As I write my Pros/Cons list, I become less and less clear if I have made the right decision to come here and participate in this program. Before I chose to do it, I read all the blogs and reviews on the program, so I began my journey with my eyes and my mind open. You may have heard of the Auxiliar de Conversación program that I’m currently undertaking. If you haven’t, it involves working in a school or a university as a teaching assistant, helping students all over Spain to learn English. In my case, I am working in a primary school in a small town in the Basque Country. The school has just over eighty students, and the town houses around 600 people.
When submitting my preferences, I chose a small town for the raw cultural experience. After a quick Google of Spanish geography, I chose the Basque Country because “it looked nice”. Honestly, I had no idea about its history, its culture, or its language. In a way, I’m so happy that I chose a region with such a rich culture and history. I have learnt so much of the Basque culture just by living here and participating in the school activities. The language, which is unlike any other in the world, is fascinating to listen to, and it’s fun to learn basic words, but I never knew how much it could get in the way of my quest to really learn Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, my Spanish has improved greatly since being here, but sometimes I feel as though I would have been better off in a region that only speaks Spanish.
After a trip down south to Andalusia, I realised how different the areas really are. I have stopped saying “I live in Spain” and I have started saying “I live in the Basque Country”. It really isn’t Spain at all, and I love it.
When it comes to the Auxiliar program, I have a huge list of pros and cons. I don’t know where to begin. I decided to do the program purely because I’m getting paid to travel. I mean, I love children, and I love getting to know these adorable Basque kids, and it has been amazing to finally put my “Grammar Police” skills to good use, but I know that I’m never going to be a teacher myself. This program was the doorway to Europe for me. Coming from Australia, it’s almost impossible to take a weekend trip to another country unless you have a private jet or are able to teleport. This weekend I am off to London! It’s my first international weekend trip I have taken in my six months being here because I was too afraid to ask for time off work. After the Christmas break, I realised that I would be wasting this opportunity if I didn’t take trips like these, so I planned some long weekends and found that the teachers were completely fine with it. Why didn’t I do this earlier?!
Living in a small town without the convenience of a car has been tricky. I thought about buying one, but for multiple reasons, it didn’t happen. I’ve memorised the local bus timetables and I’ve stopped feeling bad asking people for a lift into the closest city, Logroño. If I were to ever do this program again (which is highly unlikely), I would choose to live in a city like Logroño or Vitoria-Gasteiz that has a good connection to the rest of the country, or better still, somewhere like Bilbao or Santander, with an airport. Despite the inconvenience of living in a small town, I feel like I’ve made the most of my time here. For the first few months I was in a different city every weekend. It meant lots of buses and late Sunday nights, but at least I have seen most of the surrounding areas, unlike a lot of the others doing the program with me. I was lucky enough to have saved a generous amount of dinero before coming here, so I can afford to take these trips despite not getting paid regularly, or on time.
Throughout the week I only work twelve hours at the school, so the rest of the time I feel like I could be in so many better places. It makes me wish I had just saved a little longer and travelled all around Europe instead. However, I have all of this extra time that I don’t have whilst at home studying full-time and working on the side. I have started drawing more, and sometimes I study Spanish. Other times I catch up on Netflix, which I never had back home. I’ve started exercising more as of late to work off some of the pinchos and churros. In this respect, I’ve had so much more spare time to clear my head from four years of university stress, and to work on unleashing some of my creativity that is restricted by uni work.
On the other hand, I’m scared that I might actually be going a little insane. I was talking to myself today, and I caught myself saying “You and I both know…”…to myself. This experience has been great for me to “find myself”, as cliché as that might sound. You see, my boyfriend did his Europe trip a couple of years ago, but I was still yet to travel sola. Although it has been incredibly hard for the both of us, it’s something I have to do, and I don’t know when I will have this opportunity again.
I have realised what I really want in life, and what I do not want. I have developed an immense love for Australia that I never had before. I have always loved home, but I never realised how deeply rooted I am in the Australian way of life. I appreciate all of the things I’m learning about other cultures and the way people live in other parts of the world, but in the end, I’ll always be an Aussie, and I’m proud of it.