¡Hola! I’m Nick, I’m studying Politics and Spanish at Swansea Uni and this year I’m living in the region of Extremadura in Spain, working as a teaching assistant. When I found out that I’d been assigned to the rural pueblito of Moraleja I wasn’t exactly over the moon, given the tiny population of 7,000 people, the lack of a train station and the extremely limited amount of information that Wikipedia provided on the town. Many of my fears became a reality as I arrived at 11pm one night at the end of September, with many of the locals staring at me as I trudged my suitcase down the road towards the town’s only hotel, and at a first glance it appeared I’d travelled back in time 20 years. However, I quickly adapted to life here and learnt that Moraleja was not the technology-less town I worried it would be, and has proved to be a lovely, if not quiet home.
The biggest obstacle I found with regards to technology was purchasing a wi-fi router. In Wales, my friends and I purchased unlimited wi-fi for a mere £5 per month each, a stark contrast to here in Spain. As I live alone in a flat (finding another person looking for accommodation in such a small town proved impossible!) I had no choice but to pay to full price of €35 per month myself. This may not seem so bad, but I am only given 30GB of data a month, meaning I am rarely able to use services such as Netflix or Spotify, the benefits of which I relished back in Swansea! Speaking to Spanish friends of mine, I have learnt that paying a high price for internet access is the norm in Spain, and they were barely able to believe that I paid just £5 for unlimited internet access in Wales.
This limited internet in my flat clearly has its downsides – I often must wait until I am in school to complete any tasks that require internet (the town’s library is rarely open!). However, this conundrum has forced me to get out-and-about and practice my Spanish a lot more, which is clearly a huge advantage. I’ve also rediscovered my love of books as I’ve become on less reliant on Netflix and Facebook as a means of entertainment. Many of the other teachers at the school I work at have also only recently moved here, due to the Spanish educational system forcing less experienced teachers to move around the region each year. These teachers share my predicament of not wanting to invest so much money into unlimited wi-fi; a couple of them even opted not to purchase any internet at all. Due to this, we frequently spend our afternoons on walks, taking advantage of the main advantage of living rurally – the stunning environment! All-in-all I would suggest that having less technological comforts has been an unexpected blessing.
Another thing I had to do upon arriving in Spain was buy a SIM card for my phone. Luckily this was a reasonably simple thing to do, however as with the wi-fi, it has proven to be a pricey expenditure. There is an Orange store in Moraleja, so I was able to go in during my first week and purchase a SIM. I pay €20 a month and receive 2GB of data, with 30 minutes of calls per month and no texts. This is hardly ideal in contrast to my £10 a month contract in the UK which offers me a lot more. However, in Spain these things tend to cost a lot more. The main thing I use the SIM for is data, which is especially important when I’m travelling around Spain on the weekends as I need to be able to access Google Maps or contact my friends in case of a change of plans. One thing I like about SIMs here in Spain is that even when you have run out of internet data, you can still use Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger for the rest of the month.
One of the principal differences between Wales and Spain in terms of social media is the reliance that the Spanish people have on Whatsapp. Back home, I had Whatsapp on my phone but only used it occasionally – generally favouring Facebook Messenger, texting or an old-fashioned phone call. Here however, everything is done over Whatsapp. I receive information regarding my lesson plans and timetables from the other teachers over Whatsapp. My Bla Bla Car (a ride-sharing app) drivers will contact me over Whatsapp and even my landlady sends me my bills over Whatsapp! In Spain I have seldom met a person who is not frequently checking their Whatsapp; this huge dependence on one social media app certainly surprised me.
Technology in the school is very different to what we are used to in the UK. Most classrooms do have an interactive whiteboard which is integral for me as most my job involves giving presentations! However, there is just one (rather old fashioned) computer in each room and the school doesn’t possess an IT lab like the ones we have in high schools in the UK. The staff room also only contains two computers, which proves to be troublesome as there are more than 70 teachers in the school, all wanting to print off worksheets or work on presentations. I have started taking my laptop into school with me now to do work, whereas for the first two months I had to plan my arrival to school dependent on when I thought there would be a free computer. In hindsight, I should have brought my laptop to school back then!
Due to the solitude of Moraleja, I spend most of my weekends in a city in the south of Extremadura called Badajoz. Here, I have found a lot more similarities to Swansea, given its greater size. In Badajoz I have other British friends and we’re able to go out clubbing and meet new people in a way that is much more familiar to me than Moraleja. I’m sure my future blogs will feature Badajoz a lot more, as this is where many of my best experiences here in Spain have taken place. I look forward to sharing my future experiences with you soon, hasta luego!