Learning as a Teaching Assistant in Ontinyent, Spain

Learning as a Teaching Assistant in Ontinyent, Spain

edgar llivisupa profile photoEdgar Llivisupa is a native New Yorker completing a dual degree in Business Journalism and Spanish Literature and Language. His goals while teaching abroad are to improve his Spanish, test his capabilities as a teacher, and to travel. 

Edgar has been living in Ontinyent, Spain for one school year. Ontinyent is located in eastern Spain near Valencia. He is a teaching assistant at a primary school and will be returning to the same school this September. He enjoys learning Valencian and interacting with the locals. 

Edgar is looking forward to returning for another year. He wants to continue his progress with his students and dive deeper into the Spanish culture and lifestyle.

Meet Edgar 

Why did you choose to come to Spain and Europe? 

“There were many motivations for me to live abroad. Firstly, it had been rare in my life for me to venture outside New York. In fact, I had traveled out of the tri-state area only a handful of times, so I was itching to leave. Secondly, after failing a calculus course I switched my major to Spanish and started taking more intensive coursework. During a literature class, the professor flagged up  the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. As an American, there was already an innate curiosity to visit Europe. As a descendant of Hispanics, I was also inquisitive about Spanish culture and how much it influenced Latin America. Thirdly, I had a brother living in Madrid. This put me at ease after reading online testimonials from other participants in the program.”

Why did you choose to teach abroad? 

“While I had considered studying abroad in the past, the costs made it seem out of reach. I was never the type to look for grants or scholarships to aid my studies. Alongside that, I would have to pick courses that would grant me credits at my college. Instead, this program gave me the opportunity to work abroad, which made me more comfortable rather than going abroad as a student. I hadn’t considered teaching before, but regardless, I have approached my tasks and responsibilities with an open mind and strived to do my best.”

Have you ever taught before? If not, what were you doing before you decided to move abroad?  

“I’ve never taught before. Rather, I was working very close to home at a pharmacy. It had nothing to do with what I was majoring in, but I wanted some work experience and a reference for the future just in case. Earning my own money felt rewarding as it lessened my dependence on my parents and when I decided to participate in the program, it meant I could start saving for my year abroad.”

What did you think teaching abroad would be like? Where are you teaching? 

“I am an English teaching assistant at a primary school in Ontinyent, Spain, located in the Valencian Community.

I had a feeling that teaching abroad would be extremely difficult as I had no previous experience. And I had been put off it as a career by what my public school teachers had to say about it.

I also had no idea what my students’ proficiency level would be so thank God for the chance to do some homework on them on the Internet. The school’s online blog gave me a great insight into the faculty, the students, and what the school looked like. There were documents on the English classes, their textbooks and other learning materials. I was also heartened to see that the school had recently embarked on a cultural exchange with public schools in Africa. So my arrival wasn’t going to be jarring as they had already opened their hearts and minds to another culture.”

What expectations did you have before you came here?

“I had no expectations coming to Ontinyent. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t looking forward to it. Knowing I had finally made it out of New York meant I was aware that I would have a good time regardless of where I wound up.”

cityscape ontinyent spain

What were your perceptions of Ontinyent during your first year?

“Again, I had the Internet to thank for discovering that it wasn’t amongst the most isolated towns in the region (looking at you there, Bocairent). I saw there was a decently-sized shopping mall with chains like Zara and GAME (an equivalent of GameStop), as well as a movie theater. All of the major Spanish banks were there. And most important of all, there was a train station to Valencia. 

By the end of the first year, I had learned that family is highly valued in Ontinyent. At least once a week, regardless of work or social schedules, the family, from grandparents to grandchildren, will share a meal together.”

What were some of the accomplishments of your first year?

“Moving and living abroad is a big accomplishment in itself with all the changes it has brought  me. I had never lived away from home or on my own before. Suddenly in my own flat, there was no one to clean up, cook, or pay the bills. Those responsibilities all fell on me.

Ontinyent newspaper

Many people had warned me that the town isn’t ideal for young people with few nightlife options or places to hang out. Instead I just traveled to the major cities before returning to the calm of Ontinyent. It was a great balance for me.”

What do you want to achieve for your second year? 

“As much as I strive to plan my life (after all, I first heard of this program three years ago), I have no idea where it is going. This year, I am going to lay foundations  in case I decide to relocate to Ontinyent for good. This includes continuing to study the local language, Valencian, which is a dialect of Catalan. 

