If you want an exciting and adventurous travel and learning experience I suggest applying to volunteer at VaughanTown in Spain. The program was designed by Richard Vaughan to advance the English skills of Spanish speakers. VaughanTown is a program of English immersion. It’s a concentrated dose of a stay abroad without leaving Spain. The website says, “You will make a noticeable jump in your English learning. In VaughanTown you will live with English-speaking native volunteers from all over the world. It will allow you to break the barrier that was preventing you from fully utilizing all your accumulated knowledge of the language.”
VaughanTown has 40 years of experience teaching English in Spain to 50,000 students annually and with the help of 2400 teachers. It offers many different programs to adults, young adults and children in several locations in Spain and some English speaking countries.
I volunteered at the 6-day Immersion in English in a Vaughan village. This is equivalent to 500 hours of class. They also offer:
- FiftyFifty: A combination of classes using the Vaughan method and conversations with English speakers
- Business English
- Intensive English courses during school holidays for children and young people from 4 to 17 years of age in Spain and in English-speaking countries like England, Ireland and the U.S. You can also apply to be a host family.
- Online English course for 1 year
- Free email course
- Radio and TV programs teaching English https://grupovaughan.com/vaughan-radio-tv/
My program supplied accommodation in a double room with a private bathroom, full board with excellent cuisine, materials and the bus transfers from the meeting point to the chosen location. The volunteers must pay for their airfare, hotel accommodations before and after the program and other transportation. Depending on the program the volunteers can be from 18 years of age and up. You can apply at http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/.
While at the program I met volunteers from England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and the U.S. Some were educators, but there were Anglos from all walks of life with varied experiences aged 30-65+. The participants at my program were from Spain and included business people, police officers and teachers.
Palacio Del Infante Don Juan Manuel Hotel Spa
I was lucky enough to participate in a program in Belmonte, a small village or pueblo, and stay in a renovated castle along the path Don Quixote traveled. The hotel was next to a church and cemetery. Three windmills, reminiscent of the Man of La Mancha, and a castle sat on the nearby hills. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_Belmonte
The day started with a buffet breakfast similar to the lavish breakfast bars you get in European hotels. Then we had our hour-long one-to-ones with our Spanish counterparts anywhere we liked. We could stay in the public spaces of the hotel, walk through the village or visit the local sites. We talked about many things and touched on English idioms which are difficult for the Spaniards to understand. We were told to try to talk about subjects other than their job and daily life but it was fun to find out about police work and business in Spain. One of the Spaniards was an owner of an olive oil company and we enjoyed his company’s products with our meals. We also did a phone call where I played the part of a customer service rep from an airline and the Spaniard was the passenger who lost his luggage. As a group, we had a conference call where the mayors of different cities tried to convince me that their city was the best location to locate a casino. The reasons they gave were very inventive. One offered my company ample room to grow and even threw in an imaginary lake for recreation when another mayor offered me a nearby police station and a school to train my employees. It wasn’t all talking and eating. We also had time to visit the castle and a winery.
I thought the entertainment which was provided by all of us was the highlight of our program. Our Master of Ceremonies took a group of people each day and prepped us for skits that were hilarious. Since most of the Spanish participants were men, they were good sports and took the female roles. One night our Master of Ceremonies brewed us the alcoholic concoction, Queimada, with the help of witches. She set it on fire and ladled the flaming liquid out of the clay bowl until the flames turned blue. Then we all made the toast “¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!” which means Arriba – up, Abajo – down, Al centro – center, andPa’ dentro or Adentro” – inside. We then drank the brew which didn’t have that much alcohol burnt off. See the toast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr3Q5H57kRU and the recipe at https://www.thespruce.com/queimada-recipe-fire-drink-of-galicia-3083122. We usually finished the day at the cafe playing a game or socializing. This was after the dinner at 9. Europeans eat later than I was used to but we had lunch at 2 and a siesta from 3-5 so we soon got used to the change. I’d like to show you photos of the entertainment but like Vegas “What happens at VaughanTown stays at VaughanTown.”
Video with traditional chant
I cannot say enough about how much fun I had at this program. At first, I was suffering from jet lag and after a conversation on the bus with a Spaniard who was struggling with his English, I thought that this would be difficult and tiring. Yes, the long hours wore me out, but the experience was so exhilarating that I looked forward to each day and laughed more than I have in years. It was not just immersion for the Spaniards, the Anglos were immersed in the Spanish culture and learned so much from the students. I have an invitation to Wales, Scotland and Trinidad and have been in touch with several participants. One police officer gave me tips for my novel and promised to answer any questions I have while writing it.
After VaughanTown I toured Madrid and southern Spain. I’ll tell you about that in my next blog. Right now I’m preparing for my annual Christmas trip to Minnesota. Since I live so far from my family, I found that planning a trip over a holiday like I did with Thanksgiving keeps you from being alone and maybe lonely.
Continue the adventure!