Christopher studied geography at the University of Birmingham. He headed out to Huelva, Spain with Meddeas and returned the following year to work as a language assistant
Why did you go to Spain with Meddeas?
I had always wanted to get into teaching but I wanted to gain practical experience and see if I enjoyed it before committing to it as a career.
Fortunately, my love and passion for teaching has been confirmed while being in Spain. Also, it provided me with an opportunity to immerse myself into a culture very different to my own.
Why did you go back for a second year?
I thoroughly enjoyed my first year and wanted more of the same. I was happy to continue working in the same school, as I had developed a strong relationship with the students, teachers, my host family and the local area.
I also wanted to try to understand the country more as the first year passed extremely quickly.
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of friendly and helpful people who made my time in Spain an enjoyable one
What's your favourite memory of your experience?
There have been so many. From learning the traditions and customs of Christmas in Spain with my host family, to La Feria de Abril in Sevilla and spending a month walking across Spain along El Camino de Santiago, to weekends away in two of the most beautiful cities I have visited; Cordoba and Granada.
If I was to choose one memory then it would be taking part in La Romeria de El Rocio last year. Starting in Huelva, I spent the entire day walking as part of the pilgrimage. As I walked, I spoke to fellow pilgrims, all of them intrigued and bemused at an Englishman walking to El Rocio. However, everyone I met instantly made me feel at home and part of their community and they were more than happy to share their tradition with me.
In the early evening, I set up my tent in the countryside with hundreds of others. Waking early, there was another long day of walking through beautiful landscapes in the hot Andalusian sun. Eventually we reached El Rocio, a small town in Doñana National Park, a stunning area of natural beauty home to flamingos, storks, wild horses and lynx. A million other pilgrims awaited us and then the festivities began and continued throughout the weekend.
What friendships have you established?
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of friendly and helpful people who made my time in Spain an enjoyable one. I am almost certain that I will return one day to see all of the friends I have made, and also to visit my students, colleagues and of course my Spanish family.
I was fortunate to be paired with a very hospitable family who welcomed me as one of their own. Two of the eldest sons came to stay with me in England last summer, and I have developed a relationship with all of the family that will continue after I leave Spain.
Have you improved your level of Spanish?
Not as much as I had hoped. It has been a challenge but I arrived without knowing any Spanish at all and I had no background of language learning. I shall be leaving with the ability to converse at a basic level and I am able to read and understand a newspaper.
I have achieved this with no formal classes and primarily through conversations and mobile learning applications.
Although it is unlikely to help me professionally, it will continue to be a skill that I am proud of. I will probably use it to chat to friends in the future and it will certainly help me to learn other languages.
What are your plans for next year?
I shall be moving to Japan in August as part of the JET Programme. I will be helping to teach English in classrooms, with the aim to promote internationalisation. The experience that I gained while in Spain was instrumental to landing this job and it will prove to be invaluable during my time in Japan.
I am very excited about my next adventure.
What advice would you give to someone joining Meddeas?
I cannot recommend it enough. It is best to invest in classes and set aside formal time to learn the language if you are serious about learning Spanish.
Spaniards are usually very proud of the cities and regions they are from, so they are usually more than willing to show you around. Take up the opportunities and invitations that come your way.