CIEE Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Arielle!

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Volunteer Program

Authored By:

CIEE Teach Abroad

What made you want to do this experience?

A friend told me about this program, and I knew I had to apply! After graduating college, I was looking for an opportunity to travel and live in another country. This program is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and travel around Spain! Hands down best thing I’ve ever done & highly recommend to everyone!

How was it living with a host family?

Living with a host family was a special experience, and one that I will always hold close. I really got to experience Spanish culture this way and now have a forever family in Spain. I love to cook and bake, so I really enjoyed making dishes from my home for host family, as well as baking with my host brother and learning how to make traditional Spanish dishes. My host family taught me all about the Spanish way of life and made me feel a part of the family. All my favorites are ones with them! 

volunteer 7

How long was your commute to your school?

My commute to school was about 10-15 minutes. My host mom is a teacher at the school I was placed at, so I was lucky to always ride with her. The public transportation system in Spain is excellent, so I wouldn’t worry about getting around. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching in Spain? What’s your favorite level of teaching?

This is my first-time teaching, and it has been a very rewarding experience! My favorite part about teaching is seeing the kids get excited to learn and when they understand new words in English. Short answer: all the levels! Long answer: one thing I love about my school, is that I get to teach English to all levels (infantil (3 años) – sexto (6th). I get to know all the students this way and share my culture!


volunteer 6

Any tips for first teachers?

I suggest bringing stickers and some children’s books for your students! Anything from the US they will appreciate. Utilize holidays into your lesson plans! It’s also important to incorporate repetition. Ex: start each day saying the day, date, month, weather, etc.

Do you get to be with other volunteers in your school?

No, the volunteer teach abroad program is unique to CIEE’s other programs in that everyone is spread out/placed in difference provinces of Castilla y Leon. However, you can definitely meet up with other CIEE volunteers over the weekend throughout your program!

volunteer 3

How was navigating the language barrier?

You can get by in Spain with knowing only the basics in the Spanish language, however, I highly encourage anyone who will be doing this program to learn/practice Spanish. Most people understand and speak English, but if you want to immerse yourself in the culture you should practice learning and speaking Spanish. One helpful tip is bringing a notebook and writing down new words in Spanish and the English translation and read it over each night. You’ll quickly pick up on a lot of Spanish, especially the expressions!

How do you compare your life in Spain to your life in the USA? Have you had culture shock?

One thing I love about Spanish culture is the sense of community! Whether it’s enjoying tapas with friends or celebrating festivals you’ll find that social interactions in everyday life is a priority as well here. 😊 I’d say the only shock or adjustment I’ve made is my eating schedule. In the US I would eat lunch around 12 & dinner 6pm, but in Spain I eat lunch around 3pm and dinner 9:30pm. 

volunteer 5

Where have you traveled to so far?

Before starting my program, I traveled to Portugal (Lisbon & Porto) & Madrid. Since starting my program, I’ve travelled to Segovia, Asturias, San Sebastian, and Salamanca.

Would you recommend the program?

Absolutely! The volunteer teach in Spain program is an unforgettable experience 😊. I’ve loved every second of it and can’t recommend it enough. This program is perfect for anyone looking to experience Spanish culture and loves working with kids!

volunteer 4

What’s next for you? 

My experience in Spain made me realize how much I enjoy Spanish culture and love experiencing new opportunities. I am very happy to say that I will be back in Spain (Barcelona) in September for a master’s program! 

Any advice for future volunteers?

My advice for future volunteers is to say yes to everything, put in the work, and enjoy every second of it! I firmly believe saying yes to everything helps you put yourself out there and forces you to try new things. I tried so many new foods that I have never had before, travelled to so many beautiful places, and experienced the authentic Spanish way of life through saying yes to everything and I have no regrets! Putting in the work is also very important; both at your school and with your host family. Your students are so excited to get to know you and learn all about your culture. Taking the time to plan fun activities means a lot to the students and teachers. You should also take the time to connect with your host family and help around the house. For example, offering to cook, clean, and making sure to spend quality time with them! Trust me the 2.5 months will fly by so make sure soak up every second of it. When it comes time to go, you’ll leave with lifelong memories and a second family! 

volunteer 2