Meet Amalia – Teacher Assistant at a language school in Seville
On a lovely sunny February morning, we sat down with Amalia, an enthusiastic and motivational Student English Teacher, to talk about her ambitions, her creative passions and her love for Seville. Amalia is one of our current Erasmus Plus participants from Red Ochre.
We had the great pleasure of interviewing her about her experience teaching English at OC Languages, a local language school in the heart of Seville. OC Languages is a language school with an inclusive teaching method that caters to every individual’s needs, aligning closely with Amalia’s philosophy of sharing her language knowledge with different people.
With Amalia’s passion for traveling and the ability to use language to build connections to others, her placement at OC language perfectly matches her natural flair and enthusiasm for teaching.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hey! As a little introduction to myself, my name’s Amalia and I’m originally from Bucharest, Romania. I have been living in Hampshire, England since 2008 and just recently finished my undergraduate studies at University of Central Lancashire with a degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Korean Language. I consider myself very much of a people’s person; I love learning new languages, discovering new cultures and finding ways through which I can help others. Having previously completed a study year abroad in Seoul, South Korea, I knew I must search for a new opportunity and take on a new challenge…this time, my new adventure has taken me to Seville, Spain. It’s interesting how the world works, as this actually is my second time in Seville after visiting for a week during my A levels with my Spanish class…little did I know I’d be back here for work experience.
-Tell us a little bit about what you do – what’s your work placement and what’s it like?
It’s now been just a little bit over a month since I’ve been working as an English language teacher at a local language academy. It all started while I was a slightly lost and confused recent graduate trying to figure out my next steps in life (I’m sure lots of you can relate, right?). Although I do have some previous English teaching experience, due to COVID-19 it had been some time since I had last taught in person and although I missed it, I also wasn’t sure if going into a year-long contract in a new country at an unknown academy was the right next step for me. Naturally, having come across the work experience scheme I’m currently part of seemed to be a fantastic way forward due to the many benefits and freedoms that come with it. In a way, I’m looking at it as some sort of taster session to see if: 1) Spain is the right country for me at this moment in time. 2) Continuing with teaching English is what I want to do (or should I try something completely new?). Luckily, as I am a dual citizen (British and Romanian) I could potentially extend my stay here after the initial 97 days of the programme are up..who knows what the future holds? Either way, the academy I’m currently interning at has been a fabulous place to get back into teaching. There are four main English teachers working there, while there’s three of us ErasmusPlus trainee teachers. The positive energy and support that has surrounded me has been incredible and never once did I feel like I didn’t have someone to turn to. Another great aspect definitely worth mentioning is the fact that at my academy we always have long, 3-days weekends (thank you Spain for supporting 4-days working weeks!!!). This means more time to visit places and make the most of my time here.
-Tell us about the kind of work you’ve been doing?
Typically, at my academy, classes usually are 4pm-8:30pm, meaning I get lots of time to plan during the day. I have actually recently came across a very nice cafe called “El viajero Sedentario” where I started heading to during the day to enjoy the weather while planning my lessons as they have free WiFi (I’m actually writing this there right now while enjoying some “zumo de naranja”). Currently, I am able to teach a variety of ages and levels. For example, I have a few one-to-one classes with both teenagers and adults, which has been interesting as I have to adapt to each of their needs and objectives. I also have teaching assistant duties for a couple of classes, one of which is with five year olds. That has been one of the biggest challenges for me so far as it is the first time I am working with such young children and so I am having to research fun ideas and activities to keep the kids entertained and focused.
–What places have you discovered so far?
Honestly, every time you come out of the house, you will most likely end up having some sort of adventure. There are an endless number of streets and alleyways with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. I would actually encourage you to make the most of going to “intercambios” where I am sure you will meet many wonderful people who can point you in the right direction for places to visit (or even better, you can go together!). The other week I actually ended up watching a mesmerising Flamenco show in a very small, local venue which I never would have discovered without the help of a new friend through an intercambio. Nevertheless, there is so much vibrant culture and history here that will definitely keep you busy for the duration of your programme.
