Teaching in Portugal
My name is Kevin. I grew up in Billings, MT, but I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder (Go Buffs!) a little over a year ago. As many 20-something recent grads do, I decided I was ready for a change of pace. I have long wanted to teach English abroad, because not only do I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, but I also have a passion for learning languages and would like to help others do the same. This is how I ended up in Valongo, Portugal, where I will serve as an English Language Teaching Assistant for the next two months in a public school. To use an American term, Valongo is a suburb of Porto, the country's second largest city. I visited Porto on my first free day after arrival, and took the photo you see of the river flowing through the city center.
I am spending the first two weeks observing the classroom environment before I begin participating in the lessons, so thus far, I have been getting situated in my new surroundings and learning about the program. I am participating in a government-backed
bilingual education program, which means that I will not just be teaching English. The curriculum is designed for students to learn all of their subjects in a mix of English and Portuguese throughout their school career, with the goal of them being fully bilingual by the time they finish school. So in addition to helping out in English classes, I will also participate in science and history lessons, among other subjects. The students are all under ten years old and in their first few years in the bilingual program, so this will be a great chance to help them become familiar with the language. I do not have much experience with children, as I was the youngest in my family growing up, but it will definitely be a learning experience - after all, I came abroad to step outside my normal comfort zone.
I have also studied the Portuguese language myself in the past, and am looking forward to working on it here and improving my abilities. It's been a challenge so far, as I learned Brazilian Portuguese in school. While I can speak decently well, comprehension is difficult for me, particularly because the accent is noticeably different, and many of the sounds that I am used to listening to as "cues" for certain words do not exist here. But like I said, I came abroad for new experiences, so I am excited to have the opportunity to branch out and learn more as I spend more time here.
Finally, I have already been struck by the generosity of the Portuguese people. It sounds cliché coming from an international traveler, but I have truly been welcomed here. My host family has made it clear that I'm "part of the family," and the teacher coordinating my stay has gone to impressive lengths to make sure I have everything I need to do my job well. They have also both taken me out to meals already, and bought me gifts for my birthday this past week despite only knowing me for a few days.
That is all for now, but I look forward to sharing my experiences with you over the next few months!