Vaughan Town, Barco De Avila, Spain

Vaughan Town, Barco De Avila, Spain

A little over a year ago we came across a program that interested us in Spain – Vaughan Town. Vaughan Town is operated by Vaughan Systems, an English language school in Madrid. The school offers week long immersion programs for their students where they will spend 80 hours communicating in English with a variety of native English speakers (Anglos). The English speakers are volunteers who are provided accommodation and food for the week in exchange for their services. We figured spending a week in a hotel near Madrid and speaking to Spanish people sounded fun and so we signed up.

We had no idea at the time what we were getting into, but am I glad that we did.

The experience begins with Saturday night tapas at a small restaurant. It is here that you meet the program coordinator, MC, and most (if not all) of the other Anglos. Over 2 hours you talk, drink and eat and get your briefing. For this trip we had a variety of ages and nationalities (Australian, English, American and Canadian). The following morning the Anglos and Spaniards met outside the Vaughan offices for the bus and our immersion experience. The general rule of Vaughan town is that there must always be an Anglo/Spaniard mix and the bus is no exception. For around an hour each of us talked to a complete stranger, gauging their level of English and adapting our speech to accommodate their needs. At the end of the hour we pulled into a truck stop for a quick break before continuing the journey with a new person. By the time we arrived at Gredos we were already familiar with two Spaniards.

Upon arrival there is an orientation followed by lunch (Lunch and dinner are always three courses and served with wine and water). Meals are part of the immersion experience and each table has two Spaniards and two Anglos. During the meals it is expected that everyone at the table will contribute to the conversation. Meals became an excellent way to get to know everyone and their stories.

Our week together is predominately a series of one-to-one conversations where a student and Anglo are paired for 50 minutes, a telephone conversation and a conference call, group activities, as well as a range of theatre performances. The students also had to give 10 minute presentations on any topic in English!

Vaughan Town, Barco De Avila, Spain

What makes the Vaughan Town experience extraordinary is the relationships you build. During our time here we made many wonderful new friends and were able to learn of Spanish culture in a unique and intense way.

When you are forced to communicate with someone you don’t know over a specific period of time conversations can take some strange turns. You begin by talking about who you are and where you come from, your family and all the general small talk and before you know it you talking about each other’s passions, sharing stories of triumph and tragedy, philosophy, life and everything in between. It’s not that this happens with everyone, but I found many times that the conversations became so deep it would be hard to think of these people as anything other than close friends.

Vaughan Town, Barco De Avila, Spain

In the evenings were a number of performances by the Anglos and students. Some of the performances were straight up comedy, while others were educational or musical. Everyone left their comfort zone behind and embraced the experience.

When it was over, Rina and I stayed in Madrid for the week and almost every day we met with someone from Vaughan town and shared more life together. Such is the experience and the depth of friendships that can be made through an experience such as this. If you are at all open to the idea of spending a week talking English with a bunch of passionate Spanish people and having a unique experience (there were veterans with us who told us that each and every one is different) I heartily recommend it.

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