When I got to Seville last semester, I was looking forward to getting involved locally through volunteer work. Unfortunately, most of the opportunities CEA provided required a background check, which I had missed during my pre-departure planning. However, I was enrolled in a class called "Cultural Values & Stereotypes: Spain and the U.S." at the CEA center, and was excited to learn that one of our assignments was a volunteering activity. A classmate and good friend of mine signed up for our slots in the start of the semester -- something I am so grateful that we got to experience before the pandemic struck.
The volunteer opportunity for my class was to attend an intercambio. An intercambio is basically a language exchange partner or group aimed at being a mutual learning activity. CEA hosted many intercambios for students, but for my class it was held at an English language school that is not limited by age. My friend and I attended two meetings during our shortened time in Spain. We were pleasantly surprised during our second activity when the room was filled with eager middle-aged adults who wanted to improve their English! At United English, the name of the school, my friend and I led a session with probably 10 Sevillanos, whose skill levels ranged from knowing 10 words to close to fluent. This really helped me feel another connection to my new home, since I was a beginner at speaking Spanish and often wished I could have more meaningful conversations with local people. We got to ask questions about Seville and receive advice all while helping them boost their English skills. I was so grateful for this opportunity, and wished I could have continued it, so I hope to inspire others to take advantage of it as well!
My advice to anyone studying in Seville who is interested in volunteering:
1. If you are passionate about volunteering abroad, make sure you do research ahead of time and get necessary background checks and paperwork completed! CEA offers multiple opportunities to volunteer with children, homeless, animals, and the environment.
2. Volunteer with an English teaching school, such as United English! These are perfect ways to meet locals of all ages, practice your Spanish, and help others learn English!
Erin Diacik is a CEA Alumni Ambassador who studied abroad in Seville, Spain, during the Spring 2020 semester. She is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts.
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