A few weeks ago we welcomed Thomas, our Teaching Assistant, to our school. He had just arrived from Belgium and he had been here for two weeks. We wanted to know what his first impression was and this is what he told us :
Today I arrived exactly one week ago in Tenerife, and I have so far had three days of my internship at the language school in La Orotava. Many of my friends were surprised when I told them that I was going to work as a teacher assistant on the Canary Islands, as unfortunately people in Belgium tend to think about this beautiful place as a holiday resort rather than a place where people actually live. I luckily never thought this way about Tenerife, as I might otherwise maybe have missed out on this unique experience to spend several months living and also actually working here. I have always been attracted to the Canary Islands, mainly because of their geographical location. Isn’t it wonderful how these islands really dangle between Europe and Africa, both geographically and culturally? As if this wasn’t enough reason to apply for my internship here, I got an extra incentive as I have family living in Los Realejos, next doors to La Orotava. They moved away from Belgium to the Canary Islands a long time ago to start a tourism business in Santa Cruz and as they are retired they are now enjoying the beautiful weather and healthy air of the Northern part of the island. A nice way to get to know some so far unknown relatives, isn’t it?
Many incentives thus to come here, and so far I have to tell that I haven’t regretted my choice one moment. To summarize my experience briefly, I’d call it brilliant. So far I have had the opportunity to meet many nice people, both in my flat in La Laguna as at the language school. I feel like being an English language teacher is a very rewarding job, as many people want to learn it from scratch or improve their current level, as nowadays English has become of crucial importance, also in the Hispanic world. As I am a non-native speaker myself, I hope to serve as an example for some pupils and to stimulate them to practise their English regularly, which for me was one of the main incentives to start working as a teacher.
The first day of my arrival something worth remembering already happened. I planned to leave well on time from La Laguna to make sure I would get to the school on time. So, at 8:30 a.m. I was standing in front of the entrance gate of the language school in El Mayorazgo. There was nobody there, except for the janitor. He didn’t know me, so wouldn’t let me enter the school building. That’s how I decided to go for a coffee first and go back to the school a bit later. I returned at five minutes to nine and was finally let inside the school, where I was some minutes later told that the morning classes never take place at the school… what a great start! Luckily the people working at the secretary office of the school were extremely kind and immediately started drawing maps and opened Google maps to explain as clearly as possible how to get to the other building. So far, so good, I could set off to the school building, knowing that I would already arrive late the very first day of my internship.
But my bad luck wouldn’t stop there… just as I was leaving the school in an attempt to hurry to the other school building, a car parking in front of me hit my (rented) car, making an ugly scratch on it and erasing the white paint. I consequently lost some more precious time before arriving at my new working place.
By that time I felt like it was going to be a day with only bad luck, so I was starting to get worried a bit about my internship as well and whether I would have a positive experience. Luckily this fear faded away quickly as soon as I got inside the school building. Upon entering the classroom, I was greeted by Tati, one of the main teachers at the school and the person in charge of me for the first week. She introduced me briefly to the class, an intermediate level, all native Spanish, and they could ask me any questions they wanted, so that was what one may call a baptism of fire. The students turned out to be all very friendly and interested, as well as enthusiastic to meet their new language assistant from abroad. I was asked many questions where I was from, what Belgium was like and they seemed to be especially interested in hearing what I thought about the Canary Islands and its inhabitants.
After this first session, we had a short break in which I went for a coffee –leche y leche, a typical coffee from the Canary Islands, with Tati and Pedro, one of the students, to a local bar around the corner. After the break I was asked to introduce myself to the next group of students, which were of upper-intermediate level, by means of a quiz about Belgium. The class was divided in two groups and the pupils were asked several questions about the geography, local cuisine, history and culture of Belgium. To my surprise all students seemed to know quite a lot about it already and were keen to know even more. The next day I also taught a lesson about Belgium, this time putting stress on the school system we have in Belgium, as I was teaching a group of lecturers at secondary schools.
I am going to be teaching four days a week and every week I will be joining different groups, this way I will really get to know the whole school, including all teachers and pupils, which I believe is really a great opportunity and experience. I will obviously mainly be contributing to the English lessons, but I might also participate in some French and German seminars, which are two of the official languages spoken in Belgium. A pity the EOI doesn’t teach Flemish 🙂
Shortly, my first week of my internship hasn’t even finished, but I already feel like I could get used to living here and I am really grateful for the opportunity I was given to come here.