Thursday, 11 December 2014

Georgina's Year Abroad in Huesca: Part 1

This week's post is a guest post by Georgina Dorr, a student of French, Spanish & Portuguese at Exeter University who is currently on her year abroad in Huesca. Georgina is working as a British Council Language Assistant and blogging about her year abroad over at The Treasured Notebook

Hands up if you’ve ever heard of Aragón?

No? I hadn’t either, until I moved here nearly three months ago. It’s an autonomous community in the North East of Spain, bordering France and in my opinion, seriously underrated!

Georgina outside Huesca Cathedral

Aragón is the only region that has snowy mountains, sandy deserts and metropolitan cities. It’s got a bit of everything really. I’m currently living in Huesca, a small city of 50,000 people in the North of Aragón. ‘Why Huesca?!’ I hear you cry, and the answer to that would be random selection.

I’m currently working as an Auxiliar de Conversación (English Language Assistant) for the British Council, and the application process is pretty much random. You can select your preferred regions (mine being Andalucía in the South and then Aragón and Navarra, the ski resorts in the North) and they randomly allocate you. Annoyingly, I didn’t find out until around 6 weeks before I moved here, but that’s just the nature of the British Council process.

Views on the drive between Huesca & Pamplona

At first, I was slightly disappointed not to be in the sunny Spain that I’d first imagined: palm trees, Piña Coladas and la playa. Instead, I’m around 40 minutes from the Pyrenees ski resorts and completely inland, but I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing. Huesca is a small city but I really like the familiarity of it and seeing people I know every time I go to the local supermarket. I’m really loving living here and being somewhere that tourists would never think to visit (I can count the English speakers in Huesca on one hand!). I’m also really lucky to be living with two lovely Spanish students, with whom I can practise my Spanish and really discover the Spanish culture, which you wouldn’t see if you lived with other expats.

Georgina & her Spanish flatmates

Huesca is the perfect place to live on weekdays – you can walk pretty much everywhere and there’s still pretty much everything you need – shops, cafes, clubs etc. But come the weekend, I really love to travel and explore the wonderful country that I’m so fortunate to live in this year. So far, three months in, I’ve visited Madrid, Pamplona, the Pyrenees, Valencia, Málaga, Gibraltar, San Sebastián, Zaragoza and Teruel. Not too shabby, right?

So why Spain? Why the British Council? The answer would be that it is the Third Year of my Modern Languages degree at University of Exeter, so it’s necessary to live in the country of one of the languages that you’re studying so you can really immerse yourself in the culture and the language. At Exeter, I study French, Spanish and Portuguese so have spent the last two summers working in France, and plan on heading to Portugal or Brazil at some point too.

Enjoying San Sebastian

Although, the weirdest thing about me now living in Spain is that two years ago, I’d never said more than ‘hola’, ‘por favor’ or ‘adios’. At Exeter, you have the opportunity to learn a language ab initio (completely from scratch). This means that, although I’ve studied a very intense course of Spanish, I don’t have an awful amount of experience speaking the language, but I actually feel that I’m doing okay Spanish-wise. Of course I trip up sometimes and struggle when I’m with a group of people my age who are talking very quickly and using loads of slang, but I’m hoping that’ll come with time.

As far as work goes, I’m working with all ages! My school ranges from 316 and I even have private classes with people in their fifties, so no two days in work are ever the same and it’s all so varied. With secondary, I lead the classes, giving presentations about British Culture and inventing all sorts of games to get the students talking – for Bonfire Night I sang Katy Perry – Firework and made them do a gap fill with the lyrics. With primary and preprimary, I’m mostly there for pronunciation and to help the teacher. Yesterday, I spent two hours trying to convince four year olds that their grandparents have other names apart from Abuela/Abuelo, which is more difficult than you can imagine.

I’ve also filled up my time with extra classes to get a bit more money to travel (although British Council is brilliant as it’s 12 hours a week for €700 a month – a definite selling point!), and have also signed up to attend classes at the University of Zaragoza to practise my Spanish. Although, hilariously I accidentally signed up for a Masters in Economics, but with my ‘say yes’ policy of my Year Abroad, I’ll give it a go!

So, if anyone has any questions about British Council/ finding somewhere to live/ settling in/ Aragón or Huesca then check out my blog and let me know!

 Thanks Georgina! Looking forward to hearing how you get on next term (and how that Masters in Economics goes, of course...).


  1. Those were the days...! Year abroad seems such a long time ago now.

    1. Weren't they just! Reading this made me very nostalgic. Think it's great that Georgina is taking full advantage of the opportunity and experiencing all Spain has to offer - so many people seem to use it as a year to party & often end up living with uni friends.

  2. Very true. It can be lonely isolating yourself from fellow Brits/expats but so much more rewarding in the long run. Well done, Georgina! Keep up the hard work.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...