My name is Annina, I am 19 years old, and I am from Austria. From September 13th 2019 until March 13th 2020 I did an ESC as a Teacher Assistant in a small town near Valencia, called Alzira. I lived in an apartment together with 3 other girls, also doing an ESC there. In total we were around 14 people volunteering in Alzira, all of them living together in groups of three or four. All of us were hosted by the organization IDEA Alzira which offered three types of ESC-Projects: some did an environmental project, some worked in the office of IDEA and the others worked at schools, like I did. The volunteers were between 18 and 30 years old.
I decided to do an ESC because after High-School I was not ready to choose what I want to do next. But most importantly, I wanted to travel, live in a different culture, meet new people and improve my language skills.
About my project: The school I volunteered at was called CEIP Gloria Fuertes, and it was a primary school/kindergarten with children from the age of 3 to 14. I mainly worked with the 6-10 year olds, where I went to classes, helped the teachers or students with different tasks, had presentations in English about specific topics and organized conversation classes in order to train their English skills within small groups. At the same school there were two more volunteers, and working together with them and the teachers was a really great experience.
I remember how nervous and excited I was when my plane landed in Valencia. From there I travelled to Alzira by train and then got picked up by José-Manuel, he was working at IDEA and was mentoring all the volunteers living in Alzira. I moved into my apartment where I lived with three more girls from Georgia, Hungary and Egypt. In the same evening all 14 volunteers met up and got to know each other over some drinks, food and games. It was a really great evening, I instantly felt comfortable.
The following weeks, I started to get into a routine: During the week I was working at the school, using my (free) gym membership to go to Zumba- or Spinning-classes with the others, going to the weekly Spanish-classes and meeting up with other volunteers and locals in the evening. On the weekends we took daytrips to cities and towns nearby or went to the beach which was about 30 minutes by bus. After a couple of weeks, I finally reached the point where I got confident expressing myself in Spanish and it was no problem understanding people anymore.
In November, we had our (a bit late) “On-Arrival – Training” in Alicante, where we stayed together with 25 other volunteers from all over Eastern Spain. For 6 days we participated in workshops and courses where we learned about our opportunities through Erasmus+, we talked about our projects, how we are adapting with the Spanish culture so far, and we had some intense Spanish lessons. Also, we did some activities like Geo-Catching, Escape Room and Salsa-classes, which were a lot of fun, and in the evenings, everybody went out for drinks together. In this week, everybody made some new friends and probably got closer with the ones they already had. I became friends with Allan there, who is now my boyfriend and the reason I ended up in Copenhagen.
After the On-Arrival – Training, our lives in Alzira went back to “normal”, although it never got boring. We took more weekend-trips, tasted new food, met new people, and finally started to plan our Christmas-holidays. Some volunteers went to their home countries, but I decided to travel through Spain for two weeks, together with some of my new friends. On Christmas day I got a bit homesick but the pretty cities and beaches made up for it. Together with new people we met on the trip, we celebrated New Years in Malaga in the traditional Spanish way, where they eat one grape with each of the 12 “campanadas” (=Bell Strike) at midnight.
In February Allan and I went on a spontaneous Weekend-trip to Malaga because the week after we had to be in a town nearby for our “Mid-Term – Training”, where we learned how to reflect and evaluate our projects and our learning process during the past couple of months. For one week we shared a Residence with ~70 Volunteers from all over Spain, including our friends from the On-Arrival – Training. We had a great time meeting all those interesting people, making new friends and exploring some new towns and cities, like Granada.
As we returned, we already started to plan more trips for spring and summer but then Corona started to spread over Europe and hit Spain, especially Madrid very hard. At the 13th of march, about five days before the Virus peaked in Valencia as well, IDEA told us it would be best to leave the country. After some calls to my family in Austria and Allans family in Denmark, I decided to fly to Copenhagen together with Allan instead of going home to my family. After staying with him for three months, I went to visit my family and then decided to move to Copenhagen, where I am now looking for Bachelor Studies. So even though we had to end our project 3 months early, our ESC still had a happy ending.
Thinking about it afterwards, I am so happy that I chose to do an ESC, it was such a great experience. I got to learn about so many different cultures, met all kinds of people and made some really close friends. I got more independent and learned how to deal with whole new situations – I would’ve never expected that time to be as intense and amazing as it turned out to be. Also, I am now sure that I want to do a study that involves languages (probably Spanish) and Cultures. I can’t wait to go back to Alzira for visits and meet all those nice people again.
Can only recommend it!