Studying abroad is firstly about studying, but the unique thing about spending an entire semester abroad is that you have the time to truly immerse yourself in the Spanish culture and even start to feel like a local. One of the best ways to do this, is to get involved in the community, and luckily, ICS has partnerships with nearby organizations that allow students a variety of volunteer opportunities. Some students choose to volunteer with a club called FutboLISTAS, which empowers young girls through the game of football. Other students choose to volunteer with a travel agency to help them with content creation and social media management. The volunteer opportunity that I chose to get involved with is through a language school called BLS Idiomas. BLS is a school that is only a few blocks away from ICS and they teach a variety of languages such as German, French, Arabic, Spanish and English, which is their most popular language class. Students of all ages attend BLS Monday through Thursday, with optional enrichment classes being taught on Fridays. I was invited to teach Friday night support classes in English.

As an aspiring Education major, this volunteer opportunity is really exciting for me because I get to engage with students in a classroom setting and really develop my passion for teaching. There’s a lot of freedom in how I want to lead the classes, but I also appreciated the guidance that was provided to me by the BLS team. The first few days I shadowed classes to see how things were run and then was I given level-appropriate material to choose from or the option to make my own. This was great because it allowed me to test things out and see what types of activities the students respond best to. One of the things that surprised me the most, was the students’ enthusiasm to learn and participate in class. They weren’t afraid to made mistakes and were overall very involved in the process of learning. They also weren’t afraid to correct my Spanish and I found myself learning as much from them as they did from me! Another thing that I enjoyed about the lessons is that they aren’t always taught in the classroom. Sometimes students go out to the terrace to work on their homework, and there are also lots of field trips planned. One of the earlier trips was to the nearby Maria Luisa Park to play football and next week, the students are excited to take a trip to the aquarium. I get just as excited for these trips because they are such a fun way for me to see more of the city. Overall, volunteering abroad is an incredibly valuable experience because it allows you to feel more like a member of the community rather than a foreigner living in a bubble. You get to make new friends and connections with local people all the while exchanging language and culture with one another.

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