Living in Ontinyent, Spain While Social Distancing

 

edgar llivisupa profile photoIn our previous interview, Edgar Llivisupa spoke about his day-to-day routine at his school. He gave us an update on his Valenciano and how he had been practicing with his colleagues at school. When we spoke he was uncertain what his summer would look like, but hoped he would be able to stay in Spain until August. We recently caught up and Edgar shared how COVID-19 impacted the end of his school year. He also shares advice and guidance for teachers who are thinking about moving abroad. Read on to learn more about his plans when he gets back to the USA. 

What has been the most important thing you learned while teaching abroad so far?

“This year, I had to work with a new colleague to instruct art classes. She had a difficult time adapting to our school and students initially because she was dealing with personal matters. Unaware of that, I learned to hide my frustration and anger since I did little work with the kids. Often, I sat in the classroom and waited for students to arrive. I got into the habit of working on material for my other classes to pass the time. 

I had hit the ground running in private tutoring sessions and classes where I worked with my tutor. These sessions left me feeling confident. For many classes, I was able to suggest ideas and provide input as I knew the capability of the kids. I felt like I was doing great work with everyone and learning how to be a more effective teacher. With my new colleague, I decided to maintain a professional relationship. I prefer to avoid confrontations. By March, I had figured out a way to coordinate teaching more effectively with her. She quickly told me that she felt more confident.”

Ontinyent Spain sign

How have you accomplished your goals while living in Spain for your second year? 

“My main goals were learning to live with roommates, improve my language skills, wrap up my travels across Europe and learn more about Spanish and Valencian cuisine. I was successful with each, especially in learning about the country’s cuisine. This being my second year, I became more familiar with the cuisines of the different regions in Spain, which meant I was more excited to travel and try local specialties. Later on, the quarantine was an excuse for me to cook all day, every day. Unfortunately, I quarantined alone during that time so I had to eat all the food by myself. It actually became a  serious challenge to maintain a waistline while planning my diet around the dishes I learned. 

For example, when I had different rice dishes planned, I compensated by only eating fruit for breakfast and in between meals that day. I made Spanish desserts the same month I went to Western Spain and had the chance to walk a lot of the calories off. In addition to being able to improve my own cooking skills, my colleagues and peers also had good things to say when they tried my food. They commended my culinary abilities and attention to detail.”

What has been the biggest challenge about living in Ontinyent, Spain for two years?

“The connection I have to this town and way of living has made it difficult for me to leave. I love my students and colleagues. My time at the school wasn’t toxic or drama filled like I’ve read in other anecdotes. My town is small and quaint, yet only an hour away from Valencia, a moderately-sized city with more transportation options that connect to other regions of the country. I prefer Otinyent over New York. In New York, the cost of living is significantly higher, which prevents me from the current lifestyle I’ve had for the past two years.”

town of Ontinyent

What advice would you give on how to deal with being a global professional for two years? Do you have any advice for other teachers about to travel abroad for the first time?  

“Letting go is a part of life. This fact is learned at different stages in life by everyone. Knowing this helps me. I know I will have to say goodbye to an incredible experience. At the same time, I’ll have to face an arguable downgrade in terms of quality of life back home eventually. However, this fact can also help anyone about to begin their travels and life abroad for the first time. I feel that many expats may be inclined to preserve their American way of life, but I think it’s beneficial to let go and be more open to experiencing the host country’s culture. You can learn so much if you live like others do. Opening up to different experiences is the main reason I prefer living abroad to traveling. I was able to take time and change my lifestyle by opening up to Spain’s culture.” 

How has teaching abroad helped with your overall professional goals?

“Given that my background is a field unrelated to teaching, I am unsure at how much these two years teaching abroad can help me in my professional career. The greatest benefit I can see is that I know I am able to relocate to another continent  and embrace the culture.”

What was your most memorable moment at your school and in class this year? 

“My tutor and I have a great working relationship. I do anything she asks of me as long as she allows me to be inquisitive. I often joke that if she asked me to jump off a bridge, my reply would be, “do you think that would be a good idea” before doing so anyways.

One week she asked me to look at the card game Los Hombres Lobo de Castronegro, hoping that I could play it in class with the students. It’s a card game where a large group of players are divided between citizens or werewolves. After some exposition, each player votes on whether or not their fellow citizens are a werewolf. It was a tough assignment. I had to understand the rules of the game in Spanish, translate it to English, then simplify it so my tutor could follow. Then, I had to simplify it even more so Year 5 could understand the game in English.

