Many people often ask, “How can you afford to travel”? Its very simple, I apply for volunteer programs. If you have limited funds, sign up for a volunteer program that offers free things so you can travel for less. In exchange for volunteering, you may receive free accommodations and food during your stay.
I applied to be a volunteer at Diverbo, a language program for teenagers and adults. I requested to teach conversational English to adult students in Spain. I had never been to Europe, so I thought this would be a perfect place to volunteer.
Arriving in Spain
After arriving at Marrakech airport, I was alerted via email that my flight was delayed due to a strike by Air France. My flight was scheduled to leave at 10 pm, unfortunately, the plane did not leave until 4 am the following morning. I had a quick layover in Barcelona. After going to baggage claim in Madrid, I discovered that my luggage had been left in Barcelona. In addition, the free bus offered by Diverbo had left Madrid. Therefore I had to pay 30 Euros to take a 2-hour bus ride to Salamanca, Spain. After arriving in Salamanca, I took a taxi to La Alberca which cost approximately 90 Euros.
After arriving at the hotel, I met a Canadian volunteer named Jacqueline. Unfortunately, I immediately begin to cry after meeting her because I was upset due to the delayed flights and baggage. After getting settled in, Jacqui accompanied me into town and I bought clothes and personal hygiene items. I suggest bringing the following items in your carry-on bag in case your items are lost or delayed: underwear, t-shirt, leggings, toothbrush, and feminine products.
A day in the life of a Diverbo volunteer
9 am- Breakfast includes eggs, bacon, different types of meat, bread, cereal, yogurt, pastries, donuts, juice, and coffee. Even if you are not hungry, you are required to come to all scheduled meals.
10 am – 12 pm- One on One conversation. Each hour a Spanish student and an English volunteer will have a conversation about any topic of your choice. You can talk about your family, employment, school, hobbies, etc.
During my conversations, I chose to play Taboo, a game where you have to guess the word on the top of the card. While playing this game I realized how difficult the English language can be for non-English speakers. In the English language, one word can have multiple meanings. For example, the word DRESSING can be referred to multiple things such as Salad dressing, clothes, food, and a bandage for a wound, etc.
12 pm – 1 pm- Small group discussions. During this time, the group will be provided with prompts to facilitate group discussion. Topics included: Social media affects on millennials, Goals for the future, and many more.
2 pm- Lunch is the largest meal in Spain. Meal includes an appetizer, main dish, bread, water, and wine. At lunch, you will have the opportunity to continue to conversate with each other. This will continue to create learning opportunities for Spanish students.
3 pm – 5 pm Siesta time. In Spanish siesta means a nap. Take advantage of this time to sleep or relax in your room. On the last day of the program, I enjoyed the lovely pool facilities. It was 20 Euros and you had access to the swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room, and exercise equipment.
5 pm – 9 pm- The activities varied during this time. Although you may not be an actor, you will participate in skits. This will allow you to role play and step out of your comfort zone. I am an actress, so I enjoyed this part of the program.
Conference Calls- The English volunteers will be placed in one room and the Spanish will be in another room. You will be given prompts on what to say during the conference calls. This activity challenges the Spanish speaker as it is a bit more difficult to understand and or talk when you are not sitting in front of the person. This activity is useful because Spanish speakers often have to communicate via phone at work and it is necessary to be able to effectively communicate with customers.
9 pm- Dinner included appetizer, main dish, dessert and wine
After dinner-The activities varied during this time. One evening we had a dance party and danced the night away to oldies music. Another evening we had story time and song representation from each country (America, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Spain, and the UK)
**It is to be noted that you get 10-minute breaks during each hour**
On Wednesday we deviated from our normal program. We had a history tour of La Alberca which consisted of lunch, wine and cheese pairing, and shopping.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Couples are welcome.
- Diverbo has programs in Germany and Spain.
- No prior teaching experience needed.
- A teaching certificate such as TEFL or TESOL is not required.
- The program is free. You will have your own room and all meals are provided
- You are responsible for your flight but transportation to volunteer site will be provided
- The program length is 7 days. It will begin on a Friday and end the following Friday. There is a Welcome dinner on Thursday before the program starts.
- You will help Spanish students learn English by non-traditional teaching. The goal is to improve conversational English.
- Although Spanish is widely spoken in Spain, you do not need to know Spanish while at Diverbo because you can only speak English while volunteering.
- As an adult volunteer, you must be at least 18 years old but there is no maximum age limit (the oldest couple in my group was over 70 years old).
- Submit an online application. The first email from Diverbo will state whether or not you have been accepted into the program. The second email will inform you of available dates and site selections. The whole process took approximately a month to complete but can take longer.
Experience from participants
Maria Spaniard Student– It’s incredible how your mind works when you only speak English for the week. My vocabulary improved and more importantly, I learned how to think and respond in English instead of Spanish. The best thing is I had the opportunity to be with an amazing group of people. Being around various personalities, I learned a lot about other cultures and how they think. I recommend Diverbo experience.
Colette Candian Volunteer– “This was my second time here. I plan to make this an annual event, it’s so much fun!”
Rafael Spaniard Student– “Diverbo was the best experience I have ever had in my life. I improved my speaking fluency and met lots of friends”.
Ammo UK Volunteer- I have been an English volunteer 14 times. Each program is special because of the various participants. The Spanish students are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. But what truly makes the program unique are the volunteers. People fly from all over the world and give their time and energy to help total strangers improve there English. I can now travel to any part of the world to meet up with life long friends that I have encountered at Diverbo. If you are thinking about volunteering, my advice is to just go for it.
Melissa Canadian Volunteer– I had a wonderful time meeting so many beautiful people from around the world! It was a great way to experience Spain and Spanish culture and the Spaniards were so fantastic. I now have such lovely friends that I will now keep in touch with.
Ria American Volunteer– I am a big fan of Diverbo. Salamanca 2019 was my second volunteering experience. Last year I did a program in Laubach, Germany. Both programs were similar but also unique in a few minor ways. In both programs, there were amazing people, delicious food, charming accommodations, and an all-around well-structured program.
Tiffany USA Volunteer– It was interesting to interact with English speakers from around the world. Although we speak a common language we may use different words to describe the same word. Some of the Spanish students stated they clearly understood the Canadian speakers. In my opinion, I could not differentiate between Canadians and Americans voices. LOL, I’m sure they would disagree with me.
After describing English words and phrases, I noticed that the English grammar rules sometimes don’t make common sense. As a native English speaker, the rules don’t sound strange until you are trying to teach it to someone who is not a native speaker.
I enjoyed the program and highly recommend applying to be a volunteer. After hearing all about the program and my experience, does this seem like something you would be interested in exploring?
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