Col·legi Virolai in Molins de Rei joined the Conversation Assistants Program last year. In their second year, they are hosting Adam, from the USA, and Jessica who comes from the United Kingdom. They are both having a great time, learning a lot, and also helping everyone at the school and host families improve their English.
My name is Adam Pickus and I am an English Conversation Assistant at Col-legi Virolai in the city of Molins De Rei, located near Barcelona. I am from San Francisco, California, in the United States and I come from a very different culture in the United States. Through the duration of the CAPS program I have an incredible dual-cultural perspective that few are fortunate enough to have. I have made an unforgettable transition to life in the Catalonia region as I have adapted to my post graduation life as an English teacher. It is surreal to reflect on the endless hours of studying for exams, projects, and homework to earn a journalism degree at the University of Oregon to where I am now as a teacher.
I have never been as aware of the unique qualities of the United States until I fully integrated into a Spanish family that I have been living with for almost four months. The family consists of two parents and one daughter and I am very lucky to have been placed in a family that is so welcoming and caring. While I have only been in their home for four months, I feel like I have become one of their own children. The language barrier will always be a challenge to overcome, but my Spanish skills are slowly improving, which has helped me develop a closer relationship with the three. I will be forever grateful for their hospitality and graciousness.
I work in a school called Col-legi Virolai that has a great support system and helpful, friendly staff members and students. Their English skills are surprisingly efficient and it is easy to notice how welcome they make me feel. I am in classrooms from 6th of Primary to 2nd Baxtillerat and I have really enjoyed being able to work with students from varying age groups. Furthermore, the teachers I have worked with have been instrumental in easing my transition into the school despite my inefficiencies in the Catalan and Spanish language. I look forward to finishing out the school year and building on the strong relationships I have created with the students and staff of the school.
Making the decision to move to Spain was very difficult as I would be away from my family and I didn’t have any understanding of Spanish or Catalan. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it would be an experience I couldn’t miss out on. I am a Business student and I am working here as part of my placement year. I chose to become a teaching assistant as I am still unsure of what career I wish to have and this was an opportunity to broaden my choice.
When I arrived at the airport in Barcelona and was greeted by Home to Home, amongst numerous other CAPS, I took comfort that other people were in the same situation as me. Away from their family for the first time, excited to start their job and mesmerised by the beauty of Barcelona.
My first host family were very welcoming and made me feel comfortable living with them. I would help the children with their English and they would tech me simple words in Spanish. On the weekends they took me to meet their family and we also went to Monserrat and Tibidabo and Barcelona. They were absolutely brilliant! My second host family that I am currently living with don’t speak any Englsih apart from the daughter. They are restaurant owners so I am always eating delious Catalan food. Even though there is a language barrier they are such nice people that i don’t feel awkward or left out. And my Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds! It’s been a privilage for me to experience the Spanish culture.
My school is located in Molins de Rei, a town which is a small train ride Barcelona. When I first arrived at the school the students made me feel like a celebrity. They all asked me questions and told me about their lives. The teachers were equally kind and made me feel welcome. Not all the teachers could speak english but a simple greeting made me feel accepted. My tutor in particular is always there for me if I have any concerns and I always feel like I can talk to her. She always makes sure I have no problems with my host family and lessons and she will always try to help me if I have concerns.
My tasks at the school include working with children 3 to 10 year olds and the teachers at the school, therefore I am gaining a vast amount of experience; although, it was very difficult to remember names. The activities I do with each age group vary, but they are all focused on helping them with their oral English skills and learning new vocabulary and grammar. For example, activities with the pre-primary children involve teaching them very simple things such as greetings, colours, and animals etc. I’ve learnt that singing is an invaluable way of teaching children, especially with the little ones. In the older students’ lessons, we often revise English grammar using games/sections from the textbooks. I check their spelling and correct their pronunciation.
This experience is most certainly the most challening, rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever done. I have done something similar as I have previously been a Lifeguard/counsellor at Camp 7 Hills, Girl scouts NY for three months but the experience was vastly different. Most of the time I’m not very expressive but I’ve learnt a lot about myself during these past months. It’s an experience I will always hold dear.
