An English immersion program company based in Gijon, Asturias, Spain, English Getaway is by far our most truly memorable experience and is our favorite program so far. Like other residential English programs, their aim is to build a Spaniard’s confidence when speaking English. With their small group format, they certainly achieve their goal. Everyone immediately feels part of the “family” and loses their shyness.
Frist step is to apply to a program (1 day, a weekend or 6-day program). Your expenses will include travel to and from the company departure point. You will be provided with meals, accommodation and insurance in exchange for your time and conversations. Each program is nestled in beautiful Asturias.
When we volunteered this past August 2018, there were 3 pick-up points. They were Gijon, Asturias Airport and Oviedo Bus Station. Arriving to Asturias was not so easy for us inspite of the fact that we live in Valencia. There are no direct trains, bus routes or flights. We checked out BlaBlaCar and were lucky enough to find a ride direct to Oviedo.
More on our Asturias adventures in upcoming posts.
Food and Accommodation
John and I volunteered during a 6-day Immersion Program, August 26-31, 2018. A private coach picked us up at the Oviedo Bus Station where we joined the other participants. From there, we were driven to Palacio de Rubianes, a 45 minute scenic drive from Oviedo. Each participant was given their own room with an ensuite bathroom and ammenities such as a room safe, bar fridge and of course, WiFi.
Palacio de Rubianes Hotel & Golf is located in the village of Sardeda on the slopes of the mythical Sierra del Sueve. The hotel was oringinally a 16th Century palace and had been carefully restored. According to historical documents, the property belonged to “Gentlemen of the Houses of Antayo and Rubianes, marquises of Vista Alegre 1566-1794”.
Our room, pictured on the left, was very comfortable and spacious. The decoration was modern and tasteful. There was enough closet space, although like most times, we always need more hangers. This time, we brought some of our own. The bathroom was modern and clean, Surprisingly, there were enough outlets throughout the room so that John and I were not fighting over whose phone or iPad to charge first!
Breakfast was served buffet style. For lunches and dinners, we enjoyed 3-course meals that were served with wine, water and tea or coffee.
Fabada (pictured on the right) and Cachopo were among the dishes served. These are two of the more famous Asturian dishes. All the food was freshly prepared and delicious! Keep in mind that we were in Asturias so the portions served were much bigger than what we would get in Valenica.
Gijon, Asturias Airport (OVD) and Oviedo were the pickup points during our program. We chose the Oviedo Bus Station as our pickup point because it was the shortest distance to our the final destination of Palacio de Rubianes.
Our program took over the entire hotel so we had full access throughout. You can do anything you like during the one-to-one sessions as long as you keep the conversation going.
The schedule is broken down by the hour. Breakfast was from 9-10 a.m., followed by three hours of “one-to-one” sessions (really 50 minutes each session with a 10-minute break to grab some water, go to the bathroom, etc), where Anglos are paired up with a different Spaniard each hour.
Lunch was from 2 pm – 3:30pm, followed by free time (siesta-nap time) until 5 p.m. Everyone met up and started with a group activity at 5 p.m. Afterwards, two more one-to-one sessions until 7:50pm. At 8:00pm, the fun began with a one hour variety-style show that became something we all looked forward to.
Dinner was from 9pm-10:30pm. After dinner, Paula and Zach had planned many fun activities including Quiz Night, board games and more!
John enjoyed walking the nature trails during his one-to-one sessions while I, on the other hand, enjoyed sitting outside on one of the many terraces or under the horreo (pictured on the left) while conversing with my Spanish partner.
During the program, we were treated to a short hike in the mountains. We continued with the program of one-to-one and group discussions. The air was fresh and clean and the trail easy to manage. At the end of the hike, we came upon a waterfall. It was a wonderful surprise!
Telephone and conference calls as well as presentations were also part of the additional activities. On the last day, all the Anglos were able to watch all the Spaniards present on the last day. The progress from Day 1 to Day 6 (75 hours of English) was amazing.
On the last evening of the program, we finished a bit earlier which was great. It gave us time to pack and get ready for the farewell dinner party.
What should you expect?
Here is an excerpt from the English Getaway website. It describes what you can expect as an English speaker volunteer.
“You will not need to teach English in the traditional way and it is not necessary to have any previous teaching experience. Our programs are designed to teach through language immersion and corrected conversation. As a volunteer, you will simply need to speak your own authentic, unfiltered style of English, encourage students to speak and help them by correcting their mistakes. You should also help to create a supportive environment in which the students can learn comfortably and gain confidence.
As a volunteer you are offering your participation and English conversation in exchange for a unique cultural experience. As such, you should be prepared to participate fully in our diverse range of activities and above all, be ready to talk, talk, talk!!! After all, it is through continuous English exposure in the form of daily conversation and activities that we create a complete immersion environment.”
Volunteer Bonus – The Cultural Experience, the Friendships
What stood out the most after completing our first volunteer experience with English Getaway? It wasn’t what. It was who! It was Paula and Zach. They have created an amazing program in a beautiful location that exceeded our expectations. The professionalism, fun adventures, including the nature hike was incredible. I love the smaller program format. As a Business English Coach, it allowed me to help each Spaniard with their immediate learning needs.
You cannot help but create friendships. This time, more so because even the English speakers got to know each other more. More FUN times ahead as we start to visit and explore the cities of our new founded friends.
See you again soon!
After an intense week, saying goodbye is too difficult for me. Photos, email addresses and phone numbers were exchanged along with promises to stay in touch.
We are now planning trips to Cantabria and a reunion in Zaragoza that would include the participants of our 2 latest programs.
After this program, we were fortunate to be invited for the weekend so we could continue our Asturian adventure. Read more about Asturias here.