Volunteering at Vaughan Town in Spain: A Cultural Experience

by Nora Dunn on July 12, 2010

As I sit on the bus departing from the old restored town of Valdelavilla for the second of my two weeks of volunteering in Spain, I am very sad. But then I reflect on the dozens of new friends I have all over the world; I imagine how and when we’ll see each other again, and I’m energized and excited.

my digs in Valdelavilla

A few years ago, I read an article online about how I could have an all-expenses paid trip in Spain, in exchange for simply conversing in English with Spaniards who want to improve their conversational English skills. I wasn’t sure it was a legitimate opportunity (it seemed too good to be true), but I bookmarked it anyway, figuring I could investigate it when I eventually made it to Spain to visit Madrid and beyond.

So in planning my European trip, I knew that Madrid would be my first port of call so I could check out this volunteer opportunity.


Vaughan Town Overview

Vaughan Town lived up to its reputation and word, and is indeed a legitimate volunteer experience. Although it’s not exactly too good to be true (you certainly earn your keep), it’s one of the most rewarding cultural experiences I could have possibly hoped for in Spain.

And I didn’t even get to speak a word of Spanish.

The program is paid for mainly by Spanish companies who send their employees on a week-long “retreat” to improve their English skills. English is an important part of business in Spain, and many companies are willing to pay top dollar to help their employees become more fluent. Other Spanish attendees include individuals, and some post-secondary school programs that incorporate it into their curriculum.

Thus, the English-speaking volunteers attend the program for free, their value inherent simply in being willing and able to dedicate a week to chatting in English with the program participants.


Getting There

After meeting some of the “Anglos” (as we’re referred to throughout the week) at a tapas reception on Saturday night in Madrid, we are loaded onto a bus on Sunday morning. Although Vaughan Town has a few locations outside of Madrid, both of my volunteer weeks take place at Valdelavilla, which I’ll discuss shortly. Although most of the people on the bus are Anglos, a few Spaniards who live in Madrid also tag along for the ride.

our lunch stop

our lunch stop

After a four hour drive and a stop for lunch in an old Spanish town, we arrive at Valdelavilla. We sit through an orientation session where we officially meet the week’s Master of Ceremonies (Greg), we each introduce ourselves, and learn what the week holds in store for us.

“We don’t have a lot of rules here,” Greg starts, “but we do have one that we’re quite serious about: No Spanish allowed! If we overhear you speaking in Spanish, you’ll get a warning. If we hear you do it again, you’ll be asked to leave. We mean it! You’re all here to speak in English, and all the Spaniards have enough English skills to get by. Use it and improve it!”

With this point of seriousness and the orientation out of the way, we meander down through the old village to the reception building and check into our rooms.

Valdelavilla "main street"


Valdelavilla

Valdelavilla from a distance

Valdelavilla is a tiny Spanish town in northern Spain (near Soria) that was abandoned in the 1960s due to changing demographics and industry, and restored in the 90’s. It is nestled at the base of a green mountainous valley, 2kms vertically below the nearest road to anywhere. Although there is a WiFi connection (albeit only available in a small range and at less than admirable speeds), cell phones cease to work about 2/3 of the way down the road into the village. The lack of technology adds to the ambiance; Valdelavilla is isolated, charming, and stunningly beautiful.

As participants of the Vaughan Town program, we pretty much take over the town. When Vaughan Town doesn’t use the village, it is rented out for weddings, corporate retreats, and private functions. I believe individuals can also visit for a meal, a walk, or an overnight stay as well.

Accommodation is provided in the restored village houses, and in most cases up to five people are put up in each house, each person receiving their own room with ensuite bathroom. Although the amenities are rustic and at times a touch impractical (for example there is many a doorway and shower stall that is less than five feet tall!), it adds to the overall charm, as you can feel the history that prevails in Valdelavilla.

the view from my room

the view from my room

As a side note, the other Vaughan Town site is held in a very different location, at a large hotel that is part of a larger fully operational Spanish town. Each location has its own flavour and tone. Although I only have one frame of reference in the Valdelavilla experience, I also love it through and through.


Each Day’s Events

The Anglos are a varied group; an intentional mix of ages, accents, and backgrounds. This is intended to expose the Spaniards a wide variety of conversation styles and sounds, improving their global English skills.

And as I said earlier, the Anglos (English-speaking volunteers) earn their keep on the program, with a busy schedule and lots of talking.