Santa Teresa de Jesús school, located in Vilanova, has been in the Conversation Assistants program for many years. This year they are hosting Kendall, who comes from the US. We leave you with the text that Kendall and his tutor, Roser, have written for us.
Thank you so much!
L’auxiliar aquest any ha vingut de més enllà de l’Atlàntic, dels Estats Units: des de Boston a la nostra escola a Vilanova i la Geltrú. La seva llengua materna, l’accent i el bagatge cultural són totalment diferents als que estàvem acostumats d’altres auxiliars de conversa, que sempre havien vingut del Regne Unit o Irlanda. Aquest fet ens ha permès a tota la comunitat educativa gaudir i aprendre amb una persona de parla anglesa, però amb unes arrels i tradicions totalment diferents.
Com cada any, l’auxiliar col·labora a tots els nivell educatius que tenim a l’escola, des d’infantil, passant per primària i secundària, i fins i tot a CF. S’està ocupant de grups reduïts de conversa, i col·labora també en altres projectes que es duen a terme a l’escola com l’English Song Contest, o la trobada amb alumnes anglesos de Plymouth.
Com a tutora de l’auxiliar, crec que ha estat molt enriquidor per als alumnes poder posar al mapa un país tan gran i tan divers com els Estats Units gràcies a tot allò que ens ha relatat el Kendall.
Vilanova i la Geltrú is a comfortable and very active town located about 40 minutes outside of Barcelona city. Since October, I have had the privilege of teaching as an English conversation assistant at Col·legi Santa Teresa de Jesús — situated right in the heart of the town center amidst bustling cafes, tantalizing food shops, and numerous cultural sites.
My experience thus far has been absolutely phenomenal. The tapas and local dishes are too good to be true, the beaches are absolutely beautiful, and the people are open and carefree. Catalonian culture is very laid-back, which is very different from the hurried and rushed life I was used to in the United States. I adore how open and warm the Catalonian people are and have had no trouble in finding people to talk to and make acquaintance with, whether at the gym, bar, or bus stop.
Apart from having some of the best food of my life, witnessing some of the most captivating landscapes, and meeting some of the most interesting people during my stay here, I have also had the chance to help the locals out with their English in the school and in my private lessons. In the school I teach students from ages 6 through 22. At first, the news that I would be teaching students from the primary level up through the vocational courses was daunting, and creating lesson plans to span the breadth of the age gap did prove challenging, but within a few weeks I was able to get the rhythm down and things became much smoother. In fact, the most challenging aspect of my work soon became the most enjoyable; the wide array of ages that I teach makes for an equally wide diversity in the lessons that I give. On a typical day, I could go from talking about animals and colors in the primary classes, to debating global issues with the older students in ESO all within the same morning. I also love how, no matter the age, the students usually do not hesitate to express how they feel (for better or for worse), and this always makes for an interesting and interactive classroom environment.
Throughout my time with Santa Teresa, my tutor Roser and the entire faculty have always been there for me if I ever needed anything and have always offered a helping hand. Moving to a new country is challenging enough, but knowing that I had a support system made the transition as seamless as possible. I am now living with my second host family, and have been pleasantly surprised at and will be eternally grateful for the level at which both of my host families have opened up their homes and family lives to me, a stranger. Before coming to Spain, I had never lived outside the United States, and even though I had considered myself open-minded and globally-conscious, I had not really seen with my own eyes an example of what life is like outside of American borders. I have called this poble my second home for the past 5 months will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Col·legi Sant Gabriel in Ripollet is hosting a Conversation Assistant for the first time this year. John, the Conversation Assistant, and his tutor Neus, have written to us to tell about their experience. Thanks a lot!!!
