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Six Lessons Learned as a Language Assistant in Spain

Language Assistant in Class
By Hannah Hughes

As you can imagine, moving across the world to not only a new city but also a new country and continent, will teach you plenty. You will learn about different cultural values, traditions, and ways of life. If you are not already proficient, hopefully, you will learn the native tongue. You will also try various foods, meet new people, and go to new places. You will experience a lot, and in turn, you will learn a lot. Here are six lessons I have learned thus far living and working in Segovia, Spain, as an English Language Assistant with ConversaSpain. 

Lesson #1: Growth Does Not Happen Inside your Comfort Zone 

Being uncomfortable is the best and fastest way to grow. Staying within your comfort zone is, as it sounds, comfortable. When you’re cozy with life, nothing changes, and when “nothing changes, then nothing changes.” As a Language Assistant, I have had my fair share of uncomfortable moments. Moving alone to a new country where I am not proficient in their native language is the epitome of discomfort. There were many moments when I did not know what someone was saying to me or what was going on. Others I absolutely had no clue where I was. And, at times, I felt very alone.

While all these moments have undoubtedly been uncomfortable, I am thankful for each and every one because I know these moments pushed me to grow immensely. I have learned that uncomfortable moments lead to learning and growth, as well as to an overall increased comfort with myself. 

Lesson #2: Problem-Solving is an Indispensable Skill for a Language Assistant  

Problem solving is a useful, if not necessary, skill in most jobs and careers, and certainly in life overall. Oftentimes, the answers to our problems are less complicated than we think; we just choose to complicate the matter. My problem-solving skills have been put to the test in my role as a Language Assistant. I am tasked with teaching classes for first through sixth grade, and I am often assigned to create weekly lesson plans, even though I don’t have any education or experience in teaching. The teachers provide me with wonderful resources and support, but at the end of the day, the responsibility to successfully teach English is mine.

Because I did not study education in college, this is all new to me. Sometimes I have planned activities that I thought would go well, and frankly, they didn’t. Then and there, I have to decide how to move forward and overcome the obstacle. How well I can problem-solve directly affects how well I can perform in my job. 

Lesson #3: Clear Communication Goes a Long Way

The power of clear communication is often underestimated. We often turn to euphemisms and pleasantries when communicating, sometimes distracting or confusing the listener. This type of conversation has a time and a place, but explicit exchanges of information and ideas are most efficient and effective.

Having studied strategic communication in college, I have learned about the importance of concise communication. But conversing in a different country with a language barrier has given clear communication added significance. Especially when learning a new language, but also in general, simple, straightforward communication prevails in delivering a point. Every successful exchange I have in Spanish is a milestone to be celebrated. 

Lesson #4: Adapting to a New Environment is Essential to Success 

There is a reason why animals with the ability to adapt to their environment survive. Adapting to a new environment is essential to succeeding, surviving, and thriving. Moving to a new country with a different official language, social and cultural norms, food, and ways of life necessitates adaptability. From big adjustments like learning the language to small adjustments like remembering that most businesses close every day from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., the ability to adapt to a new environment has proved to be essential in the role of a Language Assistant.

In life, so much is out of our control. The only constant we can control is ourselves and how well we can adapt to the challenges at hand. 

Lesson #5: Kindness Speaks Every Language 

During the months I have spent in Spain, I have encountered more kindness than I could have possibly expected or imagined. On my first day of school, I was welcomed with dar dos besos, or the customary greeting of a kiss on each cheek, by all of the teachers. The younger students faithfully greet me every day with an aggressively adorable group hug.

Students hug Hannah, their Language Assistant

Some of the teachers drive me to and from school. Others meet with me weekly to help me practice my Spanish. I have been treated to day trips and dinners out of sheer kindness. People I had not known a few months ago have welcomed me with open arms and treated me like their own.

I have been touched by the kindness I have received. Spain has taught me that kindness can be found anywhere and everywhere. 

Lesson #6: You Can’t Predict the Future, So Don’t Try To

I have made a life for myself in a city I had never heard of a year ago. I have made friends, become a regular at restaurants, mastered navigating the whimsical, winding back streets of Segovia that used to all look the same, joined a yoga studio, and much more. From my experience here, I have learned that I have not yet met everyone I will befriend or love, and I have not even dreamt up some of the accomplishments I will achieve or things I will do.

Society gets so caught up in the future that we forget to live in the now. All that is promised is now, and the future is unknown. The people and places who, not long ago, were unknown to me have profoundly impacted me. Life works in mysterious ways. Trust the process. 

These Lessons Learned as a Language Assistant Will Stay Forever

Above are only a few of the lessons I have learned both in and outside the classroom as an English Language Assistant with ConversaSpain. Living and working in Spain has truly been the most rewarding and enriching adventure I have embarked on. I recommend this role to anyone interested in personal growth, travel, and, of course, teaching.

2 Responses

  1. You are such an intelligent young lady…..embracing the new situation you are in. I am so proud of you, your experiences will give you a whole new perspective for your future. And I am sure you will have a wonderful future in the states when you get back home. It’s clear that the people in Spain see what we see a wonderful young woman. Thank you to the teachers, students you work with, welcoming you as they did!!

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