Rory Chavasse in Elche

I’ve flown by myself before, but not to a place where I knew no one and had to leave all things familiar behind (including English). The flight was quite late and while I was waiting for my bags to come off the plane my heart was pounding away at 100 miles an hour. When I saw my bag I was thinking oh god it’s time to meet my new family – most scary thing ever! I walked out and there were lots of people waiting for people but out of the corner of my eye I spotted my name on one of those cards (I felt so important having a dedicated card) – that was when I first met my new parents who have been so kind to me! We chatted a bit in the car on the way home but I was very tired – when I say chatted I mean the chatted to me very quickly and I replied in broken, stuttered Spanish or just said “¿Perdón?” When we got home I went straight to bed.

The next day was a Bank Holiday Monday – great I have time to unpack and settle in. Nope went into town and was shown where the city centre, Top School and my High School (ÍES Victoria Kent) were. Their apartment was in the perfect location – literally a 30 second walk from school, 20 minute walk from Top School and town as well. The city is great for pedestrians which is great – pedestrians have the right of way over traffic at zebra crossings – “más fácil”. That evening we drove down to Alicante and walked around the harbour before going to an Aunty who lived there which was really interesting!


Tuesday morning – that means school… They start so early here it’s insane 8am ever morning?? No thank you. But because it was the first day after Easter it started at 8.55 (second class). I met my coordinator Raquel at the gates at 8.30, said goodbye to my host mum and went into the school. We went to the headmistress office and selected my subjects (they do weird subjects here – who knew Plastics was a thing in school??). I then said goodbye to Raquel and went to my first class – Technology. The headmistress introduced me as “un intercambio, de Irlanda” and I walked into a class with a sea of faces looking at me like they’d never seen someone with ginger hair or skin as pale as mine (turns out I’m not the most pale person in my class, lol). I was assigned a person to help me for my first few days, Mateo. I sat down beside him and had no idea what the teacher was saying. She then gave me some pieces of paper and couldn’t explain what they were because she had no English and my Spanish wasn’t very active then – turns out they were permission forms for a trip to the University that Friday (which was really fun!). We the had English class – what a relief! The teacher explained a bit to me about the school – half in English, half in Spanish. The rest of the day was really just me introducing myself to all the teachers.

That afternoon I had my first class with Raquel, which was a series of tests about my Spanish level, not to difficult. The next morning I sat down next to some guys, they were really nice and one had a small bit of English to help complete my sentences when I didn’t know a word. After school we all went to the park and played basket ball for almost an hour, it was really fun – even though I’m pretty bad at basket ball! School really isn’t that bad, I actually love my school even though I’m doing weird subjects, such as “Cultura Científica”, but luckily I got out of having to do “Valenciano”, their version of Irish – apparently just as bad.


Even though the beginning was difficult I’m getting along much better now. I’ve been shown around the “good parts” of the city by my friends and have been buying lost of Spanish pastries and food from the local shops in town. Absolutely loving the food, last weekend we drove to the family home in the countryside where there were 21 of us and they made a HUGE paella which was delicious, I absolutely love paella and “nísperos” (they don’t have an English name) these small juicy orange fruits with an amazing flavour. The other thing I did on my weekend was go to a scouts group with my host brother, who leads a group of 13-16 year olds so it was interesting to mix with more people there too.


My birthday was on my second Saturday and while I spent the morning calling and FaceTiming family and friends, in the afternoon we ate lots of cake and the went out for dinner! I had such an amazing birthday here in the incredible heat and with my family. On Sunday we went down to Santa Pola where they have an apartment shared out between the family in the Summer. It was the first time anyone had been there after the winter so it needed a bit of cleaning?! We went down to the beach, which was beautiful and the had a big lunch!


The people here are so nice and I can’t get over how friendly people are in shops and on the street. After two weeks I’m fine with listening to Spanish, I feel much more confident talking in a conversation now (and can actually have one!) and my classes with Raquel are really beneficial in my opinion. So far this has been an incredible two weeks and I can’t wait to see what experience the next two weeks will bring me! This is just an experience that I couldn’t recommend more to anyone in TY!


Rory Chavasse