John has been in our school for six months now. He is our first conversation assistant and the experience is proving really positive. He has perfectly adapted to our school from the first moment and he has always shown a very collaborative attitude. He is hard-working, extremely responsible and as motivated as motivating, because he enjoys his classes at school very much and he is plenty of interesting and creative ideas. He cares for pupils and they love him. He helps the English teachers from Pre-school education to ESO and he also participates in school trips. As his tutor, I spend a lot of time with him and I can say he is not only a wonderful teacher but also a wonderful person, who adds to me, to pupils and to his host families, more than just support with English language. (Neus – John’s Tutor)
I applied for this in May/June 2014 after getting an email regarding the programme and instantly was interested. Working with children was something I was doing at the time voluntarily anyway and I was stuck in a job I hated, it seemed very natural to choose to do this. I got accepted and had to wait two months until I could go as it started in September. Before leaving the UK I was rather worried because I didn’t know how the students would be and how respectful or disrespectful they would be toward me, this wasn’t an issue in the end, but it was something which worried me.
I work at Sant Gabriel School in Ripollet and I work with from first of primary (6 years old) to fourth of ESO (16 years old) with occasionally working with the preschool classes during special occasions, for example, Easter. Before coming here most of my experience with working with young people was in a youth setting and mostly 11+, so when asked to work with primary I was a little worried how they would react to me and how I would teach them as it’s not something I was used to.
The families which I have lived with have, both been very nice and have taken good care of me, especially when I fell ill twice whilst being here. They have been very accommodating and I really appreciate them allowing me to live with them and for feeding me too! I wasn’t so worried about living with a family again, even after living on my own for about 4 years because of university. The only worry I had was that I would be too much of a burden on them.
I think my tutor has been amazing too. She’s made my time here fantastic as she’s put the effort into working alongside me in class and improving the level of English teaching in her classes. During the times where I’ve not necessarily been feeling amazing, she’s been there for me to talk to about any problems I’ve had, either with the course or any personal problems.
While the people who live here don’t agree with me, I quite like Ripollet. It’s quite a small town and not too far away from Barcelona by train making it quite easy to get to. I’ve found everything to be rather cheap too. It’s completely surrounded by mountains too which I love. After living in two (reasonably) big cities it has been nice to live somewhere where isn’t populated with 200,000+ people and isn’t as fast or busy.
On a practical note though, I would advise people who are interested in doing this to bring their phone from wherever they are. I bought a phone out here and it would have been much cheaper for me to bring one out here and buy a new sim card or get a new contract. As well as that, I would recommend bringing things from home which would perhaps reduce the amount of homesickness suffered. I know toward the end of December I was feeling quite homesick. It’s been easier since January, but homesickness has come and gone over the past few months but nowhere near as bad as in December.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic experience for me. I love the school and teaching. I have really enjoyed my time here. Everybody has been very accommodating and very welcoming from the students to the teachers. I’ve found out more about myself and more about teaching through being in the school. (John)
Escola Pia Terrassa has been hosting Conversation Assistants for five years now. This year they are hosting for English Conversation Assistants and one French Conversation Assistant. Kayla, who comes from the USA, is the Conversation Assistant that helps children in infant school get used to hearing and speaking the English language. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Kayla!
I found this program while I was looking for a job where I could have more experience working with children. I had already been working in a preschool in the U.S but I was looking for a position with a bit more responsibility. The travel aspect was a plus as I had wanted to have an experience abroad for a while but it didn’t coordinate with my studies at my University. As this program seemed to combine my two main interests, I decided I would give it a try.
On my first day I had a meeting with the infantile program director and the English teacher in my school. I was assigned to the infantile program meaning I would work with children ranging in age from 3-6 years old. They provided me with an outline of general expectations for the first few months of my program, showed me the materials from the previous conversation assistants and told me I would begin my activities the following week.
My activities include leading a portion of the morning circle, working with small groups in the classroom and working in a separate classroom with 8 children once a week. After morning circle, I begin with my activity which is more or less whatever I think is appropriate to teach. I teach my activity in the classroom with a small group of children while the others are playing with puzzles, tablets, and other materials available in the room. If I ever have questions or need feedback from the other teachers regarding my activities, then I try to arrange a time to speak with them and get their input. Overall, the conversation assistant position in my school is very relaxed and the activities I plan are completely up to me.