-In 3 words how would you describe your experience in Seville so far?
Busy – I feel like I’m constantly doing something; from work, to intercambios and meeting new people, and having alone time to explore and recharge.
Sunshine- Not only has the weather been great, but I feel like I’ve become so much more energised and positive.
Eye-opening- I feel like it has pushed me in various ways that have made me realise my own potential in terms of language skills, self-reliance/independence, social skills and taking initiative at my workplace, etc.
-Do you find your placement inspiring and stimulating for your creative work or goals?
In terms of the work aspect, it has been great getting to know the fellow teachers at my academy and having them share various materials or tips that I can apply to my own teaching. Similarly, all the fellow participants as part of various other work placements here in Seville that I’ve met have really inspired me to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone in terms of making the first step to starting a conversation and getting to know new people. One of my goals for this placement had been to record my time here and for example post about my experiences on my instagram page. Without reaching out and talking to people about this independent project, I wouldn’t have had so much support and suggestions helping me out so my creativity has definitely peaked (as well as my confidence!). Each experience here has led to a greater understanding of myself, my likes and dislikes, and perhaps blossomed new ideas regarding possible future steps.
-How have you found the language barrier so far?
You will never have an issue with getting yourself understood. I have been welcomed by so much patience and encouragement when it comes to the language aspect… if anything, I wish I had more confidence to just go for it even more (especially during intercambios). For me personally, I realised I feel much more comfortable attempting to speak Spanish with fellow Spanish language learners, but I become much more reserved when trying to speak to native speakers. As a result, my next objective is to slowly get over this fear as I know there is no judgement at all (also another tip is not to be afraid of asking native speakers to speak a bit slower…you might have to remind them a few times…and that’s ok!). But body language and facial expressions, alongside broken Spanish/English will make the most hilarious yet wholesome conversations ever. Another routine I have started with the receptionist at my academy is having him teach me a Spanish phrase of the day so if you can try doing something like this, it’s not only great for your language skill, but also for connecting with people around you.
-How have you found the food here so far?
Delicious. That’s it. No comment. Once you experience it for yourself, you will understand. Just don’t be afraid of trying new things while here, especially as you can usually get tapas so if you really don’t like something, it’ll only be a small and super cheap portion. Another tip is trying out the really local, corner restaurants as that’s where I’ve so far been able to meet the friendliest people eager to recommend you new dishes and find out more about your story.
-What has been your highlight so far?
Honestly, I have had too many highlights so far so it really is difficult to say. Although I could mention some of the incredible places I have visited so far, I actually want to say the greatest highlight is seeing how I have changed as a person. For example, the other week I was working at a really busy cafe where people had started queueing outside. As I felt bad for having a whole table to myself, I ended up joining a complete stranger at their table, who by the end of the day, ended up being a new friend. If you would’ve told me 3 months ago that I would be able to spontaneously interact with people like that with ease, I probably would’ve looked at you confused. Nevertheless, I love the person I am becoming thanks to this scheme and I look forward to seeing the new changes to come for the remainder of it.
-How have 3Si helped you so far?
3Si is the place to contact for literally…anything. From recommendations of places to visit or restaurants to eat at, to asking for life or work advice. No matter what, you will have someone there to assist you. Funnily enough, the second day into my placement I needed a new laptop charger. After a quick panic session, I realised 3Si was a WhatsApp message away and by the end of the day I had a new laptop charger. They also helped provide some basic appliances for my flat when we requested them, so worry not if there is no iron in your apartment. 3Si will come to the rescue! Either way, they will be checking on you and making sure everything is alright, ultimately ensuring you have the best experience abroad.
-What is one tip you would give to someone who’s going to start the same experience?
Don’t hold back! Whatever ideas, projects, questions, things you want to try out here…do it! However scary it might seem at first, ignore your brain if it is trying to stop you from it. Just try it. It might be the best experience of your life. Allow yourself to become the best version of yourself. Allow yourself to grow and learn.