having French classes in order to get back into French mode after my six months in Spain. I will then spend one month assisting and teaching French classes for children, teenagers, and adults. I feel very privileged to have this opportunity because it will be the first time that I have taught one of my foreign languages. I am also very passionate about teaching as I love working with people and seeing them progress with something that they are passionate about. I am also looking forward to visiting the parts of the Cote D'Azur that I did not manage to visit last summer so there will be plenty of photos on the 'Photos-Cannes/Cote D'Azur' page of my blog :)

Anyway, I am going to leave this post here now as I think that it sums up what I have done so far and how I will be finishing off my year abroad. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my blog so far and that you will continue to follow my exciting and sometimes chaotic adventures a l'etranger! I will try to write posts weekly and will add photos as much as possible! But for now thank you for your interest in my blog and I hope that you will continue to enjoy reading it. I will see you in France!

A bientot!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Everything Really Does Happen For A Reason-How A Rocky Start Led To The Most Incredible Adventure!

Last Saturday was a day that could be described as sad, depressing, happy, exciting,emotional, and rewarding. This is because it marked the end of my semester in Spain, the end of my third year of university, and the day I would be going home to see my family after six months. And as those of you who read my blog regularly will know, the past six months have not always been easy due to the fact that my original Spanish work placement fell through back in January after just three weeks due to financial problems within the company. For this reason I went back to my university in Wales for two weeks where I searched for another work placement with the help of my lecturers. It was a very stressful time as I was at risk of having to lose my Erasmus grant or going back into second year if it took a very long time to find something. As a result of the stress and anxiety that I felt following the termination of my contract and my degree being in a very bad situation, I was in no way in the mood to go back to Spain when I was offered another job. It was strange because I was relieved to have something organised for the semester as I would be able to carry on with my third year as planned but having had a confidence knock, I felt very negative and almost at the point where I really didn't want to continue with my year abroad. However, as these six months in Spain form a compulsory part of my degree, I had no choice but to go back to Sevilla and start this new work placement.

The good news is that now that I am at the end of this placement, I am so so so happy that I went back. I am sure that my time at the language academy would have been fantastic and very rewarding but I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work at Roommates Sevilla for the remaining five months of the semester. Although I went through a lot of stress at the beginning of the semester, I am glad that I did because I could not have asked for better than what I got from my second internship. I worked with incredible people all of whom are Spanish, learnt a huge amount of Spanish, and gained some very interesting and rewarding work experience in a Housing Agency which is something different from what most 21 year olds have on their CVs.  I also got to travel to numerous places both in and out of Spain which was very exciting. In fact, I have made a list of all of the places that I visited during the second semester of my third year at the end of this post so that you can see just how many places this placement took me to. Anyway, I will get back to talking about the travelling later. For now I am going to tell you about my last week in Sevilla as it was a very special week that I will never forget.

Having been at the point where I could not imagine ever finishing a placement in Sevilla just a few months ago, I really did feel quite emotional when I sent all of my Erasmus documents to my university to terminate the semester. As well as working all week as normal, I made sure that I spent time with all of the friends that I made whilst I was in Sevilla. I therefore went out to meet people four out of five of the evenings that week which was lovely! I was actually enjoying myself so much that I hardly got any sleep all week (but I am catching up on that now!). The most emotional day was definitely Friday because it was my last day at work and the day that I had to say goodbye to my work colleagues who made my time in Sevilla so special from the day I started my second placement to the end. It was a very busy day at work but as soon as it came to the last hour before closing time I started to feel a lump forming in my throat and tears welling in my eyes. And as you can probably imagine, as soon as the office was shut it really hit me that I was leaving and the tears did come very quickly. It was a lovely end to my time at Roommates Sevilla because we all went out for lunch together to a tapas bar in a beautiful square. My colleagues also gave me a lovely present which I will treasure forever as it will always remind me of them and the days that I spent working in the office. Once we had all said our goodbyes and gone our separate ways, I decided to go for a walk along the river as I had done everyday for six months before braving finishing off the packing that was awaiting me in my room.

