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María Gómez and Cynthia Martín. Below, Alfonso Ruiz and Irene Gaeta. Four UMA graduates working as language assistants this academic year. Sur
Malaga graduates abroad - ambassadors of Spanish language and culture

Malaga graduates abroad - ambassadors of Spanish language and culture

About fifty recent graduates from UMA have been working in various countries this academic year to help improve students' language skills

Francisco Gutiérrez

Friday, 16 June 2023, 13:11

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Promoting Spanish language and culture, having an international experience, improving their language skills and earning a small salary are tempting enough incentives for many young people who have just finished their degree and are looking to enter world of work. For those who have studied language-related degrees, the language assistant programme is gaining in popularity every year. This year, fifty University of Malaga graduates worked as conversation assistants in schools in different countries. On a national level, 858 Spanish people are taking part in the programme. Cynthia, Alfonso, Irene and María talk about their experience.

  1. Cynthia Martín Sánchez

    "Students are intrigued by our lifestyle".

Cynthia Martín, from Alhaurín de la Torre, is in secondary school in the Irish city of Limerick.
Cynthia Martín, from Alhaurín de la Torre, is in secondary school in the Irish city of Limerick. Sur

Cynthia Martín Sánchez, 23, lives in Alhaurín de la Torre and qualified as a primary school English teacher in 2021. "I had always wanted to live abroad, both for the experience and to keep perfecting my English," she said.

Cynthia Martín is working as a language assistant at Mungret Community College, a school in Limerick, Ireland. At the same time, she has been improving her English and studying online for a Master's degree in mediation and conflict resolution.

Cynthia works from Monday to Thursday in the Spanish department, a total of 12 hours a week, which is the fixed time for the programme. Her salary is 918 euros per month, which "gives you enough to live on". Her students are aged between 12 and 18. The role of language assistants is to collaborate with the classes. "We tend to focus on the oral part so that they can listen to me speak Spanish, and also have conversations with them, because the point of this programme is for the students to hear native Spanish."

"Everywhere I've been I've always been greeted with a smile".

The staff and students are "lovely and very grateful. They say they're lucky to have me, but I'm the one who feels lucky. The students are polite and respectful and there are hardly any problems. I have been very lucky with this school," she admitted.

"The students," she said, "are intrigued by our lifestyle. They usually have dinner at 6pm and I tell them that I have dinner later, and that dinner in Spain means the end of the day. They, however, keep doing things after dinner."

Life in Ireland "is very different from Spain", she says, the worst thing is the bad weather. "Most days it rains, so people spend a lot of time at home or in bars, restaurants or pubs. Still, people here are lovely and welcoming. Everywhere I've been I've always been greeted with a smile," she explained.

  1. Irene Gaeta Mora

    "Almost all the activities I do with the pupils have a touch of Andalucía".

Irene Gaeta, a graduate in Translation and Interpreting, in front of the Lycée Les 7 Mares in Versailles.
Irene Gaeta, a graduate in Translation and Interpreting, in front of the Lycée Les 7 Mares in Versailles. Sur

Irene Gaeta Mora, 24, studied Translation and Interpreting, specialising in English and Modern Greek. She has also a Master's degree in teaching at the Autonomous University of Madrid. Irene is working at the Lycée Les 7 Mares, in Maurepas, a town near Versailles.

Her work consists of collaborating with groups of students, aged between 14 and 17, and helping to design and carry out activities for the four teachers who make up the school's Spanish team. "In general, the main task of the language assistants is to boost the students' oral skills, so my activities tend to be one hundred percent in Spanish, as a practical focus forces them to speak," Irene explained. Language assistants are also asked to bring culture into the classroom and, "almost all the activities I do with the pupils have a touch of Andalucía".

"My activities tend to be one hundred percent in Spanish"

The monthly salary is 813 euros. "If the school offers you accommodation, the rent is about 200 euros maximum, but in my case the school could not offer me accommodation and we are paying 960 euros (480 euros is my share) for a studio for two in Versailles. Without accommodation provided by the school, prices in the Paris region are extortionate. My salary is barely enough to cover rent, groceries and transport," said Irene.

Regarding Versailles, she says that life "is quite nice; Versailles has everything you need (supermarkets, museums, cinemas, parks, library, university) and it is generally quite peaceful. The main problem for me is that the standard of living is very high, and that is difficult on the language assistant salary," she said.

  1. Alfonso Ruiz Sedeño

    "In Spain we are not accustomed to cultural diversity"

Alfonso Ruiz works at Garforth Academy in Leeds, England.
Alfonso Ruiz works at Garforth Academy in Leeds, England. Sur

Alfonso Ruiz Sedeño, 27, has been working in Leeds. He has a bachelor's degree in Spanish Studies from UMA and in 2019 completed a Master's degree in Spanish as a foreign language at the Complutense University of Madrid.

"I always wanted to have the experience of spending a year abroad," admitted Alfonso. "I loved the idea of meeting people from other parts of the world, communicating in another language and experiencing a new culture," adding that "this programme gave me very good support and bureaucratic resources from the government," he explained, recalling the saga of processing the visa, everything being much more complicated because of Brexit.

Leeds is a city in the north of England with a large student population. "It's not an expensive city to live in. I couldn't be happier in my city," he said. "The first thing you notice when you arrive is the cultural diversity and you realise how little we are accustomed to this back home. On the other hand, there are clubs, pubs, schools and places for all your hobbies, sports or interests."

"I had always wanted to experience a year abroad".

Alfonso Ruiz works at Garforth Academy, a school "that has welcomed me with open arms," he said. The department's teachers "have trusted me and have allowed me to do activities, talks and classes". Alfonso spoke about the "misconception" that children in UK schools are well-behaved. "I've been lucky enough to be in the school that I'm in, but many language assistants are in schools where pupils are disrespectful and expulsions happen daily."

"I have been given several small groups with which I can be totally free to teach them and practice what they need to improve their Spanish. The students are great and have a very high level of Spanish," he said. "Being a language assistant is great. You work 12 hours a week and you get 914 pounds. You don't have serious responsibilities, well, the level and effort of the students are not your responsibility, but it is your responsibility that they learn."

  1. María Gómez González

    "It's a great way to provide work experience"

María Gómez, with pupils and classmates from Lycee Paul Langevin high school in Suresnes, a town near Paris.
María Gómez, with pupils and classmates from Lycee Paul Langevin high school in Suresnes, a town near Paris. Sur

María Gómez González is 26 years old and comes from El Palo. She studied English at the University of Malaga and is currently working as a language assistant in Suresnes, France, at the Lycee Paul Langevin school. It is a "very peaceful" place that is well connected to the capital and "isn't lacking anything".

Talking about the programme, María says "Personally, and although it's not my first job, I think it's a great way to provide work experience for people who have just finished their studies." Another advantage, she says, is that the programme has multiple destinations, depending on the languages spoken, so "the attraction is even greater as you can discover a new place and culture and improve your language skills". France is the country with the most language assistant placements, which is a reason to request it as a destination. "Either way, it's an attractive destination due to its cultural richness and the opportunity to improve the language, as well as other things," she told SUR.

"The language assistant job gives you free time to study or explore the surrounding area.

She also works 12 hours per week and her monthly salary is 813 euros. Maria works with students between the ages of 15 and 18. She explained that her work "varies, but my main role is to encourage the students to talk.

This can be done with cultural activities based on the syllabus they are doing with their teacher, with games, and other things. Sometimes I do this with the teacher, and other times alone with half the class."

The programme "leaves plenty of free time, to combine it with other work or studies, and explore the surrounding area," she said.

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