I want to attend Spanish language courses. While I know enough to be considered a native speaker, I still lack confidence. So it would help to be more proficient and understand the basic facets of the language. 

Also, while I can assume I did a decent enough job to warrant a warm and lovely “see you soon!” party at my school, I do feel that there is a lot I can improve on. Since I’m returning to the same center, I don’t have to spend the first few months meeting the faculty and students or familiarizing myself with the town. Like I told some of my co-workers, I come back ready to work!”

What advice would you give to other participants about your first year? What are some of the things they must do and some things they must absolutely not do? 

“The most important thing to realize about this program is that it is going to take a while to adjust to living in Spain if you’re not in a major city. You’re not going to easily find foreign cuisine or people who want to, or can, speak English. By the time I acclimatized to living abroad, which for me was around the New Year, I was already at the halfway point of my tenure. Keep that in mind if it takes you longer to adjust to a new surrounding.

Another piece of advice I have, and this is more personal, regards technology. Yes, it makes us all connected but while it is great to talk to loved ones back home, attempt to disconnect once in a while. Enjoy your newfound independence in a different setting.”

How do you feel about your integration into the culture so far? How did you prepare before you arrived? 

“Before my arrival, I explored the town’s tourism website and looked at the traditional dishes, holidays, and festivals celebrated throughout the year. Being in a small town helped me integrate easier than a tenure in Madrid or Barcelona. There aren’t fast-food chains to satisfy my American tastebuds. The stores in Ontinyent close around 8pm. And my town is also multi-generational.

Now that it’s a year later, I can say it was a great change for me. I am happy to be away from New York. Ontinyent was the perfect size for me. Living in big cities can cause anxiety if you don’t have a big weekend planned or spend too much time at home. Choices are limited in a small town. Most weekends entail a simple football match or drinks at someone’s apartment. I appreciated simple living. When I went on trips during vacation or long-weekend excursions, I had a greater drive to explore and enjoy my time away.

Culture Shock Made Easy

Since I am of Hispanic descent, there wasn’t much of a culture shock. The passion for football extended to my family, so I ended up attending a match at every stadium of the eight La Liga teams based in Madrid and Valencia. I was even able to attend the trophy ceremony for Valencia CF’s triumph in the Copa del Rey, the Spanish domestic cup competition.

The lack of a language barrier also made it seamless to fit in. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to stand out as a foreigner. However, with my co-workers and their family and friends, it was always fun to let them introduce themselves in English. I would always follow in Spanish and leave them astonished. It meant I was able to meet everyone in a more personable fashion. They would ask me about my life in New York and how I was adapting. Meanwhile, I would ask them about their life in a small town.

teaching abroad

Looking Forward to a Future in Ontinyent

Alongside that, learning Valencian has helped a lot. Understanding a conversation between two native speakers, saying that I was taking classes, or just switching from Spanish to Valencian continually impressed people. They couldn’t believe a New Yorker was not only interested in their language but was making a serious effort to be proficient in it even as they considered it “useless for my future in the country.” Even today, weeks removed from Ontinyent, I still think in Valencian.   

I had an enjoyable year in Ontinyent, and I’ve met some of the most generous and accommodating people. Because I have traveled around so much, I’ve seen more of Spain in one year than most people I know who’ve had the opportunity to visit in all their years of living in Spain. While I have a hard time measuring how well I’ve integrated into my new town, it has been enough that a few months away is difficult for me. I am eagerly looking forward to my second year.”

An Expat Living and Working Abroad in Ontinyent, Spain

Edgar shares details about his first year abroad living and working in Ontinyent, Spain. He provides guidance for first-year teachers who are just arriving. Expat life is not easy. It can take longer than one expects. After having lived in the Ontinyent area for a year, Edgar feels as if he has made friends at work and started to better understand the language. He is trying his best to learn and understand Valencian and they appreciate his willingness to do so. It takes time. Sometimes expats live abroad for years and still don’t feel a sense of full familiarity within their new home. Edgar plans to try his best in his second year to understand the culture better by perfecting Valencian.

We look forward to hearing more about Edgar’s second year in Ontinyent. Stay tuned for his second update in the late fall. 

by Leesa Truesdell

35 thoughts on “Learning as a Teaching Assistant in Ontinyent, Spain

    1. Hi Jessie,

      Thank you for sharing your desire to teach abroad. You should go! What is stopping you? We are happy to assist with any questions that you have and can put you in touch with the right people so that you can make a decsion that is best for you. Please reach out when you are ready! Make your dreams a reality!


