Nick (year 2)

How long have you worked at ECI?
For two years (2009-11)

What made you decide to stay on for another year?
I was happy in the area, was getting to know people around town, enjoyed my first year teaching at the school and saw it as a chance to further my professional development.

Comment on the role of the school in the following areas:
a) Support regarding everyday living in Andújar
From the day we arrived, we’ve had all the support and help we could ask for in terms of finding somewhere to live, settling in, getting used to living in the town and area and all manner of little things along the way – having this support allowed us to concentrate on the teaching side of things, and made it much easier to adjust to living here and focus on our job. Our landlord has been excellent, too.

b) Training/helping me grow professionally
The school has always been ready to support us in furthering our experience and ambitions, from both financial perspectives and in terms of encouragement and help with the specifics; arranging training around our needs, encouraging us to lead sessions and share our experiences etc.
Starting on the Delta has made aspects of this year challenging – not least managing the workload – but the help we’ve received from the school has made it wholly do-able.

Comment on the type of social life you have had (meeting people, blending in).
Andújar’s a moderately-sized, conservative town – and of course, there are few native speakers outside of work – but this has its upsides. People are friendly and welcoming, and unfailingly generous if you make a little effort. We’ve enjoyed making friends here, and will miss those we’ve got to know – and it’s been extremely good for our Spanish living here. Andújar itself has everything you’d need socially and practically, as well as goodish transport links to nearby, larger cities.

5. How have you managed moneywise (food, rent, travelling and going out)?

Wages go a long way here – rent is much cheaper than that we’ve been used to paying in the UK, and your money goes a long way in terms of finding spacious, well-equipped and well-located accommodation. Travelling around is also pretty affordable, and food and drink are equally cheap – it’s not expensive to eat well here, and I’ve enjoyed not having to worry about buying quality products at the market. Seafood in particular is a bargain.

6. What recommendations would you give to someone coming to work at the school/live in Andujar?

I think it’s important to know what to expect from Andújar, especially in terms of the social circle you’ll need to build up – but with an open attitude, it’s not hard to meet people. The students are extremely friendly and will often help you in this respect. Although transport’s decent, having your own car is a real advantage – while the major cities are all well-connected by bus and train, there are some great off-the-beaten-track places nearby that would otherwise be difficult to reach if you didn’t have your own transport. Parking can be a pain in Andújar, though, so a garage would be a good idea.

Nick Adams

Maria (year 2)

1. How long have you worked at ECI?
2 years

2. What made you decide to stay on for another year?
Liked the local area, liked my classes and the timetable

Comment on the role of the school in the following areas:
a) Support regarding everyday living in Andujar: we received lots of support when we arrived in finding a flat and finding our way around. We also received lots of information about the local area (travel information / where to shop etc) and local events.
b) Training/helping me grow professionally: I’ve been given lots of opportunity to provide training and to experiment with new ideas, particularly with regard to the new interactive whiteboards.
We also received lots of support in module 1 of the Delta, and discussion groups were organised to pool ideas which would help us to prepare for the exam. The school also ordered the books necessary to complete module 3, which I’ve been very grateful for.

4. Comment on the type of social life you have had (meeting people, blending in)
Living in a small town helps with this-I really wanted to learn Spanish and outside of the big cities, people will let you practice this, rather than addressing you in English. It’s also easy to get to know the locals by interacting on an everyday basis when buying food etc.
5. How have you managed moneywise (food, rent, travelling and going out)?
It’s much easier to manage financially here than in England, as the rent is low and food and drink is cheap. Even in big, tourist areas the prices are not astronomical, as you might expect e.g. it only costs €11 to enter the Alhambra in Granada. One thing that is more expensive is the cost of bills- internet / telephone / electricity.

6. What recommendations would you give to someone coming to work at the school/live in Andujar?
Bear in mind that the winter here can be cold, and that houses are not as well insulated as in England- you may need a winter coat, as well as a pair of thick pyjamas and a decent duvet!
Shop at the market rather than at supermarkets, where possible- people are very friendly ad will chat to you, and the food there is fresher and much better value

Maria Ardley

Maria

Dates employed: From Sep 2009 and staying on

LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR

The Town- Andujar is a nice-sized town. It doesn’t have loads to do, but there is a cinema and plenty of bars, and Cordoba is within easy distance if you want a good place to go shopping.

Getting Around- It’s very easy to get around virtually the whole town on foot. Buses and trains are relatively frequent and buses in particular are very cheap.

The School- It’s a nice size with a pleasant courtyard in the middle.

Materials and Resources- There are plenty of resources and materials in the staff room, including several sets of themed flashcards and some games to play with students.

The Staff- Staff have a good range of experience and are friendly.

Students/Classes/Levels- Students are generally very friendly and nice to teach. I have a range of levels and ages, so can gain a good range of experience, including in exam classes. I enjoy having a mixture of children, teenagers and adults.