Breakfast begins at 9am, as does the conversation. We are instructed to ensure that there is an equal mix of Anglos and Spaniards at each table during meals, and we mix and match at will.

mealtime

At 10am, we begin the “one-to-ones”. The program coordinator creates a schedule each day that pairs off the Anglos and Spaniards each hour for – you got it – English conversation. We can talk about anything under the sun, although we are cautioned against religion, politics, and the standard “what do you do, where do you do it” cocktail chat. I initially worry what I could possibly talk about with so many different people each hour, but almost never find dead air during the one-to-one sessions. In fact, an hour is a perfect amount of time to have a well-rounded conversation (often accompanied by a walk on the surrounding trails) before moving on to a new person and different conversation.

After four hours of one-to-one chatting, lunch is served at 2pm. Although for the Anglos this initially seems to be very late, it is the Spanish norm, and is a routine we all slip into fairly quickly.

Lunch is a three-course meal which normally lasts about an hour and a half, and then it’s siesta time! We have free time until 5pm, which many people use in different ways: catching up on work, surfing the internet, sleeping, walking, playing ball, and even (more) chatting.

At 5pm we reconvene for three more hours of one-to-one sessions before attending a performance at 8pm. Each night’s performance is coordinated and directed by our fearless master of ceremonies, and the cast members are none other than us! Entertainment ranges from skits that Greg has dredged up from his days as a director (participants getting time each day to rehearse in lieu of doing one-to-ones), to videos, to individual participants strutting their stuff – singing, reciting poetry, telling jokes, etc.

Not surprisingly with my acting background, I am a willing participant in the skits, and I even sing a few songs for (and at the request of) the audience.

one of the skits I perform in

one of the skits I perform in

Dinner is served at 9pm each day. Again although it seems incredibly late for most Anglos, it is actually a touch early for many Spaniards! Three more courses of delicious food later, we roll out of the dining room around 10:30pm.


As the Week Rolls By

At the beginning of the week, many of us are exhausted by the time dinner finishes, and most retire to their rooms after dinner. The days are intense and long especially for the Spaniards, with a full schedule and constant inner attention to translating Spanish to English. The Anglos have it a little easier; receiving a periodic hour of free time now and then (since there are about 17 Anglos and 15 Spaniards) and speaking in their native tongue. But the Spaniards are thrown into the fire to learn and improve their English – and that they do.

By the time Wednesday rolls around, we are all over the initial hump and are gaining our second wind. The Spaniards are more relaxed in their English, and find they are thinking less about what they have to say. This paves the way for even more interesting and fun conversations about just about anything under the sun. During my one-on-ones we speak about things like philosophy, literature, life in the South of Spain, family practices, relationships, geography, and even cheesy pick-up lines.

Friendships are also starting to develop, and the nights are getting progressively longer. More and more people stay up after dinner to play cards, listen to music, drink, and even dance. Depending on the group, there are usually a few party animals burning the midnight oil by taking the party to their house after the bar closes at midnight.

By Thursday night, we are geared up for a full party after dinner, complete with a special Quemada ceremony (a Spanish flaming drink that comes with a ritual to scare away bad spirits), music, and dancing. Even some of the village staff emerges from the kitchen and offices to join in the festivities.

the Quemada

the Quemada

dancing the night away

dancing the night away

By Friday morning, we arrive at a late breakfast a little bleary eyed, but still speaking English enthusiastically. We do a few more one-to-ones before having an early lunch and piling back on the bus for the drive back to Madrid.

Hugs and kisses are exchanged all around, emails and pictures promised, and often places to stay offered. In fact, after my first week of volunteering, I traveled with some of the Anglos to Toledo for a day trip, before enjoying the gracious hospitality of one of the Spaniards for the next week! After my second week of volunteering with Vaughan Town, I again was offered a place to stay for a night before heading to the airport for an early flight.


The Cultural Experience

Although I initially balked at my decision to focus two of my three weeks in Spain on this volunteer program where I was isolated and not even able to speak in Spanish, I found it to be one of the most rewarding cultural experiences I could possibly have asked for.

Under no other circumstances could I possibly have met so many different Spaniards from all over the country, learned about their lives, and been invited into their homes and hearts. Staying in a hostel, I would never have met any of these people, much less had so many meaningful one-to-one conversations with them.

Even meeting so many Anglos from all over the world – I now have friends in London, Ireland, South Africa, and the States, to name just a few places. And I will be seeing many of these people again – some soon, some later.