I played as the narrator for the game, teaching the students how to play with gestures. It was one of the few activities I led in its entirety. I only alerted my tutor, the school’s English teacher, right before class that I introduced a new rule. The students were fans and never discovered that the game is entirely in Spanish.”

How have you been managing your time and teaching during the Coronavirus?

online teaching desk“At the beginning of coronavirus, my tutor asked me for help in creating activities and learning materials for whatever the students were learning at the time, like Easter, animals, or daily activities. However, as time passed, she asked less from me so I tended to other tasks, like learning Spanish cuisine. I offered private English classes for a few weeks, but my students stopped asking me for classes. I found teaching online, because of social distancing, quite difficult once quarantine began, so it might have been for the best.”

What has your school and region in Spain done to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

“The regional government sent an official notice on March 13 to all schools stating that there would be no classes starting the week after. That gave the teachers the afternoon to gather materials to take home and start online teaching. Like other educators, my school relied on sending online assignments as well as holding an occasional teleconference with the entire class. Aside from that, the regional government established a hotline and website for those who were suspicious of contracting the virus.”

What will you do when you get back to the USA?

“I will be positioning myself so I can live abroad again within two years after returning to the States. This means I need to complete my degree and start working to pay off the majority of the debt I’ve accumulated over the past two years of living abroad. I don’t have a desire to live in the States long-term, as I want to continue learning about different cultures. I’ve narrowed down my destinations to either return to Spain and complete my travel plans to Italy and the Canary Islands that had been interrupted, or to start over in Mexico and begin traveling the Americas to learn about my roots.”

Living in Ontinyent, Spain While Social Distancing

Edgar isn’t certain where his travel plans will take him, but he does have some excellent trips to share from this past year. In addition, he will also be writing about different culinary dishes from different regions of Spain and Europe. For now, he is continuing to social distance himself from others while living in Spain. Be on the lookout for more from Edgar!

Public Service Announcements for COVID-19 Social Distancing
Public Service Announcement for COVID-19 in Ontinyent, Spain.

 

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

 

edgar llivisupaEdgar Llivisupa is halfway through the Spanish school year in Ontinyent, Spain. Catch up on his first interview learning as a teaching assistant. He is feeling good about his work and language learning in teaching trilingual education. Over the Christmas holiday, he decided to travel around Europe instead of going back to New York. He will complete his second year in less than five months. He is achieving his goal of learning Valenciano and practices very hard. His answers to his classroom instruction and school interview were very authentic because he doesn’t have a background in education. His answers are all the more authentic, especially since he is working at a school that is trilingual. Here is what he has to say.

What is a typical day at your school like? Is this different from last year’s schedule? If so, how?

“The biggest difference from last year is that my work hours are more compact. Last year I had multi-hour gaps between teaching two extracurricular classes throughout the weeks. I finished work on Fridays at noon. This year, my timetable is in line with regular school hours. Also, last year at this time I was still adjusting to teaching and finding my role in the classroom. Currently, I am more comfortable in my daily tasks. My role changes depending on which teacher I am working with. With the art teacher, I take a crate of games and activities that include flashcards, charades, bingo and play games with the students. I sometimes have to be creative with the games I am playing in both the rules and explaining them to the students.

Trilingual Education Ontinyent spain

How many people do you work with? How many classes do you teach?

I work with the art teacher and the English teacher, who is also my tutor.

I teach 1st through 6th grade in my school. Each class is composed of ten and eighteen students. Each level only has one section, and I see them twice a week. I also have a conversational class after regular school hours for parents with an English B1 and higher certificate.

Are you forming working relationships with coworkers?

Since this is my second year at this school, my tutor and I have a great working relationship. We understand the proficiency of the students so when we have to organize the weekly activities, I give feedback on the effectiveness and difficulty of the activity. 

Regarding other teachers, our school is small, so the faculty knows one another fairly well. Therefore, other teachers, I don’t usually work with may ask for my assistance with other mundane tasks.

What is your favorite part of the day? Why? 

My favorite part of the day is pati, or playground, which is when the students have 30 minutes to play outside. I usually stray away from the classroom and talk to the other teachers. It’s nice to interact with teachers in the school that I don’t usually have the opportunity to talk to. 

My favorite class is with the adults, as I am more comfortable teaching them. Unlike with the children, I can express myself more freely. Since the students have an interest in improving their fluency, I don’t have to deal with children that aren’t interested in the subject.