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Currently I am living with my second host family. I live with a woman and her 12 year old daughter. During the week I only see them for dinner time which is when I speak with the mother in English. On the weekends the daughter is busy with various activities and the mother likes to do things with her friends. I have joined the mother and her friends for some weekend activities but usually I find things to do with the other conversation assistants from my school. With my first host family, I spent almost all of my time with and I felt very much like a part of their family. I would go with them for big family lunches every weekend and I always felt like they were there for me for whatever I needed. I am still in contact with them and I continue to meet up with them for dinners or sometimes even just to catch up.
The people I have met during this program are what keep me going while I’m living away from my friends, family and my home. I feel very lucky to be apart of the team of teachers at the infantile school at Escola Pia Terrassa and they are like another family to me. From my first week I felt comfortable and welcomed by everyone there. I am so thankful that I get to work with and learn from them. Luckily, at my school there are 4 other conversation assistants who I am happy to call my friends. They all have proven to be a really important part of my life here.
I’m sure I won’t remember the details of my day to day life here after this program is over but I am sure I will look back on this time and remember the relationships I made with these people and for that reason I am thankful for this experience.
Salesians Sant Boi is a school located in Sant Boi de Llobregat. They joined the programme in 2013, so this is their second year with a conversation assistant at the school. This year they are hosting Amy, who comes from the UK and is helping create an English-speaking environment in the school. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience with us, Amy & Eva, her tutor.
Making the decision to move to Spain was one of the biggest decisions of my life. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that it was going to be an experience of a lifetime and one which, in my opinion, I couldn’t turn down. I am an English Language university student and I am working here as part of a placement year. Although I am still not sure what I want to do as a career, I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime.
As soon as I arrived at the airport in Barcelona and was greeted by Home to Home, amongst numerous other CAPS, I was made to feel so welcome. Subsequently, at the induction, I made some brilliant friends and we regularly meet up outside of school. We were all mesmerised by the beauty that exists in Barcelona.
My host family are absolutely brilliant and could not be more supportive if they tried! I already feel like part of the family and luckily, I am with them for the whole nine months! I’m always included in family activities and have experienced the celebration of the Three Kings, which is the main Christmas celebration here. It’s so interesting being immersed in another culture and learning how different everything is! I have a very good relationship with my family and often play games with the children/bond over similar tastes in music! Each weekend we explore Barcelona, whether it’s just going for a drink and something to eat, or exploring a new town/village, there’s always something to do! Even when I leave, they will always be my Spanish family.
My school is located in Sant Boi, a small town which is a train ride away from where I live. My host Mum is a teacher at the school, which really helped in terms of integrating within the community and enables me to ask her anything I need to know. Both the staff and the students have made me feel like a celebrity at the school and many of them make an effort to speak to me in English, which is really comforting. The school is like one big family and everyone knows everyone, it’s amazing.
My tutor in particular is always there for me if I have any concerns and I always feel like I can talk to her. We have a regular meeting every week, which is reserved for anything that we need to discuss or prepare for the day to day lessons within the school. She’s not only there for me at the school, but she has become a huge part of my life and she often visits me outside of school for a drink and a catch up.
My tasks at the school include working with pre-primary, primary, secondary students and the teachers at the school, therefore I am gaining a vast amount of experience; although, it makes it tricky remembering names!! The activities I do with each age group vary, but they are all focused on helping them with their oral English skills and learning new vocabulary and grammar. For example, activities with the pre-primary children involve teaching them very simple things such as ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘what’s your name?’ and I’ve learnt that flashcards are an invaluable resource when it comes to working with tiny children!
With the youngest group in secondary we are rehearsing the play ‘Robin Hood’ in English, ready for them to perform at the end of the year. In the older students’ lessons, we often revise English grammar using games/sections from the textbooks. Sometimes I take groups of the secondary students out of the classroom into another room, so I can help them on a more personal level with pronunciation and they can ask me any questions they may have.
This experience is most certainly the most challening, rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever done. It’s definitely a rollercoaster of emotions, but one which I will never forget.