I love Spain as a country, and have vowed to come back as soon as possible. And part of my Spanish travel itinerary – without a doubt – will be to return to Valdelavilla for some more volunteering with Vaughan Town.


If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with Vaughan Town, visit this site to submit an application.

 

 

 

{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin Ellstrom October 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I am in Spain and have volunteered, so I’ll fill in my experience. I live in Madrid, also winters… it’s COLD because houses are built to keep cool in summer… I volunteered same week in Valdelavilla as Nora, her first encounter. I lent out clothes to freezing inadequate dressed anglos. I got a deep cold… old, humid stone houses. Not that that should stop anyone, the weather was untypical for the time. I am not anglo, but Norwegian. I learned English for everyday use while living in Australia for nearly six years. I was impressed by the total experience of the anglo group. Some I would have loved spending long night listening to and talking with. Some I actually keep in touch with, and lend a room when they do repeat volunteering… Pity is, one does not get much time to get to know, as the spaniards are the priority. They in turn are not average spaniards, but alfa-males used to be heard. With some exceptions maybe, but their education and social rang is high. I do not mean this wrong, just that these (men) are used to speak -and tell how things should be (done), so it’s a challenge to them in addition to a language they don’t master. A person with a “peculiarly high culture level” might find a lot to learn if her/his intellect matches the piled up knowledge of culture… Spanish culture and history is amazing! Spanish food is also excellent, but spoiled by living here (Madrid) three years I can not prize the Valdelavilla Kitchen as gourmet; it’s good, and more than plenty, but not SPANISH gourmet. The wine was ok, but substantially better can be found at 4e/bottle. Well I am spoiled haha. And where was the CAVA? I absolutely recommend volunteering if it excites you, but add days to your trip to get a Spanish experience. Vaughantown is not a Spanish experience, it’s an unique experience… it’s hard work in one sense as all day is scheduled, it’s good training for aspiring teachers, it’s not teaching but conversations. I gave a flying lesson in one of my sessions, as I had a pilot licence, in another session the spaniard gave me a fitness instruction, original and passionate. An the entertainment on the nights were great fun, the talent on stage impressed!!!

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Jan October 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I learned about Vaughan Town while listening to a Rick Steves’ podcast. Intrigued, I applyed and was accepted. I will be attending the program in either December or January. While I certainly am not shy and have no trouble talking to people, I am a little trepidatious about keeping the conversation stimulating for hours on end. And about these evening performances…I’m afraid I haven’t the talent to entertain a group. Those are really the only two things I am reticent about. Can you allay my fears?

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Jane May 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm

My first Vtown was Dec 2011, I traveled with a friend and we had somewhat different experiences. She is more social than I and really connected with many Spaniards. I associated with all but only ‘connected’ with some. I am returning in September and cannot wait, as a long time traveler in different capacities. This program is well organized and great fun! Relax and enjoy!!!!!

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theprofessionalhobo May 14, 2013 at 7:44 am

Hi Jane,
I’m glad you’re excited to return! As you have discovered, even if you’re not a complete social butterfly, there’s a chance to connect with at least a few people – and for me, a smaller number of true connections beats a wider array of loose ones.
Enjoy!

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theprofessionalhobo October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

@Kristin – Thanks for weighing in! How are you and your puppies anyway? :-) I didn’t have quite the same experience about the Spaniards being high-ranking men; and in the 2nd week there were even University students as Spaniards, and always a good mix of men and women.

But I DO agree that if you come to Spain, it’s good to tack on a few extra days for some Spanish sight-seeing, since the schedule is very full and a little bit top-heavy.

@Jan – Don’t concern yourself at all about keeping conversations going for hours on end….you’re never talking to one person for more than 40 minutes before you get a break and are matched up with a new partner, so there’s no time for things to drone on. And if you’re really stuck for topics, they have tools for that as well. You’re not the first person to be concerned about this!

As for the evening performances, don’t worry about having a talent or having to entertain. Again, it’s all very well organized and coordinated, and you don’t even have to get up in front of anybody at all if you don’t want to. It’s all voluntary!

Enjoy. I know you will! :-)

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Karl Gorman October 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Hi Jan. Trust me, they will not force you into doing a production if you don’t want to. In fact, in one of the “anglo only” meetings, the director is likely to say “Do not force any of the Spaniards into doing a production they don’t want to.” You will be required to be very active, and avoid speaking Spanish 100%, but you will not be required to act (on the last night IF YOU STAY UP LATE, you are likley to be required to get up and dance – though… by the other Spaniards, not the Vaughantown crew).

