We did a quick interview with one of our summer students about their volunteer experience. Here’s a summary of the interview, in case you want to know what it’s like to take a volunteering program in Valencia!
Why did you choose to come to Valencia?
It was a combination of coincidence and opportunity. Every summer my university offers our students global internships and among these, some offered Spanish courses in Spain. After I compared prices and terms of different organizations, I decided on Euroace. I preferred Euroace and Valencia because it was more affordable and reasonable (opportunity abroad doesn’t have to be luxury). Secondly Euroace offered to pick me up at the airport, which wasn’t possible with the other organizations. Airport pickup is very important for a newcomer anywhere. Thirdly, I chose Valencia because it’s the third city after Madrid and Barcelona, and big cities offer more opportunities and exchange, also I loved Valencia’s position near the sea.
For how long have you come?
I am on a 2 months program, from July 13th -September 7th.
Initially, I came for a Spanish course at Euroace and an internship, but I ended up doing a mix of volunteering and an internship, so I got the best of both worlds. Both volunteering and internship give you practical experience and exposure to real-life situations in an organization. You learn different skills and reinforce knowledge.
What kind of volunteering have you experienced?
I volunteered at ACCEM giving support to the homeless. Tasks like registration, food, showers, washing clothes, internet, charging phones, safe storage of their belongings because they have no home. This is a crucial entry point for interaction and conflict resolution where social workers access their moods and get a sense of what they experienced the day before or on the weekend to orient them; counseling and orientation for job search, housing, filing, medical assistance with social workers; refugee and immigrants.
I worked in the first section registering them for the internet, charging their phones, managing the shower list and above all, talking with them to know why they are there.
What are some of the main benefits of a study abroad experience for you?
I did international development, plus public administration + policy-making. Being here in Spain has exposed me to the Spanish context of policy-making processes and relations with developing countries, especially Africa. It helped me to understand things I can’t back in Toronto. For example, I took courses in refugees and migration studies and heard about illegal immigrants crossing the ocean to reach Spain, Italy, Greece, etc. I read about it in books and saw it on TV. But here in Spain I met with these immigrants every day, I saw their living conditions here, they told me their stories and I had a better understanding of some of the causes behind their immigration. Contrary to what we are always told ‘people flee because of wars and poverty in Africa’, I found that Spain’s labour market is structured in such a way that it needs and attracts those illegal immigrants. When there was a boom in the construction and agriculture sectors, who were the people working? The same illegal immigrants we are accusing. So I had to come here to see that the problem is not always in the country of origin but equally in the host country. That is why I did well to come here to do my own investigation.
What did you like the most about your volunteer work?
Absolutely everything, easy and difficult. There is no point in doing something I already know. It’s not whether I like anything or not but what it teaches me.
How would you compare the Canadian and Spanish culture?
First off every culture is different and has its own merit. Though I can be out of water for sometime, I never expect to find the same Canadian things in Spain. I expected to be surprised and to learn new things, new ways of doing things.
Now to the chase. Here in Valencia, people easily refer to traditions and food like ‘Tomatina’ ‘paella, horchata’, etc and it seems to be shared nationally or locally. Not so much in Toronto or Canada. I can’t think of a traditional or typical Canadian meal shared by everybody. Maybe fast food like ‘Tim Hortons’ ‘Chicken wings’ but it is not traditional in the Spanish sense. If you go to Aboriginals then yes. Things that happen in Canada are too much ‘globalized’, ‘Americanized’, etc. Plus different nationalities in Toronto celebrate traditions from their countries of origin. So that is not something shared by all Canadians. Here there seems to be a ‘Spanish tradition’ of sort.
Why do you want to learn Spanish?
It sounds ‘sexy’ haha and it is a beautiful language. A big reason is that there is a trade agreement between Canada, the USA and Mexico and as an international developing practitioner I want to do business with Latinos. It is a big market and there are a lot of them in Canada. Speaking Spanish will give me an edge when dealing with them.
What has been the best part about your program in Valencia so far?
I love every single part of it!
For more information on our Volunteering programs, check out our website here.