Ramon Pont is an infant, primary and secondary school located in Terrassa. They have been in the Program for two years. Their conversation assistant for this school year is Rachel, who comes from the US. She is having a great time in Terrassa and in Ramon Pont, and her presence there benefits both teachers and students. Thanks for writing to us, Rachel
My name is Rachel Lane and this is my first year as a conversation assistant with CAPS. I’m currently in a school in Terrassa, about 40 minutes away from Barcelona, called Escola Ramon Pont. Terrassa has been a great place to live so far; you are close enough to Barcelona to be able to hop on a train whenever you want, but you don’t always have to deal with tourists in Barcelona.
At the school, I work with ages 3-16, which has been interesting in that there are obviously varying levels of English, and that I get to do things such as sing English songs with the young kids, and go into more in-depth conversations with the older kids. My day-to-day work here consists of taking small groups from classes and doing various speaking activities. I really enjoy doing this because I get to know the kids and their cultures, as well as discussing my culture and life in America. Since the school I work in is small, I’ve gotten to know all of the teachers and students on a more personal level.
Another interesting aspect of the program is living with a host family. I am currently with my second family, and I think that this is the main way that I have become more integrated with life and culture here in Spain. Being so far from home, I am happy that I get a family atmosphere; we all have meals together, we go on outings in and around Terrassa, and I’ve even participated in family gatherings which have been great fun.
Overall, moving to Spain to be a conversation assistant has been one of the best experiences of my life. My two pieces of advice to anyone considering is 1) Start saving your money! The process can be expensive, and it’s good to have a cushion of money to fall back on in case you need it while in Spain. 2) Even basic knowledge of Spanish is extremely helpful while living here. I studied Spanish in college so I know a good bit, but I would imagine it would be much more difficult to do day-today things here without any knowledge of the language.
Sagrada Família school is located in Lleida. They have been in the Conversation Assistants Programme almost since its beginning. Felix comes from Canada and is the Conversation Assistant who is helping teachers and students with English activities this year. You can also visit the School’s English Blog to read about activities they do with Felix and have done with previous Conversation Assistants.
At first I was hesitant about packing up my life and moving overseas to a country, culture, and language that was completely alien to me, but it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The families I have stayed with have been extremely kind, hospitable, friendly, and welcoming. Each day I yearn for more chances to do activities with the kids and teenagers, and many of them are eager and good students.
The teachers here have also been very helpful and welcoming. It’s already been three months and it’s felt like only a few weeks!
Escola Pia Vilanova has been in the Conversation Assistants Program for three years. This year they are hosting Nadia, who comes from the UK and works with kids from Primary to Batxillerat. We thank Nadia and her tutor Mireia for sharing their experience with us!
I have always liked working with children of all ages and at Escola Pia Vilanova I work with children between the ages of 6 and 18, which is perfect for me.
I was a little apprehensive when I got to Escola Pia as the school year was already underway and there was so much for me to learn about the school, scheduling and culture, not to mention the names of the 650 or so students that I would be working with! I shouldn’t have worried though because I soon became comfortable and began to adjust as all the staff at the school were very supportive and patient, making the adjustment quicker and easier.
I have enjoyed being at Escola Pia, the enthusiasm of the students rubs off on me every day and their eagerness to learn motivates me to work harder and to create new and interesting ways to teach them. I have learned the dynamics of the various classes and the personality and educational needs of the students; this has allowed me to adopt personalised teaching methods for each class.
The best part of Escola Pia for me is the diversity. I love the fact that in one day I can go from doing Arts & Crafts with 9 year olds to discussing global issues with 18 year olds, only to spend the afternoon singing Christmas Carols with 6 year olds! The joy I get from seeing a student formulate a sentence to express something they thought they couldn’t or using unexpected vocabulary is truly immeasurable.
The city of Vilanova i la Geltrú is a very eclectic one and in my free time I find pleasure in walking in random directions and discovering new stores and restaurants. I already have a favourite supermarket, ice cream parlour and bakery, all of which I discovered during my explorations. My students have given me suggestions on places to eat and things to try and I enjoy coming back each week with results and feedback on their suggestions.