You will reminisce about this experience. I am, deeply, and I already look forward to doing it again some time.

– Karl

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Jan October 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Thanks P.Hobo and Karl! It’s nice to know I now have someone to whom I can address other questions. I love to travel, but sometimes, especially when you are traveling with someone else, it’s hard to actually meet people and have a genuine window into the culture. I welcome the opportunity to meet other ‘anglos’ as well! The whole program really sounds like a lovely experience.

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Gaby November 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I hadn’t thought much about my experience in Spain, nor Vaughtown lately but have just received a few of your “Hobo” blogs and felt a need to reply. I went to Valdelavilla in Oct 2010 and had a wonderful time. I am 54 years old and met wonderful people from various english speaking countries, in addition to the fun spaniards that were attending. I had a trajedy in my life shortly afterwards and received some very supportive and heartwarming e-mails from some of the attendies.. Just like most traveling that one does, sometimes you enjoy some aspects more than others, but this was a great experience and some day would do it again. By the way, I was able to spend some time before and afterwards in different parts of Spain, which I think is definitely a must if you have the time/money.

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Sandy March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Does anyone know if the Vaughan Spanish School is stilll in operation? I sent in an application for the volunteer week in June but haven’t had a reply, not even an acknowledge that they received my application.

I had previously inquired about the retired teachers’ assistant teacher program but, again, did not hear back from them.

Anyone know anything? The last post is Nov. 2011, so I would think they’re still in business.

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theprofessionalhobo March 28, 2012 at 8:48 am

@Sandy – As far as I’m aware, Vaughan Town it still in business. You may want to send them another note just in case they missed your application.

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manish March 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Nora….I’m so glad that long back I saw this and went to do the VT and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and its surprising that Karl was there too in the same week session as I. And now going back in a week again and right in time for Feria De Sevilla :-)

@Sandy: They ARE in business. And they are growing. I can understand that currently ONLY Mayte is in-charge of recruiting volunteers and maybe her work load if way much and she misses, quite a few applications. I’ll definitely ask her this time about why it happened and maybe get back with a genuine reply for you.

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Karl Gorman March 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Hi all. @Sandy, all I can say to rationalize why they took a while getting back to you is because Madrid has recently hit a major crisis, and there’d be a lot on their plate right now.

When I say a major crisis, I mean one that’s more major than it has been the previous six months . . . give or take. When I was in Madrid there didn’t seem to be LOADS of visual evidence of such problems – but that was the middle of last year.

It’s Autumn right now in Australia, but the sunsets have been reminding me of Spain.

– Karl.

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Lee Torvi September 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm

It is several years since my last pueblo ingles experience, but I am looking forward to finding the time again in future. I’ve been twice: once to Valdelavilla and once to La Alberca. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A friend of mine went in June this year and also loved the experience. So it is definitely still operating.
While I had a wonderful time, I thoroughly agree that the experience is not for everyone (but what is?). You don’t need to be an entertainer, nor a teacher; but you do need to enjoy spending time with other people and you need to be able to think about the needs and interests of others. In exchange, you get the great pleasure of interacting with interesting people in a very comfortable setting: good food, good wine, good conversation, lovely setting; and it’s free. Can’t ask for more.

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theprofessionalhobo September 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

@Lee – Great observations about the program! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it. I have such fond memories of Vaughan Town.

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Tina October 9, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks for this post! I’d really like to do this program one day. Do you know if there is an age requirement to apply? I’m 22 right now. Thanks again for writing about your experience, it sounds exciting.

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theprofessionalhobo October 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

Hey @Tina – I think the minimum age to participate is 18. They like to get volunteers of all age ranges, accents, and backgrounds, so you should be golden! Enjoy.

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Rafa October 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for the post, sound exciting but hard… Im a spanish student that tomorow will goes to the VT… I’m excited and i hope improve my english an make new friends. Please wish me luck

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theprofessionalhobo October 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hola Rafa – Good luck! I’m sure you will have a very good time. It will be hard work for you, and halfway through the week you’ll be exhausted. But you’ll get a second wind and by the end of the week, and English should flow much more easily!
Please check back to this site and let us know how your experience was as a Spaniard!

