22 May Interning as a Student Teacher in Barcelona
In April we welcomed Western University student Zoe to Barcelona where she undertook an internship placement in a local school as part of WU's Alternative Field Experiences program. We caught up with Zoe to talk about her internship, being a student teacher in Barcelona, her impressions of the city, and much more.
How did the teaching environment in Spain differ from what you're used to?
I found the teaching environment in Spain to be very similar to Canada’s, which made my transition easy and comfortable. The work day begins at 8:55 and ends at 14:30. Teachers are responsible for four to five classes each day with a half hour break. The teachers were very supportive and respectful of one another, and it was evident that they truly cared about the students. Although some of the classrooms were a little bit rowdier than what I’m used to in Canada, I really enjoyed the teaching environment in Spain.
What was your most positive experience as a student teacher in Barcelona?
Overall, I’d have to say that the most positive experience while teaching at the school has been the students. Before I arrived, I was unsure of how I would be received as a foreign student teacher, especially when there was such a substantial language barrier. I was pleasantly surprised to see the students immediately express a deep level of curiosity and interest in my accent, my culture, my country, and my life in general. This made me feel as if I was truly a part of the school community.
What was the most challenging part of your placement?
The most difficult experience was definitely relearning some of the grammatical terminology and sentence structures in English! As a native English speaker, I found that it was challenging to explain certain things about English. Some of the rules and conventions of the language are so ingrained within me that it's hard to explain them.
How did you find your commute?
Surprisingly, the commute was actually one of my favourite parts of the day. It took about 45 minutes to get to the school from the residence. It was a fantastic way to see the city and get a feel for what life is like as a local. I also got accustomed to the metro system quickly, and became very comfortable navigating around the city.
What were the other faculty members like?
The faculty members were amazing! They were all so friendly, welcoming, and helpful. They appreciated my presence in their classrooms, and it really showed through the students’ higher level of motivation to learn English. Even the teachers who spoke very little English went out of their way to introduce themselves and make me feel like I was truly a part of the faculty. One of the teachers even planned their weekly lessons around learning about Canada. On the weekends, a few of them took me around the city and even cooked me a traditional Spanish dinner!
Can you share a summary of your typical work day?
Since the first class began at 8:55, I would wake up at around 7:00 to get ready. I'd eat breakfast at the residence, which consisted of a large variety of scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, cereal, muffins, juice and coffee. I would start walking to the metro at 8:00, and be on the Renfe train by around 8:20. I'd get off at the third stop, which normally took about 15 minutes, and started walking to the school. The walk to the school was around 10 minutes. I would have two morning classes, then break at 10:45 to 11:15. At this time, I would join all of the teachers across the street at a café for a coffee and a croissant. They would usually help me practice my Spanish too! After that, I had two to three more classes, and then I'd be done by 14:30.
Once I got back to the city, I would walk around and explore. Since the workday finished so early, I had the entire afternoon to do as I pleased. In the evenings, I would either treat myself to a dinner in the city around 20:30, or eat at the residence, which was always delicious!
What have been your biggest take-aways from your internship?
Now looking back at my experience in Spain, I can’t even begin to count the number of invaluable experiences I have taken away from this internship. First and foremost, I definitely developed a greater level of confidence in myself, and feel very empowered in my ability to travel on my own. Essentially, this experience took me out of my comfort zone in the most incredible way. As a more introverted individual, I had many self-doubts about being immersed in a different culture. With unfamiliar customs, social conventions, and of course a completely new language to learn, I was unsure of how I would manage so many new experiences at once. However, I quickly learned that my worries were insignificant when I began to see the positive influence I brought to the school.
Furthermore, everyone at the school was extremely welcoming and made sure that I never felt isolated. Altogether, I believe this experience has undoubtedly broadened my perspective of the world, and what an honour it is to be embarking on this career path.
Could you give us your impressions of Barcelona?
Barcelona really has everything to offer. The beaches are breathtaking, the amount of shopping and restaurants are endless, the people are friendly and outgoing. There is always something to do or see. I can’t recommend this city enough. I’m already planning my next trip back!
Do you think your internship experience will impact your approach to teaching when you return home? If so, how?
Becoming a student teacher in Barcelona has absolutely impacted my personal approach to teaching. I now have experience working in an international education setting and teaching English to language learners. Not to mention a deeper understanding of the difficulties and challenges in adapting to a completely new environment. Additionally, I have a new found interest in teaching ESL students, something I had never considered before this experience.
What advice would you give to anyone else from outside of Spain coming here to teach?
I would definitely recommend learning a basic level of Spanish prior to arriving. It was hard to communicate with the students who had a low level of English. I regret not brushing up on my Spanish beforehand as it would’ve allowed me to connect with those students more. However, in terms of getting around Barcelona, it was very simple as most people speak some English. Another tip would be to bring some artefacts or souvenirs from home to show or give to the students.
Thanks to Zoe for sharing her experience with us. If you would like to be a student teacher in Barcelona, head over to our program page for more information.