CIDE: Hi Ryan! When did you study at the University of Deusto? What do you remember about your stay with us?
Ryan: I spent the second semester of 2009 (January to the end of May) at the University of Deusto. I have a lot of memories of my stay in Bilbao and the Basque Country because it was a time of my life with a lot of changes. I loved living in Algorta, a town on the coast with mountains in the distance. And of course, I made some great Basque friends and learned the language and got to know that part of the world.
CIDE: Why did you apply for a conversation assistant grant?
Ryan: I applied to the Ministry for the conversation assistant grant because I wanted to become fluent in Spanish. After the stay in Bilbao and the classes at the university, I realized that I would have to be somewhere the language was actually spoken to really learn it, either Spain or South America… So I looked on the Internet and talked to some lecturers from my faculty.
CIDE: Where was the school you worked at? What did you like about the job? What did you find difficult?
Ryan: I worked in a village in the interior of Galicia, San Sadurniño. It was very small and I lived in Ferrol, where most of my colleagues did. It is on the coast about 20 minutes from SanSa.
The school was tiny and had elementary and high school students. There were two buildings for each part and they shared a patio for breaks and recess. What I liked most were my students, they were kind-hearted and enjoyed life to the max. And not just them, but my workmates and the other teachers were great too. It was my first time teaching English to foreigners and since there were elementary and high school pupils, I had classes with students aged 5 to 16. I had a hard time with the lesson plans and classroom activities because of the big age difference. However, I learned a lot from the whole experience. It was truly a privilege to work there.
CIDE: So, would you recommend the conversation assistant programme to other students?
Ryan: I would definitely recommend this programme to people who want to practice (or learn) Spanish while teaching others their mother tongue. The programme is actually more for people who want to gain teaching experience, especially in English but the experience applies to other subjects too.
After having taught, I think I know more about my own language and the difficulties involved in learning others. My advice for new conversation assistants is to remember that although you’re in Spain to learn Spanish, you are also there to teach English. The more English you speak in class, the better the students’ opportunity to learn. I often realize that I spoke more than I should have in Spanish. I was just so eager to learn and practice my second language that sometimes I forgot that I was the teacher and not their friend.