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Karl Gorman October 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Have a great time Rafa. You will be amazed at how much better your English will be by the end of the week.

(Try the squid cooked in its own ink. It sounds weird but its magnificent!)

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Jayshri January 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm

It is really nice to read about your experience. I am considering to do this same assignment soon as I am awaiting for a new job.

Jayshri

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theprofessionalhobo January 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

Enjoy Jayshri! I’m sure you will.

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Alison January 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thank you so much for the info – the comments and answers were really helpful to read through as well! As a 20 year old Canadian backpacker, I can’t help but be slightly skeptical – the program sounds too good to be true! I was accepted into the young adults program commencing in August, but there has been a lack of communication in regards to the details. I just received an email today asking me to confirm my participation with a flight number and hotel – I don’t know where I will be flying from or where I will be staying (once again, backpacker).
I’m mostly wondering, is this a legit organization? I know that Spain has been under a lot of finacial stress. Are they still able to run the program? If so, is it worth purchasing a flight to confirm my spot so that I don’t lose it?

I look forwards to your reply!

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theprofessionalhobo January 29, 2013 at 8:35 am

Hi Alison – I don’t know anything about the Young Adults Program, so I can’t comment on that – maybe it’s new.
But if it’s part of the company Vaughan Town (and I would assume your contact is Mayte, though if it’s a different program your contact person may be different), then I can vouch for it!
I know – I initially thought it was too good to be true, and I had an expensive flight to book in order to confirm. But rest assured, you earn your keep – and you’ll have fun too! :-)

As for where to stay in Madrid, I believe the Vaughan Town website has some references to hostels and hotels they recommend.

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Jayshri January 29, 2013 at 8:24 am

Hi Allison,

I am not sure for which date you registered but I just signed up for Feb 3rd. I had the same reservations as yourself. I attended this meet-up group past Sunday, which had many people who had done this program. After speaking to them I felt as ease. So I finally confirmed my trip yesterday and will be going there on Sat. Lets see how it is. May be I’ll see you there.

Jayshri

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Manish January 29, 2013 at 8:26 am

Hey Alison,

Yes, VT is a legitimate organization. I’ve done it twice and going back again soon this year end. The people and the experience you get will shape your way of traveling and at the end of imparting something which you own (English here), you will feel so confident and happy.

Trust the comments and book that flight, that is the only thing you will mostly pay for :-)

Ah! Taking about the financial stress in Spain…..when I reached Madrid in April this year, their stock market crashed, but I never saw any difference in the mood of people anywhere. I love Spain :D

Enjoy :)

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Manish January 29, 2013 at 8:35 am

Oh and flight number is important, just so they are sure that the Anglos don’t go missing for the Tapas :P. And for stay you can easily find good and economical hostels around SOL (Euro 12-30 is a good range). And Eurobuilding apartments where their Tapas evening is held always, has big apartment with all facilities for Euro 55 [I got free WiFi and breakfast too] :)

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Karl Gorman January 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hi Alison.

Trust me, not only is Vaughantown legit but I found it to be well organized.

I highly recommend you go to the Madrid hotel on the evening before the one-week course starts (they’ll fill you in on where it is exactly). If you do, you will meet the coordinators and other English-speakers who will be doing this. It is a wonderful ice breaker. If you’re going to Valdelavilla, the 16th century village, your palate will not be disappointed!

But bare in mind, you WILL earn your keep. The work they require you to do – talking and talking to Spaniards – is easy… but you will be required to do it a lot. It is easy, but constant, and you’re under a strong requirement to do it at every meal time (where apparently Spaniards learn the most English).

And the only late night you should allow yourself is the last night in the village.

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Pat Kenna January 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm

As a senior (72) female, wondered if I would fit into the Vaughn Town program. Retired admin. assistant, B.A. & Secretarial Science diploma, Canadian, travelled a lot. My friend has mentioned this to me and we were discussing possibly October if there is a week available then for volunteering to speak English with the Spanish people.

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theprofessionalhobo January 31, 2013 at 7:44 am

Hi Pat – Absolutely! Vaughan Town is very attentive to making each group very diversified – in accents, age, and background. Go for it!

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Karl Gorman January 31, 2013 at 10:00 am

Hi Pat. They will be very welcoming, to someone of your age, and don’t be surprised if one or to (or more)of the Spanish people you meet will be of the same age group as you. — Karl.

