Meet Allison Clark
Today we have another auxiliar ready to tell us about her experience in Huelva: Allison Clark! Her blog is Adventures of a Mystic…check it out
Where are you from?
I was born in San Francisco, CA and grew up in the Bay Area but lived in Chicago for six years before coming to Spain.
Where/what did you study?I studied anthropology and Spanish at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. I graduated in 2008. God I feel old now. I got my Masters of Journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in 2010
Why did you decide to come to Spain?
I decided to come to Spain because I was tired of life in the US. I was a publicist for a restaurant group in Chicago and when that job ended it was definitely for the better. I was sick of that stressful job and really have always wanted to visit Spain and live abroad. I felt like Spain was a great option because I could teach English and practice my Spanish which is what I also really wanted to do. Basically I wanted a completely new life– new scenery, new job, new challenges, new lifestyle, new friends and most of all new adventures.
Where are you teaching/living?
I’m teaching at a secondary school in Huelva. I’m also living in the capital city Huelva.
Tell me a little bit about your pueblo or ciudad.
Although I live in the capital Huelva, it’s really more like a big pueblo. The population is about 150,000 and it’s the western most province on the south end of Andalucía by the Portugal border. The capital gets a bad wrap. People say it’s ugly, dirty and smells bad from the nearby factory. I’m not going to lie, Huelva has little if any monuments, unattractive, utilitarian architecture and does smell sometimes. But that said, it’s really grown on me. I really got a bad impression upon my first visit after I had fallen madly in love with Sevilla. But alas, I have looked beyond the surface and now see a diamond in the rough. People here are so nice and caring. Life is very low key here and no one ever is in a rush. The cost of living is cheap and the food is as good as it gets thanks to the fact the seafood and world’s best jamón! Since I don’t spend a lot of money here I can save more money and have traveled most weekends to some amazing places. I also want to mention that the province of Huelva is a true gem. There’s the national park Doñana, the beautiful sierra of Aracena in the north where a lot of the jamón is produced, some of the country’s most virgin beaches and some beautiful pueblos.
What is your favorite thing about being an auxiliar?
I would lie if I said it wasn’t because this job allows me to live in Spain legally and travel. That aside, I love the challenge of teaching, learning and re-learning things in school (thanks to my math, science and history classes), working with really nice and funny teachers and challenging myself with a job that I have no prior experience. I have been learning as I go and figuring things out on my own. I love that I can be a mentor at times to my students and give them life advice one minute and then joke with them and teach them things about American culture. It’s a very dynamic job where I”m never bored, which is saying a lot because I get bored easily.
Any advice for future auxiliars?
1. Be patient! with yourself, your students, your teachers and the Spanish school system. You will learn more things about yourself through teaching, more than you thought. The Spanish school system is very different from the U.S.’s. I think it’s useless to judge Spain’s system too harshly. It’s another country, government and culture and it’s hard to judge so quickly as an outsider which system or method is “better.” I suggest auxiliars come into Spain and the job with an open mind with the intention to learn and be the best teacher possible. You can’t change a school system so don’t waste your energy complaining about it. Instead enjoy your time in Spain and just be present and experience working in another country.
2. Travel as much as you can, even if that means you have to go alone. Traveling is the best personal investment you can make. You learn so much about yourself and the world. It opens up your eyes and allows for more compassion and creativity to exist. Sounds cheesy but it’s true! Spain is such a diverse, beautiful country full of history and culture so travel around the country as much as possible. Each province offers something special and will surprise you.
3. Disfuta la vida española! Try to speak Spanish as much as possible no matter what your level is– intercambio, classes, talking with locals, making new Spanish friends, etc. Go to cultural events, concerts and new restaurants even if you don’t think you’ll like it. Once you experience and understand a culture it will start to feel more familiar and you’ll feel more comfortable. Also becoming a regular at the same cafe or restaurant also helps you feel more like a local and can help you make more friends. Spanish life is slower paced and more relaxed. People are more patient with things and have a different concept of time. Be patient with this as things can take longer, breathe, have a nice coffee and enjoy life.
4. Never feel ashamed about having a siesta or having a glass of wine or cerveza.
5. Enjoy the festivals because they’re not only fun but a great way to experience Spanish culture!