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

How is the material being taught to students? Is there a specific method being used?

“The teaching resources come from Oxford Education which includes a workbook and class book for the students, a smartboard application, and other items like posters and flashcards. In the books, there are songs, quizzes, and stories in line with other textbooks. 

I’m not familiar with different teaching methods, but I can comment that the students sit in groups of four to five, which is the same throughout all their classes. In the case of the English class, the groups can vary in their level of English. Some groups have strong students while other groups can have mostly students who struggle. Usually, classes start with a song followed by a lecture. Afterward, the students work on an assignment in the textbook or on a teacher-made worksheet.” 

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

It is stipulated in our contract that we aren’t supposed to lesson plan or conduct lessons on our own. I’m lucky that my school has maintained that stipulation.

I don’t have to prepare much for the time I am with the art teacher. The children play  competitively with the games I bring. They never tire of playing the same game against one another.

On the other hand, the English teacher and I have a designated hour once a week to prepare for classes. It never takes up the entire hour because of our aforementioned working relationship. We either use the activities in the book or I offer to modify an activity so it relates to the topics being taught in the class.

Do you work at a bilingual school? Is English being taught as a subject or throughout all classes? Describe ways in which English is implemented in class.

valencia art“My school is trilingual, with the languages being Valenciano, Spanish, and English. However, in the main classroom, students use Valenciano and Spanish interchangeably. For instance, the students may speak to each other in Spanish, but the instruction is in Valenciano. The school teaches English as its own subject with its own teacher and classroom. Students and teachers rarely speak English outside that environment. For this reason, in the English classroom, we explicitly avoid speaking any other language. I go as far as to hide the fact that I am a native Spanish speaker and am studying Valenciano so the students are forced to speak English in interactions with me.”

What goals or standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of their students?

“While I can’t speak on behalf of my teachers, my goals are to improve their vocabulary, develop their speaking ability and spark the student’s interest in learning the language. I find it unreasonable to expect more because the students are also learning two other languages. Also, the majority of students are of immigrant descent so they speak an additional language at home. It must be overwhelming for the children, especially since it’s easy to forget that it’s only primary education.

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to Spain both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“Growing up, I had a lot of difficulties when it came to language. I started to talk at a very late age. My school enrolled me in speech classes up until middle school to work on my pronunciation of certain phonemes and mitigate my slur. This was on top of dealing with the struggles of being a bilingual learner with parents at home who didn’t speak English. Speaking became an insecurity as people ridiculed the way I spoke both of my native languages.

Now, at an older age, I interact with both English learners and fluent Spanish speakers who continue to point out the peculiar way that I speak. I use that information to improve my speaking abilities in ways that I would have never done otherwise. What used to be an insecurity has become an interest in linguistics and sympathy for other language learners when they stumble on certain parts of a language native learners are oblivious to the difficulty of. In addition, as I’m teaching children, I have to familiarize myself with English grammar that I didn’t have to study previously. I have to consider a different approach to speaking that makes it easier for English learners to understand me. “

Teaching Trilingual Education in Ontinyent, Spain

Edgar is not sure about his future plans after classes end for the summer. He has a few ideas in mind. He continues to travel during every Spanish holiday (there are quite a few) and continues to practice Valenciano. We will catch up with him when his classes end to see what he has planned. 

futbul game

by Leesa Truesdell

Languages Spoken in Spain: Learning Valenciano

edgar llivisupa profile photoUpon reading my placement letter from the Valencian Community, I noticed it was odd. I assumed I was reading a Spanish-written letter. However, there were dashes within words, a notable lack of the letter “ñ,” a reverse accent mark I’d never come across (`), and words that appeared to be misspelled by a letter or two.

After some research, I learned that my assigned region utilized a co-official language, valenciano, alongside Spanish. What I originally envisioned as an opportunity to improve my first language by living in a country where it was primarily spoken now also presented a second opportunity to experience one of the most challenging yet redeeming aspects of living abroad: learning the local language.

History of Languages Spoken in Spain

At the time, I was completely unaware of the linguistic diversity in the country. Obviously, the average Spaniard knows that a few other languages are commonly spoken in Spain. Like many, I knew that the region of Catalonia speaks Catalan a significant amount. However, I came to discover that there are other regions that similarly promote the use of their traditional language.

For those unaware, Spain isn’t homogenous when it comes to culture. There are different foods, traditions, festivals, and languages across the country. This stems from medieval history. The Iberian Peninsula once composed itself of distinct kingdoms that utilized languages derived from Vulgar Latin. Townsfolk of the time spoke Vulgar Latin, the non-standardized version of Latin spoken during the medieval era.

