*Name: Matt Anderson
*Hometown: Portland, Maine
*CIEE Teach Year: 2013
*Location in Spain (Neighborhood or Town): Sevilla, Andalucía
*Name of School: I.E.S. Ítaca, Tomares
*Current Location: Portland, Maine
*Current Occupation: Customer Service Supervisor
*Why did you want to teach English in Spain? What did you hope to learn, gain and contribute?
I wanted to teach English in Spain to gain some experience in a classroom, learn Spanish, and contribute my positive attitude as a U.S. ambassador. I believe that gaining a perspective of a new culture starts with getting to know how the youth is developed.
*Tell us about your daily routine as an English teacher. What was a “typical day” like?
My typical day started with a “cortado” coffee and a tostada. Then I would walk through the beautiful city that is Sevilla to the bus station by the river Guadalquivir. A short 15 minute bus ride to Tomares would leave me directly in front of my high school. I would typically have classes with Sergio or Macarena helping them with social studies and ethics. Some days I would lead class discussions and others I would chime in when needed, bouncing around from student to student. After about 4 hours of teaching I would have a large lunch with any given teacher at the school and return home for some private English lessons. Afternoon beers would often happen in plaza San Salvador with friends before dinner. Dinner in la Alameda with live music and a short walk home would be a typical day.
*What other activities did you get involved in during your time there?
The most important activity that I got involved with was a Sevilla’s inline hockey team. Meeting this group of Spaniard and expat hockey players was the catalyst to my successful experience in Spain. I was involved twice weekly for practices and competed with the team every month in international tournaments throughout Spain. I also volunteered as a youth hockey coach for the kid’s team in my free time. Coaching little hockey players in two languages was extremely rewarding and kept me on my toes. The friendships and bonds that I made with my teammates will forever be with me. A meaningful experience starts with a connection to the people.
*Did you travel? Where did you go? What stood out to you?
Although the airport doesn’t offer many destinations, Sevilla happens located in a prime location for travel. With short bus rides away from the most beautiful beaches, and picturesque towns in Europe, I was able to visit dozens of places in Spain alone. Apart from “domestic” travel, I was able to travel with some of my students to the U.K. for an exchange trip program. I also took a road trip with some fellow CIEE participants throughout Belgium and Holland. The place that stood out to me was certainly Portugal, the people, towns, surfing, food, and beaches are unbeatable.
*What was the most rewarding aspect of your experience in Spain? What are you proud of doing while there?
The most rewarding aspect of my experience in Spain was learning the language from the ground up. I arrived with very few Spanish language skills, but committed myself to learning it by immersion. I rarely spoke English, except while teaching, and spent nearly all of my time with Spaniards.
*Had you taught before arriving? To what extent?
I had never taught before arriving in Sevilla. It was extremely nerve racking stepping into the classroom for the first time, but my personality and clearly spoken English was helpful to the young students.
*What was a challenge you faced -personal or professional- (and how did you overcome it)?
The biggest challenge I faced while living in Sevilla was adjusting my lesson plans to adapt to different age groups and English levels. My experience teaching so many private classes helped me overcome this challenge, building on previous material, learning from my mistakes, etc.
*What do you wish you had done differently?
I wish that I had gotten a tattoo in Sevilla. I also wish I had learned how to cook more Spanish dishes.
*Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ideally, I would like to be involved with coordinating and supporting U.S. outbound high school students who are studying in Sevilla. I would love to be able to move back to Sevilla and base my work on the experience I gain in global education exchanges.
*What advice would you give to an incoming CIEE teacher?
You will hear this from everyone if you actually care about learning Spanish and the Spanish culture, but it’s so true that I have to reiterate. Don’t spend your time with English speaking friends! Go out of your comfort zone and force yourself to meet Spanish friends and learn the language. At first you’ll say the same things over and over again, but after a bit… it will start to flow. Trust me.
*What’s your post-CIEE story? What have you been doing in the years since you finished the program?
After my first year with CIEE teach abroad, I decided to reapply through the Spanish Ministry. I was accepted two years in a row, extending my teaching experience in Spain to three years. I have recently moved back to my hometown of Portland, Maine where I’ve started a new career at CIEE. I am currently working here as a Support Coordinator for Spanish high school students studying in the U.S., as well as CIEE’s work and travel program.
*Anything else you’d like to add?
You need to experience this program. You’ll never regret it and never forget it!