Today our guest is Melinda Deinert, from University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She is currently living in Extremadura.
CIDE: Hi Melinda! When did you study at the University of Deusto? What do you remember about your stay in Bilbao?
Melinda: I studied in Bilbao during the summer of 2009. It was my first time in a Spanish-speaking country and my first trip abroad. I spoke very little Spanish when I arrived, really not much more than “Buenos días” and “Cuánto cuesta?” My classes at University of Deusto gave me a good base to form phrases and understand simple (very simple!) conversations in Spanish. The most pleasant surprise was all that I learned about Spanish culture. First I learned about the siesta, the octopus served in cafés, walking all around the city and the great beaches near Bilbao.
CIDE: Why did you apply to the Ministry for a conversation assistant grant?
Melinda: I only spent a month in Bilbao and I wanted to return to Spain after the university to have more time to learn and practice Spanish. The coordinator of the Spanish program at my university is from Spain and she recommended the conversation assistants program.
CIDE: Where are you living now? What is the school you work at like?
Melinda: I work at a high school in a big town called Montijo. Montijo has a population of about 15,000 and is beautiful, but I live near Badajoz. Around 150,000 people live in Badajoz and it is close to the Portuguese border. My apartment is six kilometers from Portugal! The area where I live is called Extremadura y and it’s in southern Spain, just above Andalusia. Extremadura is one of the poorest regions in Spain, but it is truly beautiful, the people are great and it’s cheap to live here.
I work in a high school with students aged 12 to 16. I teach 12 hours a week, mostly English but also some History and Science.
CIDE: What do you like best about your job? What sort of problems have you encountered?
Melinda: What I like best about the job is that I can learn a lot of Spanish while I teach English. The most stressful part is when I have students that aren’t interested in learning English. That is not usually the case, but it can be hard to motivate them and get them to behave. But it’s worth the trouble! I also tutor about eight hours a week, helping one or two students to improve their English.
CIDE: Would you recommend the conversation assistant programme to other students? What advice would you give them?
Melinda: Yes, I would recommend the programme. One piece of advice is that they should save enough money to live here the first semester. Payment is usually late on this programme. This year we got our first pay at the end of December. But, as I said before, it’s all worth it!