Ultimately, Spanish became the most prestigious, widely spoken, and heavily associated with the country. It originated from the Kingdom of Castile, which is where the alternative term for the language, Castilian, derives from. Originally located in central Spain, it grew during the Reconquista, a period where Catholic rulers attempted to rid the peninsula of Moorish rule. During this time, Alfonso X (The Wise) began favoring one language over others. Spanish became the language of higher education, science, law, and more rather than Latin.

Bilingual marketing posters in Ontinyent, Spain
Bilingual marketing posters in Ontinyent, Spain.

Spain Unifies

Centuries later, the crown would unite with the neighboring Crown of Aragon through the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, unifying most of Spain under one dynasty. The pair would later finance Columbus’ voyage to the New World. Succeeding journeys eventually enabled the spreading of Spanish throughout the world. In the peninsula, other languages met a similar fate to Latin, and private conversations are the only place to find such languages.

Bilingual regions make efforts to revitalize historical languages. The regime of General Franco restricted the use of other languages with nationalist policies. Other languages were further limited to private use. Book burnings and a ban on foreign names limited the use of other languages. As the country transitioned to a democracy, the newly-created autonomous communities received the freedom to express their cultural heritage.

The Co-Official Languages of Spain

While every community has Spanish as an official language, six more utilize another in their educational systems, in an official capacity in different levels of government, or in everyday speech. In the Basque Country and parts of Navarra, the Basque language has co-official status. In Galicia, it’s Galician, which some consider being the cousin of Portuguese due to their similar phonology and morphology. Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencia Community all use Catalan. However, some prefer to refer to their variety of Catalan as balear or valenciano, to differentiate the dialects.

Thousands speak the other unofficial languages found in Spain. Some find themselves classified under the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. These include Aragonese, Asturian-Leonese, and Gascon.

This means that things like traffic signs, supermarket displays, public service announcements, and public school instruction, present both languages. Bilingual regions expect service workers to understand and speak both languages fluently. In addition, public television airs in the local language, with programming varying from movies, cooking shows, news programs, and live music.

Bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia showing a supermarket’s operating hours and day
Here is a bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia showing a supermarket’s operating hours and day.

What is Valenciano?

A return to medieval history is required to understand the origins of valenciano. Two entities ruled the eastern side of the Iberian Peninsula: the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. They eventually unified under the name the Crown of Aragon around the early 12th century after the marriage of Petronilla of Aragon and Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona. In line with other kingdoms, expansion was a goal and as a Catholic crown, they also joined in Reconquista efforts.

In the 13th century, King James I of Aragon conquered territories south of its location, including Valencia and the Balearic Islands. He incorporated them into the Crown of Aragon. While northerners settled the acquired territories, Catalan became more common. Over time, the Catalan dialect spoken in these regions evolved and differentiated itself from standardized Catalan. That is why today the terms catalán, valenciano, and balear can be problematic. To some, each can be their own language, all part of a family, or simply different dialects. All three stem from a strong cultural identity or reluctance to use a term associated with another region.

The Difference Between Valenciano and Catalán?

Bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia listing different ATM signs
Here is another example of a bilingual sign in Ontinyent, Valencia listing different ATM signs.

While both Valencian and Catalan have distinct academies that regulate and promote the use of the language, the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua defines valenciano as another term for catalán. For what it’s worth, the Real Academia Española, the Spanish-language regulating body, describes valenciano as “the variety of Catalan spoken in the former Kingdom of Valencia and is commonly felt as its proper language.”

The differences between valenciano and catalán include vocabulary, conjugations, and pronunciation. They are minor enough that speakers can understand each other, and language teachers can work in either region.

Compared to Spanish, valenciano has two more vowels: (à) (è), the letter (ç), and the letters “ny” replace the iconic Spanish letter, “ñ.” There are more orthographic differences, but as a Romance derived language, they share a lot of similarities including conjugations for person, tense and number, gender, etc. 

It’s been very exciting learning about valenciano and how it became the co-official language of the area where I teach. It’s fascinating to see the long-lasting effects that history has had on the language.

Deciding to Learn the Language

I discovered all this information weeks before relocating to Spain as I felt curious to see the extent of other languages spoken in Spain in my assigned area. Upon arriving at my worksite I realized citizens spoke valenciano as much as Spanish. This encouraged me to learn the language.

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