Hi, my name is Bryan Bellantoni and I studied abroad in Barcelona in the Spring of 2023. I grew up in New Jersey and attend the University of South Carolina, majoring in Finance. While studying abroad in Barcelona, I had the opportunity to volunteer in an English class. The students, middle school aged, taught me more in the short three months than I could have ever taught them. When I first entered the classroom and had to introduce myself, it was the most foreign I have ever felt. As someone who does not speak Spanish or Catalan, I knew it would be difficult to break the ice. However, the students and teacher welcomed me with excitement. This experience was like none I have ever had before. Growing up, I took Italian in school from about 12 years old to when I graduated high school at 18. It was interesting to see children attempting to do the same thing I did, except this time in a language that is native to me. I understood how difficult it was and also understood how sometimes there was also a lack of interest in learning it. I knew that listening for extended periods of time would not work and would bore them, so games and activities were a good replacement to keep
them interested. Jeopardy and role play scenarios with a partner allowed them to interact and compete. I saw a lot of myself in the students, even though I grew up almost 4,000 miles away.
While abroad I have traveled and seen so many new foods, languages, and cultures, but volunteering at the school provided me with a deeper experience beyond that. Volunteering gave me an opportunity to create relationships outside of the program, school, or friends that I had, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the culture. I thought the school would be so different than America, but what I learned was that the students were more like my friends and I than not. There are obviously differences in the content taught or the overall environment in the classroom, however that also opened me up to a different way of learning. Even though I do not speak their native language, I learned that the most important thing was to walk in ready to engage and with a smile.
The experience I had teaching English was an amazing way to work on my communication skills and open myself up to something I could not find anywhere else. I am so glad that I did it and would recommend it to anyone else studying abroad in the future.
Written by: Bryan Bellatoni, Spring 2023 Barcelona student from The University of South Carolina.