I spent the third year of my degree doing a British Council assistantship. Normally language assistants go to a primary or secondary school and work with teachers to supplement the English programmes at the school. In my case, and that of the other three students who were on the same programme as me, I went to the Angloin Asuncion, a private language school, where I got my first real taste of the job I do now.
During the application process we had to choose three countries where we wanted to work as assistants. At that time, I had no idea what the differences were between different countries in South America, since my only connection with the continent was the three or four lecturers who had taught me during my degree course. With only 14 months of four contact hours a week under my belt, I was so focussed on the language that I hadn’t really thought that much about the culture(s). All I knew was that I was desperate to explore a whole new continent – what was the point of spending a year in Spain when I could go there at the drop of a hat from England?
Unfortunately, there was no box on the form for ‘Just send me to South America please!’ and I had to narrow it down somehow. One of my modules at university had looked at minority languages in Spain and South America, and I knew that Quechua in Peru and Guarani in Paraguay were still quite strong. The next job was to decide which to put as my first choice. In the end, the fact that the application said ‘Assistants in Paraguay normally share a flat with the other British Council assistants’ decided it, and I put Peru first and Paraguay second. For my third country I chose Chile, for the completely frivolous reason that it was long and thin and I wondered what being in a country like that would be like!
Paraguay doesn’t have a British Council office, so those of us placed there perhaps have to be a bit more independent than our fellow assistants in other countries. During my interview, I spoke about my experiences in Malaysia, and I’m pretty sure this is what got me sent to Paraguay rather than Peru. I really didn’t mind this, as it gave me the chance to spend a fascinating year exploring South America, and I can’t think of any other reason I would have gone to Paraguay without the assistantship. I still miss it, and I hope to go back at some point soon.
…Brno, Czech Republic
My first three years of full-time teaching, immediately after graduating, were in Brno in the Czech Republic. I had studied French, German and Spanish at university, and had spent time living in South America, France and Germany since leaving school. I was eager to visit a new country and learn a new language, but I wanted to stay in Europe to be able to go back to the UK at Christmas (I had spent Christmas Eve with friends, but Christmas Day alone in Paraguay).
I did my CELTA part-time during my final year at university, and pretty much from day one of the course in October I was thinking about where to go next. For a while I thought about Thessaloniki in Greece, then Trieste in Italy (for no other reasons than that they were near the sea and land borders and I didn’t speak the languages there), but I really wanted to work for International House, and neither of those cities had IH schools.
When the IH recruitment list was released I had no idea which jobs to apply for, so I spoke to my CELTA tutors and they suggested I look at Central Europe as they said it would be good for development. I immediately went home and applied for four schools, with no particular preference. A couple of days later I was asked to say which was my first choice, and as with South America I had no idea! Brno was my second choice again, since my first-choice school offered the chance to do a Young Learners Certificate. However, the first-choice posts were already all taken, so I was sent to Brno. This resulted in three of the best years of my life, which I summarised in this video.
I applied for Durham University without really knowing anything about the north-east of my country at all (the furthest north I had previously been was York). A careers adviser at school suggested I apply there, and I have him to thank for ending up at the perfect university When I arrived on my open day, I immediately fell in love with the city, and over the four years of my degree I came to love the north-east of England too.
When I decided to apply to become an London 2012 volunteer, I knew that it would be much easier to go through the application and eventual training (if I got, which I’m very happy to say I did!) from a base in the UK, and it took very little thought at all to settle on applying to IH Newcastle, where I was lucky enough to get a job. It’s great to be back in the north-east, and to revisit and discover so many places I love visiting.
And my next destination?
Who knows? I’ve spent the last month or so trying to decide where I want to go in September after the Paralympics have finished, and although (like Greece and Italy before) I’ve had various countries in my head, I actually have no idea. This is very exciting, because I really could go anywhere – I fully intend to take advantage of not having any ties – but also a little scary, because I have no idea where I’ll be in eight months time. All I do know is that I’d like to do my DELTA in the next academic year, and that if possible I’d like to learn a new language. Oh, and that I don’t like snow