On Saturday when the plane took off from Sevilla, I reflected on everything I learnt during my time in there and thought about each and every one of the incredible people that helped to make what proved to be a roller coaster of a semester the most memorable and enjoyable experience I think I have ever had. I miss everyone there and the city itself an awful lot but I am absolutely certain that I will go back to visit before Christmas. However, in the meantime I am making sure that I look back on the time that I spent in Sevilla very fondly as it was a time in which I really grew as a person and had experiences such as visiting Morocco, getting drunk for the first time, and going to La Feria de Sevilla that I will never ever forget. I also came to realize that the moto 'everything happens for a reason' is not a bad one to adopt as I went from being in just about the worst position that year abroad students can find themselves in to the very best that I could ever have hoped for and that makes me think that maybe everything that happened to me did happen for a reason. In the end, I made lifelong friends in both the Language Academy where I started and in the Roommates Sevilla office which I cannot be more thankful for.

So there you go! The end of another wonderful adventure! However, I am telling myself that it is not the end as I am very strongly considering going back there to work in the future. But I need to get through the rest of my degree before I do that :) You are probably now thinking that this is where my blog is going to end but I am pleased to inform you that there is more to come as I still have one more placement to do! Although I have finished the compulsory part of my year abroad, I have been offered a teaching internship in a summer school in Cannes where I am going to teach French for five weeks so that is very exciting! It will be a chance to get my French back after six months of speaking Spanish as well as continuing my travels abroad. So please do keep following my blog for the next two months as there are still many more adventures to come. But for now, please feel free to take a look at the 'Photos-Sevilla/Andalucia' page to see some photos of my last few days in Sevilla as well as any others that I have previously missed out.

So for now I am going to say hasta luego to my life in Sevilla but I will be back in about a weeks time to start telling you all about my third placement in France!

A bientot! :)

Cities that I visited during the semester:

1. Sevilla (Spain)
2. Cadiz (Spain)
3. Cordoba (Spain)
4. Granada (Spain)
5. Rhonda (Spain)
6. Gibraltar
7. Jerez de la Frontera (Spain)
8. Santiponce (Spain)
9. Madrid (Spain)
10. Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
11. Faro (Portugal)
12. Montequinto (Spain)
13. Bologna (Italy)
14. Venice (Italy)
15. Chefchouen (Morocco)
16. Tangier (Morocco)
17. Tetouan (Morocco)

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

10 Months Living Abroad - What You Will Learn!

So today marks the point where I can say that I have now lived abroad for ten months! I repeat....TEN MONTHS!

The reason that I am telling you this is not because I want to show off that I have nearly got through the major obstacle of my modern languages degree but because it is quite a significant landmark in terms of the learning process that year abroaders go through. Therefore, I thought that today would be a good time to tell you a bit about some of those typical embarrassing moments that are inevitably going to happen whilst living in a foreign country and how you can go from feeling on the verge of tears every five minutes to actually feeling quite amused when you experience those cringey moments of misunderstanding that come with learning foreign languages. So for all of you who are second year languages students and will be beginning your first placement abroad in just a few months time or anybody else who is planning on living in a foreign country in the future, I hope that my advice is useful. I certainly wish I had been more prepared for these things before I started my year abroad ten months ago! :)

So! Where to start is the question!

It is tempting to tell you about the parts of my year abroad that have gone really well but I personally think that it is more useful for you to hear about the more challenging sides of it as you will therefore be more prepared if you ever live abroad as I have done. So I am going to tell you pretty much all of the awkward misunderstandings that can occur if you are speaking a foreign language all the time. But please don't let this make you feel nervous! In fact, I want it to make you feel the opposite of nervous as it is mistakes and misunderstandings that actually lead you to improving your language skills to the max! So prepare yourselves! Here is my list of embarrassing moments thanks to language barriers! :)

