I didn’t think I was a group person. The idea of getting on a bus with a whole bunch of strangers has never appealed to me. But a friend had recommended I do the English / Spanish immersion program in Spain, via Vaughantown, and so I impulsively signed up.
‘You’ll love it,’ she told me. ‘It’s an amazing way to see Spain, meet people, have fun, and on the side, improve your Spanish.
The whole idea of the program is for the Spanish speaking people to improve their English. It is not about Spanish at all. In fact, the Spanish are ONLY allowed to speak English for the full six days. And the same goes for the volunteers.
The very word volunteers freaked me out. Oh my god. A group of volunteers. Would I cope, could I cope, what if I hated all of them.
More likely, what if they all hated me.
They didn’t hate me. And guess what. I did not hate them either. Not one of them. Interesting people choose to do these programs and every single person was interesting. Even American Ed who played his guitar till four every morning. Even Spanish Juan Don Emilio Antonio Pedro who looked like he never came up or out of his basement was fascinating. Maybe he was especially fascinating. And even the Welsh volunteer couple who were early twenties and madly in love and had clearly just discovered sex.
They too were fascinating.
Although we didn’t see them as much as we should have!
I learned a whole bunch of stuff on the trip.
That I love Spain.
That I absolutely totally and utterly adore everything about the Spanish people.
That I can eat unlimited olives and drink unlimited martinis.
That I am a good group person.
That it is very nice to socialise with both young and old people.
That it is fantastic to meet people from all over the world.
That Vaughantown is a fabulous Volunteer program.
That I am quite good at breaking rules when I have to.
And that my Spanish is terrible.
I had signed up for the program in Gredos. When you volunteer for Vaughantown, you can choose one of four areas in Spain. I chose Gredos which is at the foothills of the Sierra dos Gredos, a Spanish mountain range. It’s a divine area about three hours out of Madrid, with stunning views, rolling hills, incredible skies with the most unbelievable stars, one very very very old village nearby and one magnificent wide ice-cold refreshing perfect deep delicious river nearby too.
The Spanish people are serious about improving their English. Each one of them – and you have ‘one-on-ones’ with almost every single person – was intense. They pay good money to come on this program and they’re not messing around. And as a volunteer who gets to be in Spain, stay in a luxury hotel, have delicious meals, amazing scenery, great experiences and great company, we didn’t mess around either.
Each one of us was serious about helping the Spanish to improve their English.
And it was fun. So much fun.
There’s a program director. Every day you get a list of who you are meeting and at what time. And then, it’s over to you. You can meet over coffee, sit in the gardens, walk to the river, swim in the river – rules are that you do not do this, I broke these rules a lot – and walk to the village. You can do anything you want really, as long as you chat while you’re doing it.
And chatting is easy. Even if you are introvert, shy, not a group person or just plain silly. Because the Spanish people are all amazing. And interesting. And dynamic. And have stories.
And so it is easy to chat.
I loved Gredos. I think Vaughantown do an amazing job. I made friends that I will continue to be friends with for ever. I met a few fabulous people. A lot actually.
I learned how to sigh in Spanish.
Check out the program. It’s brilliant. You can sign up right here.