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Alanna Hargan January 31, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Hey Alison and Karl,

Pat Kenna and I were thinking of volunteering together in Valdelavilla for a week with Vaughan Town in October, 2013. I am aged 66 with a B.Admin. degree and 30 years of municipal government experience as a real estate appraiser in Canada.
My question is “Can two friends volunteer in the same place/town during the same week?”

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theprofessionalhobo January 31, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Hi Alanna – Yes, friends can volunteer together, as I met quite a few groups of friends and couples there. I believe you simply need to stipulate it in the application process.

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Karl Gorman January 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Hi Alanna. I met a husband-and-wife and a mother-and-daughter who did a week for vaughantown. It should be fine. — Karl.

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Karen February 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi, I have been looking on the website for dates and see that they only go up to August 2013 and yet people here are talking about going in October. Where are they getting this infomation?
Thanks
Karen

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theprofessionalhobo February 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

Hi Karen – I’m not sure. But I’ll bet if you send the folks at Vaughan Town an email they can help you out. Mayte (the woman who handles most volunteer stuff) is fabulous.

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Niamh June 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

Hi,

I’m volunteering with VaughanTown in August, at Gredos however. I just was wondering what sort of age range attend? I noticed they now have a young adults programme for upto 23 year olds, but I’m doing the older group as I’m 24. It all sounds really good though and I’m very excited!

Niamh

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theprofessionalhobo June 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

Hi Niamh – The age range that comprises the standard program is huge! You’ll get one of everybody there; the intent is to have a wide cross-section of cultural backgrounds, ages, and accents. When I volunteered there, there were volunteers ranging from college students to retirees.
Have fun!

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Volare June 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I was glad to see that older Anglos would be welcome at Vaughan Town, as I’ve thought about attending for a couple of years. I also looked at Pueblo Ingles, although maybe that’s the same organization? Something I read a couple of years ago made me think they would be reluctant to admit a teacher, especially a former ESL teacher, to the program. Is that true, and would it help in that situation if I have never taken Spanish in school?

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theprofessionalhobo June 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Volare,
I have no idea what factors into their criteria. I met teachers there (who were Anglos), but not ESL teachers. The only reason they may be reluctant to accept an ESL teacher is if they think you’re going to try and teach English too much instead of just speaking it. This program is about learning through conversation, not lessons.
As for Spanish, you’re not allowed to speak one word of it! So not being able to speak it is certainly a “strong” point.
The reality is you just need to apply, and see what happens. They have a million criteria they need to satisfy in putting together the groups of Anglos, and I’m sure some of it is independent of your own experience. You’ll never know unless you give it a go! :-)

As for Pueblo Ingles, it’s a different company, running almost exactly the same program from what I can gather – with a few small differences in program structure, location, and length. I know people who volunteered with them, and enjoyed themselves very much.

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Volare June 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thanks for all the good info. Nothing ventured………….

Does day after day, night after night of talking become exhausting?

Karl June 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

Hi Volare. Trust me, they will be fine because I did four weeks of Vaughantown (not in a row) and I am an ESL teacher. They were totally happy with me. And the fact that you don’t know Spanish is no problem because their one absolute strict rule with your teaching methods is you must never – at any time – speak in Spanish. (Unless it is an emergency.) — Karl.

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Volare June 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thanks, Karl. I was somewhat concerned about my being an ESL teacher. I have picked up some Spanish from my Mexican students, but probably not enough to get in the way. Have you volunteered at the same location each time you went?

Fernando June 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Hi Niamh,

I took the course last February – March as a student and I liked a lot. The volunteers were very nice and I am sure you will ejoy it. I took the course becase I wanted to practise my English as I moved to Dublin last March. I am very happy with the experience. By the way, considering your name you are probably Irish… I have to tell you that the best friend I met there is from your cuntry :)

Fernando

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Niamh June 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

Hi Fernando,
Thanks for your message – it’s good to know! I’ve just booked my flight to Madrid so I’m feeling much more excited now! You’re right about the name, it’s Irish, and my mum is – but I was actually born in England :)

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Karl June 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I volunteered to as many different ones a s I could, but the only ones that had spaces available ate the time was Valdelavilla and Puerta De Gredos. (Not complaining, though.) However, there is always the chance of a last-minute drop out just before a week starts. They have meeting nights on the evening just before one of their courses – for the teachers only – where they will be able to tell you weather or not there are sudden spaces (or just email them and let you know you are available in case there are drop outs).

