Life as teaching aid in Andalusia
Tom in Granada Tom in Granada

Travellers have long sought ways to contribute to the societies they visit. Recent university graduate Tom Barter shares his experience of being an English teaching assistant in Spain... while getting paid for it.

- Where did you first get the idea to teach English as a second language in Spain?
I first got the idea a few years ago when someone came to speak to our Spanish class at Uni about the Language assistants program.

- Where in Spain are you?
I'm working in a town of 5,000 called Caniles, and living 6 km away in a small city called Baza (25,000). It's in the south of Spain in Andalusia.

- What makes Baza special?
I feel it would have been hard to find a more Spanish town than Baza. The place is ancient and full of character; there are churches over 500 years old, winding laneways you can easily get lost in, the remnants of an Islamic past (Islamic baths) and the town is surrounded by olive fields and snow capped mountains in winter.

I ride my bike to Caniles and the nature is beautiful, and the town has a really relaxed feel. There's heaps of opportunities for hiking around here. Also the Baza region is famous for its cave-houses. To deal with the extremes of weather (and in the past out of financial necessity), people dug houses into the sides of mountains.

- How do you find teaching English?
The kids I'm teaching are absolutely great, they're a lot more extraverted than the ones I've taught in Latin America but they have a great sense of humour and really enjoy learning English. I'm loving the challenge of sometimes leading a class and I'm always thinking of things to do to keep it interesting for everyone (teacher and student).

- Can you describe a typical day for you?
Well on a typical day I would get up and go to school for a few hours, sometimes play in the futbal competition at the school, then head back home, cook lunch late (typically they eat lunch around 3 in the afternoon here). Afterwards I might head off for a walk, then later maybe catch up with some of the other language assistants (there's about 10 here in Baza) and grab some tapas. Tapas comes free with a drink here in Baza, and can be really good! On the weekend we sometimes head off to check out other cities in Spain, because the school gives us a 3-day weekend each week!

- What are you going to miss?
It will be difficult coming back to Melbourne and not getting a mini meal for free with each drink!

Do you want to be like Tom?
Find more info about the Language and Cultural Assistant Program here

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