Food, Friends and Community:A Story of Spain– Yolanda Rangel

After studying abroad in Spain for two months in 2010, I knew I wanted to return but I never thought it would be to work abroad. For the past nine months I have been a part of a great cultural experience thanks to the North American Culture and Language Assistant program. I have been teaching English to students between the ages of 12 to 18 years old. It was great to work 12 hours a week with very energetic and enthusiastic students and be able to easily travel during the long weekends. I was a little nervous at the beginning when I first arrived in Spain, Santiago de Compostela but that quickly changed when I met my coordinator, Rita, who helped me settle into their Galician culture and city.

Living in Galicia, Santiago de Compostela was a huge change for me as it was a small, cozy city located in northwest corner of Spain with numerous beaches. I have never seen such beautiful green scenery; it was literally a breath of fresh air.
The staff at the high school were all very nice and welcoming. They were super friendly and some were even kind enough to show me their hometowns and share with me their culture. It was the best feeling in the world to be treated like a longtime friend and be shown places I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

In addition to being a teacher you become an ambassador of your country teaching students and colleagues about your own culture. This was one of my favorite things about teaching because as I taught my students about my culture I learned something new from their culture every day. This is how I probably planned where I was going to take a day trip to or what I was going to eat for dinner later that night.

It was great experiencing some of the differences between our cultures, especially being able to walk for a change rather than driving everywhere I needed to go. This included any time I wanted to go shopping, go eat out or work. This was probably not a good thing as there would be many times I would go out for groceries but would end up at a clothing store or a bakery store getting my chocolate croissant. I have never walked so much in my life but it was great experiencing another way of life and always interacting with people around me for a change. It was also great  to be able to go home in the middle of the day to eat lunch or have a siesta for 2 hours, however, many if not most businesses (grocery and clothing stores) closed during that time which was a little hard to get used to.  One of my favorite things to do to relax after working and enjoy the outdoors was eating with new friends some delicious local cuisine. I loved their pulpo (octopus), tigres rabiosos (very spicy muscles) and their tortilla Española.

The North American Culture and Language Assistant program was very beneficial to me in so many ways from helping me grow as an individual to challenging myself. I came out of this program with many great memories and very strong friendships. I loved every minute of the time I spent learning and teaching in Spain and hope one day to return.

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