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Col·legi Claver – Raimat

Here is another submission from Col·legi Claver in Lleida. It is now Douglas’ time to talk about his experience. He arrived in Lleida in January and soon found himself like at home at Claver! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


(March 2013)

Arts and Crafts in Col·legi Claver with Douglas, the Conversation Assistant!

So, here is my blog for the first 6 weeks of my “Intercambio de Idioma” experience. I can safely say that it has been a baptism of fire in several ways so let’s get right into it!

After nearly missing my connecting flight at Schipol, I eventually landed at Barcelona International, met the lovely Raquel and soon thereafter everyone else. As you may expect there were a variety of willing young individuals who applied for the CAPS experience, some from the States, a Canadian and a majority of English folk too. After all of the activities (which myself and another girl missed because we were late, buaha!) we were sent off with our foster families to begin our Spanish experience!

Now, learning Spanish is one thing, but learning Spanish in a province which has it’s own language and is growing evermore independent from Spain is another! I brought my books for learning the language but the family I live with and everyone else I have met naturally speaks Catalan and regard Spanish as their second language so immersing myself amongst Castilian was and is still trickier than anticipated. A lot of people also want to practise their English!  However, everyone is very happy to change languages for me, whatever the situation.

The school I have been placed is one called Claver in Raimat, just outside Lleida in Catalonia. It is also home to followers of the Jesuit faith with some of the more old-school faithful living on the grounds 24-7. So, a school for most and a home for the few, the combination results in a very friendly and almost family like atmosphere since everyone seems to know everyone else. And when you’re on the CAPS program, everyone knows you before you arrive. For the first month, many encounters followed the script of
“Hey Doug!”
“Hey dudes/man/guy!”
but you learn the important ones quickly, like Greco, the busy canteen lady who serves gallons of coffee everyday, or Jani the nurse, with whom I have had many conversations based on sound effects and flamboyant hand gestures.

Difficulties so far have included language barriers, which provides a whole barrel of fun for an observer, and several pangs of loneliness but these are remedied by socializing! The other CAPS character, Laura Onslow (a very English lady), introduced me to an English Speaking club, which attracts many foreigners in Lleida, from Estonia, Egypt, Russia and elsewhere as well as locals from the city. Also, the staff are sympathetic and friendly, happy to take time to talk if you need it.

As for a general week in the school, I’m involved in Physics and Chemistry classes, Europe and English classes and Art! But I’m not only helping the young students, I’m helping the teachers with their English too. I’m still considered quite a novelty and many times I hear “Doug!” being shouted in the halls. There is also a music club that I help out with, which is great since I would be going quite mad without playing (I’m a session musician when I’m not a conversation assistant). But other than that I have also volunteered for open days and help with other random classes when I’m not busy, such as agricultural studies, religion and ethics.

All and all, the experience has been great so far. My family, with Rosa, Pol Snr, Pol Jnr and the wee man Joan, have been very hospitable. They have taken me skiing twice so far (I have only skied once in my life… when I was about 10… for less than an hour) and I have wined and dined with their friends and family. They’ve taken me to basketball matches (bangin’!) and cooked fantastic meals for me, making me feel very welcomed.  And that was only in the first month. 4 more to go! I’ll be fluent in no time. And if all else fails, my bottle of “Scottish Water” always helps encourage conversation with people.

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