Teacher Training- There is a training session in Seville once a year which provides some useful and interesting workshops, as well as a couple of other sessions organised by the aceia organisation during the year.

Finding a Flat- I had a lot of help with this and found a really nice flat. One thing you need to ensure is that you have a flat with good heating and air-conditioning.

The Cost of Living- Andujar is a reasonably-priced place to live- rent is relatively cheap and if you buy your meat, fruit and veg at the market then you save a lot on food too. Going out for a beer or coffee is much cheaper than in England.

Health Cover- Despite going to the doctor’s several times, I don’t feel like I’ve ever overpaid- prescriptions are very reasonably priced- depending on what you need, you normally only have to pay between 1 and 2 euros for medication.

Maria Ardley

Nick

Dates employed: From Sep 2009 and staying on

LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR

The Town- A pleasant, easy-going provincial town, Andujar’s a consistently agreeable, friendly place in which one can quickly get to know the people and language. With all the basic facilities you could need by way of shops, bars, restaurants and cinema, it’s also ideally situated for countryside – the extensive hills of the Sierra Morena – and city, with Cordoba, Jaen and Granada within an hour or two’s easy drive.
Getting Around- Trains and buses offer regular connections to Spain’s major cities and transport hubs and the town and surrounding area encourage and reward exploration by foot.
The School- Small enough to feel fairly intimate, the school’s also extensive enough that everything you need for your lessons is at hand; classrooms are well-equipped and based around an attractive open courtyard.
Materials and Resources- A good range of resources make it easy to supplement lessons, with Interactive Whiteboards being introduced and bringing a new set of possibilities to the classroom.
The Staff- Eight or nine teachers work at the school, each with their own experiences and skills to bring to the staffroom.
Students/Classes/Levels- Students are, across all levels and ages, enthusiastic and keen to learn, and respond well to communicative, challenging teaching – you’ll get a lot out of the children, who make each day different and entertaining.
Teacher Training- The annual ACEIA conference in Seville is an excellent opportunity to get new ideas and hear the views of some of the biggest names in the industry, whilst the organisation’s Guest Speaker scheme allows you to travel to different schools around the region, meet new people and attend interesting sessions.
Finding a Flat- The school give excellent, invaluable help in finding accommodation and orientating oneself in the town, and speaking with experience of only the one landlord, any problems with the flat have always been dealt with almost immediately, with our landlord only too happy to go above and beyond the call of duty to help us. Settling in is quick and incredibly easy – what could be a really difficult time is made wonderfully simple, allowing you to focus on getting into your job and exploring the area.
The Cost of Living- Everything’s pretty affordable here, from flats to food, and it’s easy to live well in the town whilst also being able to see plenty of the city. There’s a good range of eating and drinking options for different budgets and only telephone/internet contracts and electricity bills could be said to be at all expensive.
Health Cover- Although queuing at the surgery can take some getting used to, healthcare is excellent here and you’re always seen quickly and given the right care when needed.
Other relevant comments: Andujar’s a great place from which to get to know Andalucía and Spain, with all the benefits of provincial town-life alongside the proximity to major cities and associated attractions. The town’s a warm, friendly area and the school is an enjoyable place to work that affords staff a range of excellent opportunities.

