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Volunteering in Barcelona: My Best Decision Abroad

  This semester, I took the opportunity to volunteer with a 3rd grade and 5th grade class in an elementary school in Barcelona. The school was located
outside the city center, in a much more residential area (I really had to practice my Spanish speaking to the locals!). I volunteered in English classes every Monday and I loved every minute of it. The relationship I had with my kids reminded me of the relationship I used to have with babysitters when I was their age, running up practically tackling me in the hallway as I’m walking by, asking tons of questions, playing with my hair, holding my hand, and trying teaching my Catalan. They ooohed and ahhhed as I showed them pictures of my dog, my family, and my life. For 3rd and 5th graders, American culture is very foreign to them so they loved hearing even a little bit about my life. I then had to answer the questions they were really dying to ask about me: Do you have a husband? Is your hair real?.... funny kids!

 

It’s amazing how children in Barcelona learn English from the 1st grade. By the time they are in the 3rd grade, they’re spoken to in English entirely. Although their ability to understand is greater than their ability to speak, similar to Spanish for me, I was amazed at that age how much they already knew.

 
 The Entrance Of The School
 
 The Hallways Were Covered in Art!

During my time there, I helped teach the “BIG” numbers to the 3rd graders and “love, like, dislike, hate” with food items with the 5th graders. I had never thought I had an accent until I volunteered because it was very difficult for the kids to understand me! Because of Spain’s proximity to the UK, Spaniards learn British English, and they tend to develop a slight British accent when speaking. Words that confused them were mostly numbers, especially twenty and forty. We learned food and they called “crisps” and French Fries “Chips”. I decided that I didn’t want to confuse them with what we say in America!
 My 3rd grade Class Learning The Days Of The Week
 
 Laia Singing A Song To Remember The Days Of The Week

I would encourage every study abroad student to volunteer if they have the time and desire. While studying abroad in itself is an experience about cultural adaptation, a lesson you learn about yourself, and an adventure of a lifetime, volunteering adds depth and another element to really enjoy the experience. While the kids may not remember me forever, I will certainly remember meeting them whenever I think of my experience abroad.
 Even Though It's Warm in Barcelona, Kids Still Wear Heavy Coats!
 
 6th Grade Students Practicing Writing
 
 Practicing "Never, Occasionally, Sometimes,
Often, and Always" With Each Other
 
 How We Explained "Never, Occasionally, Sometimes, Often, and Always"
 Laia, The English Teacher
 
 Each Student's Drawings Of Themselves
 
 Laia And Theodora, My Friend Who Also Volunteered

Katie Kennelly is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Photographer in Barcelona, Spain. She is currently a junior at Cornell University.

Read more about our CEA MOJO Bloggers & Photographers.
 
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