As a teacher in the United States, I like to look for affordable trips for my summer holidays. Since my favorite spot to visit is Spain, getting there inexpensively is a tall order. However, last summer I discovered what I like to call “the best kept secret on the planet.” Formerly known as Pueblo Ingles, Diverbo is a company whose objective is to bring Spanish speakers closer to foreign languages and help them lose their fear about speaking English. How is this accomplished? English speaking volunteers from around the world are brought to various venues throughout Spain (and also Germany) to be immersed in a week of English. No Spanish is allowed; so if the extent of your Spanish consists of hola and adios… no worries!
How it works:
English volunteers must first get to Madrid via planes, trains or automobiles (this part of the trip isn’t covered). In Madrid, volunteers meet for a Welcome Reception, which is basically an orientation lunch and flamenco show the day before program begins. Here, volunteers meet each other and are given an idea of the game plan for the next week. The next day, volunteers meet at the Diverbo office in Madrid. Here, Anglos and Spaniards get on a tour bus, and are paired as seatmates on a 3-6 hour trip (depending on the venue you choose). From the moment the bus takes off from Madrid, Spanish is prohibited, and the immersion experience begins! It is the beginning of an amazing learning experience- for Anglos and Spaniards alike!
Upon arrival at your venue, you are given the first of many wonderful meals provided by Diverbo. All activities at Diverbo are strategically planned, and dining is no exception. Anglos and Spaniards are seated together at all meals to promote continual English immersion opportunities.
Accommodations & Dining:
The payment for your week’s worth of teaching at Diverbo comes in the form accommodations, all meals and entertainment. The accommodations and grounds at each Diverbo venue are amazing. Each Anglo gets his or her own separate bedroom/bathroom, and typically shares a villa with a Spaniard- thus ensuring that the immersion experience continues for the entire week! The meals are amazing. One never leaves Diverbo hungry or not well rested!
Not a teacher?
No worries! The focus of “instruction” at Diverbo is one-to-one conversations (about life, current events, family, or whatever you choose), two-to-two conversations, group activities, theater, mock conference calls and phone sessions. All volunteers have clear instructions on what to do, and all activities are extremely well orchestrated and planned. In addition, English volunteers serve as audience members/critics while Spaniards give presentations.
Who are the students? Adding to the allure of Diverbo is the amazing and diverse group of Spaniards that attend the program. Participants range in age from 18- 70, and come from all walks of life. University students, doctors, lawyers, architects, business professionals, teachers, advertising executives, secretaries and financial professionals are common Spanish students. Volunteers come from diverse professional backgrounds as well. While many teachers are naturally attracted to the program, volunteers are certainly not limited to educators. In fact, Diverbo encourages all backgrounds to apply, to add to the diversity of the community! The age of volunteers is diverse also; in my program, the youngest volunteer was 20, while the oldest was in his 70’s. In addition, volunteers come from all over the world- Canada, the U.S., England, Israel, Ireland, Scotland, and Australia to name a few… it is truly an international gathering of minds!
The daily schedule:
The day goes from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., but I would hardly consider it as “work.” Breakfast is at 9:00 a.m. From 10 a.m. until 1:45 p.m., Anglos and Spaniards are paired for conversation sessions that take place around the grounds. The pairs decide the topic and location. Want to walk and chat? No problem! Prefer a quiet conversation by a shade tree overlooking the Spanish terrain? This is fine too! Lunch is at 2 p.m. (complete with wine; a special plus for this American!), and from 3:00- 5:00 p.m. participants are given a siesta/free time. At my venue (La Alberca), I took advantage of the venue’s beautiful pool some days, and walked to the nearby village on other days. Evening sessions begin promptly at 5:00 p.m., with dinner at 9:00. While the days are jam packed, it doesn’t feel like work, but more like an international community of friends meeting and sharing their lives. After dinner, cultural activities, dancing, and entertainment are offered.
How to apply:
For more information on the venues, schedules, and how to apply, please visit diverbo.com. Once there, click to “volunteer to teach English.” Here, you’ll get additional information on the various venues in Spain, including: La Alberca (near Salamanca), Candeleda (near Ávila), Cazorla (in south central Spain), and Els Avets (in Sorpe, Lleida -northern Spain). There is also one location in Black Forest Hornberg-Niederwasser, Germany.
Next, you begin the application process, which begins with Diverbo’s 5-step application form. The information you provide will help them decide if you are eligible to join the program. Next, you choose the date of the program you’d like to attend. Diverbo checks the date with your profile to see if you are a good fit for the program you selected. After Diverbo has accepted you and you confirm with them, you can start planning your trip. You’ll need to provide Diverbo with your travel and accommodations info so they know you’re really coming! After everything is confirmed, you’ll receive reminders and details a few weeks before the start of the program to make sure you’re in touch with your group.
Additional thoughts and advice:
Getting to Madrid a day in advance of the Welcome Reception is a good idea, depending on where you’re coming from. It’ll give you a chance to adjust to the time zone and get a taste of Spanish life. Regarding lodging in Madrid- Diverbo has recommendations on places to stay; you can also go on the Diverbo Facebook page and ask past participants for advice on places to stay.
If you have extra travel time, I recommend reserving your travels for after the program. Chances are, you’ll have 20 or more new Spanish friends to give you advice on where to go, and perhaps even offer invitations to their homes!
In addition to opportunities for adults to volunteer and teach English, there are also similar opportunities for teens aged 13-17. If you’d rather learn Spanish than volunteer, there are also immersion opportunities for adults and teens alike. (The only catch is you’ll have to pay for these, BUT note that English volunteers who complete a program receive a hefty discount on future language experiences. So, volunteer this summer, and take a program next!)
My final advice- if you can do this and it seems remotely interesting to you, by all means go for it! It can be a life-changing experience! Nearly one year later, I still feel as if I have 49 international friends I can call on in a moment’s notice all around the world. That… is something you don’t get from every travel experience! For an account of my journey to La Alberca, please see my article entitled “Magic” on my website, imrunnerchica.com.