In our previous interview, Edgar Llivisupa spoke about his day-to-day routine at his school. He gave us an update on his Valenciano and how he had been practicing with his colleagues at school. When we spoke he was uncertain what his summer would look like, but hoped he would be able to stay in Spain until August. We recently caught up and Edgar shared how COVID-19 impacted the end of his school year. He also shares advice and guidance for teachers who are thinking about moving abroad. Read on to learn more about his plans when he gets back to the USA.
What has been the most important thing you learned while teaching abroad so far?
“This year, I had to work with a new colleague to instruct art classes. She had a difficult time adapting to our school and students initially because she was dealing with personal matters. Unaware of that, I learned to hide my frustration and anger since I did little work with the kids. Often, I sat in the classroom and waited for students to arrive. I got into the habit of working on material for my other classes to pass the time.
I had hit the ground running in private tutoring sessions and classes where I worked with my tutor. These sessions left me feeling confident. For many classes, I was able to suggest ideas and provide input as I knew the capability of the kids. I felt like I was doing great work with everyone and learning how to be a more effective teacher. With my new colleague, I decided to maintain a professional relationship. I prefer to avoid confrontations. By March, I had figured out a way to coordinate teaching more effectively with her. She quickly told me that she felt more confident.”
Have you accomplised your goals while living in Spain for your second year?
“My main goals were learning to live with roommates, improve my language skills, wrap up my travels across Europe and learn more about Spanish and Valencian cuisine. I was successful with each, especially in learning about the country’s cuisine. This being my second year, I became more familiar with the cuisines of the different regions in Spain, which meant I was more excited to travel and try local specialties. Later on, the quarantine was an excuse for me to cook all day, every day. Unfortunately, I quarantined alone during that time so I had to eat all the food by myself. It actually became a serious challenge to maintain a waistline while planning my diet around the dishes I learned.
For example, when I had different rice dishes planned, I compensated by only eating fruit for breakfast and in between meals that day. I made Spanish desserts the same month I went to Western Spain and had the chance to walk a lot of the calories off. In addition to being able to improve my own cooking skills, my colleagues and peers also had good things to say when they tried my food. They commended my culinary abilities and attention to detail.”
What has been the biggest challenge about living in Ontinyent, Spain for two years?
“The connection I have to this town and way of living has made it difficult for me to leave. I love my students and colleagues. My time at the school wasn’t toxic or drama filled like I’ve read in other anecdotes. My town is small and quaint, yet only an hour away from Valencia, a moderately-sized city with more transportation options that connect to other regions of the country. I prefer Otinyent over New York. In New York, the cost of living is significantly higher, which prevents me from the current lifestyle I’ve had for the past two years.”
What advice would you give on how to deal with being an expat for two years? Do you have any advice for other teachers about to travel abroad for the first time?
“Letting go is a part of life. This fact is learned at different stages in life by everyone. Knowing this helps me. I know I will have to say goodbye to an incredible experience. At the same time, I’ll have to face an arguable downgrade in terms of quality of life back home eventually. However, this fact can also help anyone about to begin their travels and life abroad for the first time. I feel that many expats may be inclined to preserve their American way of life, but I think it’s beneficial to let go and be more open to experiencing the host country’s culture. You can learn so much if you live like others do. Opening up to different experiences is the main reason I prefer living abroad to traveling. I was able to take time and change my lifestyle by opening up to Spain’s culture.”
How has teaching abroad helped with your overall professional goals?
“Given that my background is a field unrelated to teaching, I am unsure at how much these two years teaching abroad can help me in my professional career. The greatest benefit I can see is that I know I am able to relocate to another continent and embrace the culture.”
What was your most memorable moment at your school and in class this year?
“My tutor and I have a great working relationship. I do anything she asks of me as long as she allows me to be inquisitive. I often joke that if she asked me to jump off a bridge, my reply would be, “do you think that would be a good idea” before doing so anyways.
One week she asked me to look at the card game Los Hombres Lobo de Castronegro, hoping that I could play it in class with the students. It’s a card game where a large group of players are divided between citizens or werewolves. After some exposition, each player votes on whether or not their fellow citizens are a werewolf. It was a tough assignment. I had to understand the rules of the game in Spanish, translate it to English, then simplify it so my tutor could follow. Then, I had to simplify it even more so Year 5 could understand the game in English.
I played as the narrator for the game, teaching the students how to play with gestures. It was one of the few activities I led in its entirety. I only alerted my tutor, the school’s English teacher, right before class that I introduced a new rule. The students were fans and never discovered that the game is entirely in Spanish.”
How have you been managing your time and teaching during the Coronavirus?
“At the beginning of coronavirus, my tutor asked me for help in creating activities and learning materials for whatever the students were learning at the time, like Easter, animals, or daily activities. However, as time passed, she asked less from me so I tended to other tasks, like learning Spanish cuisine. I offered private English classes for a few weeks, but my students stopped asking me for classes. I found teaching online, because of social distancing, quite difficult once quarantine began, so it might have been for the best.”
What has your school and region in Spain done to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
“The regional government sent an official notice on March 13 to all schools stating that there would be no classes starting the week after. That gave the teachers the afternoon to gather materials to take home and start online teaching. Like other educators, my school relied on sending online assignments as well as holding an occasional teleconference with the entire class. Aside from that, the regional government established a hotline and website for those who were suspicious of contracting the virus.”
What will you do when you get back to the USA?
“I will be positioning myself so I can live abroad again within two years after returning to the states. This means I need to complete my degree and start working to pay off the majority of the debt I’ve accumulated over the past two years of living abroad. I don’t have a desire to live in the states long-term, as I want to continue learning about different cultures. I’ve narrowed down my destinations to either return to Spain and complete my travel plans to Italy and the Canary Islands that had been interrupted, or to start over in Mexico and begin traveling the Americas to learn about my roots.”
Living in Ontinyent, Spain While Social Distancing
Edgar is a writer for Dreams Abroad and will continue to write for us after he returns to the United States. He isn’t certain where his travel plans will take him, but he does have some excellent trips to share from this past year. In addition, he will also be writing about different culinary dishes from different regions of Spain and Europe. For now, he is continuing to social distance himself from others while living in Spain. Be on the lookout for more from Edgar!