Hi! My name is Anya Carney and I am a current student studying abroad at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona through SAI. I have gotten involved in as many activities and programs as I could through SAI and my favorite by far has been the International Service Certificate. Through this program, I teach 2nd graders English at a local primary school here in Barcelona. Every Tuesday, I spend an hour and a half speaking with the kids, playing games with them, leading activities, and just spending time with some of the sweetest children I’ve ever known. I have a lot of experience working with kids, so I felt fairly prepared for this experience, but this has been so much more than I had originally anticipated.
At first, I was a little nervous about the language and cultural barriers that I might face when immersing myself in a local classroom, but both the teacher and children accepted me with an overwhelming amount of love and kindness. By the end of the first day, I was being swarmed with hugs and receiving drawings done by the children to take home with me. I have never felt so much gratitude for a group of people in such a short amount of time. I have never felt so wholly embraced and accepted by people so different from me. Although I spoke broken Spanish and no Catalan, the children who spoke English would act as translators for both myself and the rest of the children. They truly wanted me to feel welcome and truly wanted me to be a part of their life as much as I could be in that short time. They were patient with me as I tried to understand their Spanish and they worked extremely hard on their English while I was there so that we could have better communication.
I believe that has been the most rewarding part of this experience: seeing the kids improve their English language skills because of me because they wanted to be able to connect with me. I love that I was able to have an impact on these children, but what they don’t know is that they had an even larger impact on me. I have walked away from the International Service Certificate with skills I can use throughout the rest of my time at college and in my future career, and for life and lessons that I can carry throughout my life. The skills that I have learned from this experience include hard skills such as time-management and organizational skills and soft skills such as communication and cultural awareness skills. I had to learn how to manage my time between school, a soccer league I participated in, travel while abroad, my social life, and my time spent volunteering in the classroom. It was a lot to juggle but I wouldn’t have done it either way and learning to balance my time with things I enjoyed doing and my responsibilities gave me valuable time-management and organizational skills.
Additionally, planning classroom activities and leading games required a certain level of organization that I hadn’t previously had. My communication skills have immensely improved because trying to communicate with those who speak another language requires communication without words a lot of times. Reading body language and gauging energy is a large part of how I communicated with the children, as well as reading between the lines. My time in the classroom was the most I have been immersed in the local Barcelona culture during my time here. This gave me the opportunity to improve my cultural awareness skills because I was able to see up close what the children of Barcelona’s day-to-day were like and interact with those who spoke little to no English. This classroom gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in the Barcelona culture and connect with some of the sweetest souls I have ever come across and I am extremely grateful for this experience.
Anya is a spring 2022 Barcelona student from the University of South Carolina.