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Carmel October 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Hi all,

I’ve just applied for a program in January. How long until I hear anything? And will they let you know if they reject your application?

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theprofessionalhobo October 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi Carmel,
Sorry – I have no idea of the answer to either question. Hang tight, and do send them a follow-up email if you’re getting antsy. Hope you get in!

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Carmel October 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Was just accepted today!Really looking forward to it now, cant wait!

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Pat Kenna November 9, 2013 at 10:45 am

Can you tell me if the Program is held ongoing? Thinking of applying for April or May dates 2014. Do you stay in Madrid overnight? Is there transportation provided to and from the village and Madrid?

Would be wanting to book the same week as my friend (female)–separate rooms.

I will be 73 in January. Assuming you still accept retirees…..

Ms. Pat Kenna

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Niamh November 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I did it this summer and there were retirees there and also pairs of friends who were in separate rooms – I volunteered at Gredos though. You need to book your own accommodation in Madrid the night before but you are given transport for Madrid to whichever programme you’re on :) have fun! You will love it!

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Carmel November 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

Hi Niamh,

I’ve been accepted for a program in January in Gredos too! Did you also have to book accommodation for one night after the program finishes, like on the Friday night? Any other information you could give me would be great!

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theprofessionalhobo November 11, 2013 at 5:42 am

Hi Carmel,
Yes, you need to book your own accommodation for the Friday night after the program ends, but you don’t need to have the reservation to confirm your placement with Vaughan Town – just the first Friday.
Other than that….have fun!

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Pat Kenna November 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Re: Valdelavilla — for speaking English with Spaniards\

In your application form site you do not list Valdelavilla as one of the programs – there are three others listed, noting which dates are filled and which dates have vacancies.

If there is a schedule for Valdelavilla on the website can you direct me to it. That is the one that my friend and I are interested in attending. We have not made an application yet.

Thanks.

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theprofessionalhobo November 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

It bears noting again, that I have no affiliation with Vaughan Town. I don’t work for them, nor do I accept or process applications.

PLEASE DIRECT PROGRAM-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS TO VAUGHAN TOWN DIRECTLY: http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/vaughantown

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Pat Kenna November 16, 2013 at 11:38 pm

what is a good reasonably priced hotel to stay at in Madrid before/after the Vaughantown week . Would be flying from Canada. Do not have dates as yet but would be most likely February 2014. Any suggestions. Perhaps you would know where the Tapas Party gathering is held and that would help to locate a hotel near there. Thanks.

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Carmel November 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hi Pat,

I’m going in January and I’ve booked the Amaral on a friend’s recommendation. The tapas reception will be held in Eurobuilding 2 ground floor in El Serpentin. The Amaral is located 250 metres away. Hope this helps you!

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JOYCE January 8, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Hi, has anyone been to El Rancho, and what is it like? as going at the end of June for the first time. Thanks,Joyce

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Kate Y. January 29, 2014 at 9:21 am

What a fascinating experience this would be. Does anyone reading this know of similar enterprises in other countries?

My biggest concern: my own ability (or lack thereof) to not fall into Spanish!

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theprofessionalhobo January 29, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hey Kate,
I don’t personally know of any programs like this in other countries, but they may exist.
As for the Spanish, just don’t. You can’t. It’s easy enough when NOBODY is allowed to speak Spanish, under threat of being removed from the program.

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Janice February 28, 2014 at 2:13 am

Hi! I have been accepted for Vaughan Town/Gredo this Spring — ’14, which will be my first trip to Spain. Any and all advice is very much welcomed. I am becoming familiar online with transportation from the airport to the Eurobldg and deciding on a hotel for Friday and Saturday nights before departure to Gredo. Then I will get a travel itinerary to enjoy 5 days in Madrid/Barcelona before returning to the US. I imagine the dress is casual — are jeans and athletic shoes okay? Is food available before the 5-8 pm session or is there a break? Waiting until 9 pm for dinner is my biggest concern. Looking forward to a great time!

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Nora Dunn February 28, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Janice,
Yes – jeans and athletic shoes are just fine; when I was there (granted I wasn’t in Gredo) the dress was pretty casual….at least a European sort of casual – Europeans typically dress with lots of style, even if they’re only wearing jeans!
And really…don’t worry about the food – you won’t go hungry! Remember – you won’t be finishing lunch until almost 3pm…you’ll get into the swing of things – Spaniards like their food, and nobody starves.

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