Anybody that knows me would never think that I could spend 14 hours a day for 6 days straight talking. I am not the most talkative person but that is exactly what I did in Vaughan Town. Vaughan Town is an English immersion program for Spaniards that is run by Vaughan Systems. The program was created by Richard Vaughan in 2001 as a way to help Spaniards become more fluent in conversational English.
The program brings together around 15 native English speakers and 15 Spanish speakers at a hotel for 6 days of conversation and activities. The English speakers are volunteers and they are given 5 nights of hotel accommodations and meals in exchange for their time. The Spaniards include business people, students, Doctors, Lawyers, Architects and many other types of professions.
The requirement for volunteers is that they be native English speakers and at least 24 years old. You will have to fill out an application form and be approved before being allowed to sign up for a specific program. There is a mix of English speaking volunteers from different counties so that the Spaniards get to experience different accents and ways of speaking.
The volunteer portion of the program starts on Saturday night with Tapas reception in Madrid. Here is where the volunteers meet each other for the first time as well as meet the program manager for the week. The actual program starts on Sunday morning when the Anglos and the Spaniards meet at the bus to ride to the hotel that is outside of Madrid. There are a number of different hotels that they use and bus ride takes 2-4 hours. Once the participants board the bus they are not allowed to speak Spanish until the week is over.
The days are planned out from breakfast to dinner with many different activities to help improve the Spaniards English. During the meals the tables are usually set up with four people to a table. There are supposed to be two English speakers and two Spanish speakers at each table. After breakfast you have one on one conversations with one of the Spaniards for an hour each. These go on until lunch time. After lunch there is time for a siesta and then the one on one conversations start up again. Later in the week they add in other activities such as practicing conference calls, creating skits for entertainment at night and also group projects. At night there is usually some kind of entertainment or activity.
I have participated in this program twice and they were both amazing experiences.
The first program I participated was an older group of mostly over 30’s professionals who were there to help them become more proficient in conversational English which was needed in their jobs. This program was located in a small village called Valdelavilla in the mountains Soria. The village had been abandoned in the 1960’s and was rebuilt as a hotel in the 1990’s. The accommodations were rustic with the participants sharing the old stone houses that had 2-4 rooms in them with shared bathrooms.
The village was very remote with no cell phone reception and limited internet access. I believe that because of the remoteness and limited communications that this was the ideal location for this type of program. Most of the Spanish participants were not confident in their English speaking abilities at the beginning of the week but by the end they had all made amazing improvements in their ability to have conversations in English. The whole group became very close and I believe that this was due to the fact that there were very little distractions.
The second program that I participated in was a very different experience from the first. The Spanish participants were younger and most of them were involved the Masters program with Vaughan Systems. They had been taking English classes full time and many had participated in previous Vaughan Town weeks. Their English was significantly better than the first group and most had no problems conversing in English. The location that we were staying at was near a town called Gredos. The hotel was more luxurious than the one at Valdelavilla and there were more amenities to distract the participants. This experience was also a good experience but I did not fell like the group became as close as the first program that I participated in.
I really enjoyed both my experiences at Vaughn Town and will hopefully participate again soon. I made some great friends and look forward to seeing them next time I am in Spain. There are many Anglos that participate in the program over and over again because they love the experience. If you are interesting in volunteering for Vaughan Town click on the link below for more information.
If you wish to participate in this program please remember that you are expected to actively participate during the whole time. This is not a relaxing vacation. The days are long and it can be tiring and challenging for both the Anglo volunteers and Spanish participants.
- Visit the Vaughan Systems website for more details.
- All programs depart from Madrid on Sunday morning and return Friday evening.
- The programs run almost every week and last from Sunday to Friday.