1. Saying yes to absolutely everything so that you sound like a pro with the language may seem like a good idea when you are in a foreign work placement and trying be helpful in the company. However, it can actually do completely the opposite and make you look slightly silly. I speak with experience as I have done this myself and come to regret it many times. Especially the time when I managed to tell somebody that they are fat simply because I said yes and nodded when I actually didn't have a clue what they had said! So yeah....definitely a no go zone! But something that people will find amusing and slightly endearing :)

2. Trying to laugh along with people so that you look like you are really engaged in a conversation. Although this seems like a polite thing to do (and I would advise you to try and engage in conversations) you do have to be a little bit careful especially when it comes to your facial expressions! I will certainly never forget the time when I was working in France and accidentally laughed when a client told me that he had been fired from his job. It is definitely not worth the embarrassment that comes with the client then speaking to one of your work colleagues about this incident who then speaks to you about it and discovers that you are completely clueless that it happened. Very awkward indeed! However, you will be pleased to hear that no harm was done as the client luckily saw the funny side of it......phew! :)

3. Trying to join in with a conversation that you only half understand is a good thing to do as you will get language practice out of it and also be more likely to get in with the people that you are with. However, I would advise you to make sure that you definitely understand the main theme of the conversation as it can be  very embarrassing when you suddenly come out with a comment that relates to something that was talked about half an hour before. People tend to find this funny and it is bound to happen at some point but  my advise it to definitely listen until you really have got the gist of what is going on. It will save those unnecessary spotlight moments :)

4. Learn basic grammar rules! For example, if you go to Spain it is always useful to learn the difference between the verbs ser and estar! I am telling you this because I managed to tell someone that they looked pretty on that one particular day when they actually wanted me to say that they look pretty all the time! Luckily people understand when things like that happen but for your sake it is better to avoid moments when you want the ground to swallow you up!

5. Tuning into conversations that appear incredibly interesting to you is great but try to clarify what is being talked about rather than imagining a situation that you think is occurring and then looking like a major drama queen when you start trying to have an input in the discussion. This very typically happens on work placements after something out of the ordinary has happened in the company. There are many times that this has happened to me but I always see it as something amusing as you do tend to discover a lot about the extent of your imagination. In my case, I have come to realize that I have a very extensive imagination!

6. And finally.......remember not to mumble when at the checkout in a supermarket to try and hide your foreign accent as the likelihood is that the shopkeeper will not understand you and it will cause heads to turn in your direction :) my advice is to speak loudly and clearly (obviously not too loud!) to avoid that awkward moment when shopkeepers or bus drivers look at you with a look of complete and utter confusion on their faces. One man in a supermarket in France told me that I sound like Bridget Jones when he heard me speak French which I'm not sure is a compliment or an insult as I was trying to speak with my best French accent! I managed to laugh it off though! After all, that is not something you hear everyday :)

So there you go! Now you know about some of the embarrassing situations that I have encountered on my year abroad. There are many many more but I think we would be here all night if I told you about all of them. So I am going to stop there.

The main message that I want you to get from this is that it is inevitable that you will make mistakes (especially at the beginning). However, you must try very hard not to let these mistakes get you down as they are a natural part of language learning that simply can't be avoided. In fact, I would say that the most memorable incidences (for the wrong reasons!) have probably been the most important linguistic learning curves for me. This is because when I first got to France last summer, I could not see past my embarrassment every time I said something awkward that made everybody laugh. However, as time has passed, I have noticed how much less tense I am when speaking the languages and how much more I am learning as a result of looking at everything slightly embarrassing as funny and laughing it off! After all, this is probably the only time I will get to do a year abroad so I might as well enjoy it :) You will also find that people are very aware of the fact that you are learning the language and will not be laughing at you but with you when you make hideous mistakes. This is something very important to remember as it can be something that helps to build friendships and enables you to feel at ease with your surroundings.

So please please don't go away from this article feeling like living abroad is one big embarrassment because it is not! Many people will fear language barriers more than anything but from my experience, they can actually make the experience all the more fun and exciting. So my advice to you is not to let a little language slip up knock you! If you continue making the effort to speak and overcome your fears, you will come out of the year abroad with much better language skills than you had at the beginning! After all, practice makes perfect!