  1. Love this as I am also an expat and the experience is crazy. New culture, language, people – it’s such an adventure. I hope he continues enjoying his!

    1. Hi Ronnie,
      Thank you for reading his interview and being a part of our community. We look forward to hearing more from you about your expat experiences. Please stop by and comment frequently and be sure to follow our social media groups. Your input is valuable for our community abroad.

      Best regards,

    1. Hi Brianne,

      Thank you for taking the time to read Edgar’s interview. We hope you come back to read his second interview and check out Tyler’s post tomorrow about teaching in other regions of Spain as well.

      Thanks again,


  2. I love the wisdom in this article. And I agree about attempting to disconnect from what is comfortable and embrace the new. It will surely help you grow.

    1. Hello and thank you so much for reading. Please stay tuned for more updates from Edgar and be sure to read Tyler’s post tomorrow on teaching in different regions of Spain.

      Thank you so much for being a part of our community,

  3. I want to go in abroad for learning,but i can’t do it.But you have got this opportunity!All the best for your upcoming future.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      We appreciate you reading Edgar’s interview and hope you read Tyler’s piece tomorrow about teaching in different regions of Spain.

      Thank you again for being a part of our community. We appreciate you.


    1. Thank you for reading our interview! Edgar is out and about traveling and fulfilling his wanderlust before his classes start. Stay tuned for more solo pieces from Edgar and additional interviews on his teaching experience.


    1. Hi Heather,

      Please be sure to check out Tyler’s piece tomorrow on Thursday, 9/19/2019. We think you will that one too.

      All the best,

    1. There’s so much to be gained from teaching abroad! I have a few friends who had wonderful experiences teaching in Korea. Thank you for sharing Edgar’s story with us 🙂

    2. Hi Sara,
      Thank you for reading about Edgar’s plans for this second year in Ontinyent. He will be writing some pieces of his own and there are two more interviews where Edgar will share more of his experiences this year so stay tuned.

      Thanks again!

  4. I’ve always wanted to teach abroad. Sounds like fun and rewarding experience. I love Spain, I have visited twice in the last couple of years but didn’t get to visit Ontinyent. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Dear Wanderlust,

      Thank you for your feedback and comment. We appreciate you being a part of our community. Please be sure to check out Tyler’s post tomorrow. He will be talking about two very specific regions in Spain. We think you will enjoy it.

      Thanks again- we appreciate you!



    1. Hi Erin,

      I am so glad you enjoyed reading Edgar’s interview. Stay tuned for more interviews about studying and teaching abroad. Thanks again! We appreciate you.


  5. Studying abroad and working abroad is an amazing experience. Being an expat, I can relate to his story. I’m glad Edgar is loving his job in Ontinyent and I hope he can visit more places in Spain too.

    1. Hi Ave, thank you for your comment. It’s great to hear from other expats! Thank you for being a part of our Dreams Abroad community. If you would like to share more with us about your experience abroad– please send us your information in the contact us section of our website. We would really like to hear more from you!
      With gratitude,

  6. He is an inspiration for many! I like his determination to go for his dreams and find success in his own way. This just goes to show that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome in achieving what you have set your heart into.

    1. Hi Annemarie,

      Thank you so much for reading Edgar’s interview! Please stay tuned for more on Edgar’s journey throughout the year. There will be more updates! In addition, tomorrow there will be an excellent post about two different regions in Spain. Tyler will be covering this topic and lived in these regions. Please check it out when you have some free time. We appreciate your input and thank you for being a part of our community!


    1. Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for your comment and feedback. We enjoy hearing from you. Please be sure to keep in touch and read our posts often. You will see many interesting pieces about teaching, traveling, and studying abroad!

      Thanks again- we appreciate you.

      Leesa Truesdell

  7. Teaching abroad would be such a great learning experience! Such an inspiring story to encourage others interested in this career path!

    1. Hi Steph,

      Thank you for reading Edgar’s interview. Please be sure to check out Tyler’s piece tomorrow that will cover two additional regions in Spain.

      Thanks again- we appreciate you.


  8. Hi Steph,

    Thank you for reading and being a part of our community! Check out Edgar’s next interview coming soon.

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Shannon,

      Thank you for your feedback on Edgar’s interview. Please stay tuned for more interviews with him and be sure to check out Tyler’s post tomorrow. He will be talking about two regions in Spain.

      Thanks again – we appreciate you!

      Leesa Truesdell

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