The host family I’m currently residing with have been hospitable and I’ve had an introductory meeting with family members of the other two placement homes so I’m excited to experience living with them.
So far this experience has been very enjoyable and I look forward to what the rest of the experience will bring.
Over the last few months I’ve been living near Barcelona, Spain, in the small town of Olesa de Montserrat, where I also work at the Escolapies School as the English speaking assistant through the CAPS Home to Home organization.
The experience so far has been great, I’ve lived in 2 homes already. The first was the home of 4 of my students. This immersed me in the culture and language of the country as well as the more mundane day to day living. The greatest aspect of this was being able to communicate with my students on their opinion of my classes and gain feedback. The second house, and my current home, is the house of another teacher whom I work with and her family. It’s been a rewarding experience, once again being immersed in the same culture from a different point of view, the most important aspect of this was to have another teacher to consult with regularly, someone who was in the same profession as I was, however someone who was more experienced and new the inner workings of the school.
The job itself has been so rewarding to improve on my teaching techniques and knowledge of the mechanics. The school is run perfectly. I notice it’s a very rigid studious school environment, however Escolapies also takes a very artistic liberalized approach to its teaching very similar to the Montessori schools and their teaching philosophy.
My only words of advice for a family who wishes to host a language assistant is that it helps to have at the very least a basic understanding of English as it can be trying when a language barrier exists. It’s also noteworthy that in northern Spain other languages exist alongside Spanish this includes Basque, Catalan, and Gallego and even though they’re relatively similar and all have Latin origin it can still confuse you if you come to northern Spain (Barcelona area) expecting a total Spanish environment like Madrid and its surrounding area.
In a couple of weeks I move to my new host family. Everything has been great so far and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants the experience of a lifetime.
My name is Michael, I’m 22 and I travelled from New Zealand to take part in the 2014-2015 CAPS programme.
For me the decision to come was an important one. Firstly, Spain and Catalonia is on the otherside of the world, and I spoke no Catalan or Spanish. Secondly it would be my first time this far away from and by myself. I was a little nervous to say the least. Regardless, I decided to take part and almost two days after leaving New Zealand I arrived in Barcelona ready to start the next nine months.
I was placed in a smallish town called La Garriga, which is about half an hour by car from Barcelona. The school, Sant Lluis, is small. There are only around 420 students and I am active in every class, from age three through to age sixteen. Most of my time is spent encouraging the older kids to speak English and to help build their confidence through friendly conversation and activities. In the primary school I help alongside a teacher working to build their vocabulary and getting them speak basic, but common, phrases. In the pre school my time is spent playing in the playground, helping the kids with their art projects or telling stories to the children.
I eat lunch at the school with the students and the teachers. The food is great, healthy and hearty, and there is always plenty to go around. The teachers at the school have been awesome to me too. If they are not helping me with my Spanish, they are introducing me to past students my age, or offering to take me out for the day or the weekend to places around Catalonia. Because of its size the school feels like a community and everyone is part of its family. Its nice to be welcomed into that as I have been.
The thought of living with strangers, a family with young children, was quite alien to me – I have been flatting with friends for the last five years. However my family have made the transition easy. The parents both speak English very well, and have been more than happy to introduce me to people, places, food and experiences. They have three children, aged 11, 8 and 5 who all attend Sant Lluis. So far I have been able to travel all around Catalonia with them.
During the week I spend most of the day at school and in the evening I teach private classes, where I have one on one conversations with children, parents and even the teachers. Every one has been very welcoming inviting me into their homes and lives. Extra teaching has been very lucrative for me, and is a great supplement to the 200€ a month. I’m saving enough to enable me to travel around Europe after the school year finishes.
Finally, I was initially very nervous about the language difference, however I have been able to get by just fine with my very basic knowledge of Spanish and Catalan.
If anyone is thinking of travelling from down under but nervous about the distance I would suggest that they do it. Its a great experience and really life changing. The team at Home to Home have been friendly and helpful in organising the experience and everyone I have met since has helped me enjoy my experience more.