Nick Adams

Nyk and Lenka

Name: Nyk and Lenka Bigmore
Dates employed: September 2006- June2007

LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR
Andujar is a pleasant place to live. It is an unpretentious working town, with friendly locals, a fabulous daily market (great for fresh foods!) and some vibrant and colourful local festivals. I was initially disappointed by the dearth of bookshops and art galleries, but there is a reasonably good library with helpful staff. And culture-vultures need not despair, for Andujar is extremely well-located for trips to Cordoba, Granada and Seville. For me, the town’s greatest asset is the Andujar National Park, a vast expanse of unspoilt wilderness which starts just a few kilometres to the north. The park is one of the last outposts of the Iberian Lynx, the world’s most endangered ‘big’ cat. On one memorable late spring afternoon, my wife and I were fortunate enough to see one of these exquisitely beautiful creatures basking on a rock. There are numerous other exotic flora and fauna, such as the multi-coloured European Bee-Eater, and the park is a nature-lovers dream.
Getting Around – a) Without a car: It’s really a car culture here (at least in this part of Spain), and local public transport services are not very good. Bus services within Andujar itself are virtually non-existent, but this isn’t really a problem as everything is within 15/20 minutes walking distance. And the bigger cities further afield are quite easy to reach by public transport, especially Cordoba, Seville and Cadiz, which are on a direct rail route which runs through Andujar. (Granada is also a fairly easy bus journey away, although it does involve a change in Jaen). The biggest problem for those without a car is access to the Sierra (National Park). Inexplicably, there are currently no bus services up to the park, so if you don’t have the use of a car, you’re stuck. The fringes of the park are within walking distance of the town, but unless you’ve got lots of time and energy, walking right into the park itself isn’t really an option. For ecologically-minded and/or skint teachers, who don’t want to buy a car, I’d say a bicycle would be a good investment. But be warned, the park is very hilly! b) With a car: Thanks to Julie’s generosity, we’ve had the occasional use of her feisty little Renault for trips at weekends and on Public Holidays. (I’m not sure if this generosity will extend to the next teacher; the car is getting on a bit!) This has been a huge bonus for us, as we’ve been able to explore some of the more remote villages in the area, and get a real taste of rural Andalucia. c) Car or No car?: Opinions differ among the teachers as to whether it is really necessary to buy a car in Spain. One of my colleagues bought a second-hand carquite cheaply, and has found it indispensable, but another has managed without for some time now, and swears it is an unnecessary expense. All I would say is that rural bus services are very infrequent, so if you do want to do a lot of exploring, then you’re going to have to either buy a car or get on your bike!
The school is centrally located in a quiet pedestrian street. The classrooms are quite small, but they overlook a small central courtyard, so they are light and pleasant. Class sizes are also small (no more than 12 students), so the whole class can participate in fun-filled lessons using the recently installed classroom-wide whiteboards!
Materials and Resources – There are loads of supplementary teaching materials to choose from, including lots of games and activities for younger kids. Every thing is very carefully filed away according to the relevant topic area or grammar point, so these invaluable resources are easily accessible. The school has also built up quite a collection of additional stuff, such as balls, animal toys, educational posters, maps, flash cards, and the like, all of which is useful. There are plenty of good quality dictionaries, both monolingual and bilingual, and a huge array of course books, theory books, etc. There are 2 video/dvd players, and the spacious staff room has internet access. Each classroom has its own large box of scissors, glue, crayons, etc.
The Staff – Everyone at the school is very friendly and helpful. I was especially impressed by everyone’s willingness to help me out with tricky phone calls and bureaucratic hiccups in the first few days and weeks. The school is extremely well run, and all the staff have a very professional but relaxed attitude to their work. Julie and Lorraine (the DOS) expect high standards, but are very supportive and encouraging!
Students/Classes/Levels – It’s been both a challenge and a privilege to teach such a range of age groups (from eight year-olds to forty-eight year-olds), and the experience has been very fulfilling. It’s quite a busy schedule, but fortunately everything is well-organized, so you soon get in to a routine. The class sizes are kept very small, which enables you to build up a close rapport with the students. They can be quite noisy at times (perhaps rather more than Northern Europeans!), but this indefatigable liveliness does tend to grow on you. The students are all very friendly, and I’ve had some good laughs.
Teacher Training – Julie is determined to get the best out of her teachers (!), so she provides lots of opportunities for teachers to hone their skills. This happens both within the school (ideas are pooled at regular ‘sessions’, and there are also observed lessons once a term) and also outside the school, at training sessions in Seville and Malaga. At the same time, individual teaching styles are encouraged and respected. All in all, there’s a very supportive and enlightened approach to teacher development.
Finding a Flat – Julie was very helpful, and took me to see quite a few flats, but none of them were quite what I was looking for. In the end I found our flat myself, by simply walking around the town looking for ‘Se Alquila’ (To Rent) signs. I was lucky, in that my wife came over a few weeks after me, and one of my new colleagues kindly put me up during my flat search. These factors enabled me to search around for two weeks. I recognise that teachers coming over with partners or families may not have that luxury, but I would still caution against snap decisions, as rents do seem to vary a lot. Enlist the help of other teachers (I did!), and hunt around.
The Cost of Living – Rents are cheap. Our rent is 300 euros a month including the community charge, which is below average, but then there is no air conditioning, and the fittings are all slightly dodgy. The kindly landlord and the large balcony more than make up for these deficiencies. Electricity prices seem to be comparable to the UK, but Internet/ phone prices are ridiculously high. We’ve been paying up to 100 euros a month, and after living here for almost a year I still don’t understand why. Again, it’s worth shopping around, and if you can avoid Telefonica, do. On the positive side, fresh food is cheap and good.
Health Cover – This is all sorted out by Julie, who makes sure staff and their families have proper medical insurance. Lenka became pregnant here, and the medical care (both at the Local Health Centre and at the brand new hospital on the outskirts of town) has been excellent.
Other relevant comments: Lenka (who is Czech) was offered free English lessons by the school. Through the friends she made in class she became involved in voluntary work in a local primary school (Where she helped present the English Corner on the school radio!). She also found work at a Day Care Centre for Children with Special Needs.
Through these voluntary jobs she arranged weekly English/Spanish conversation exchanges with some of her colleagues, and was thereby able to make quite rapid progress with her spoken Spanish. There is also a very good indoor pool in town, and Lenka really enjoyed the twice-weekly swimming/coffee sessions with staff members and their partners.

Nyk Bigmore
12/05/2007

Nyk Bigmore