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I'm only 22. Here's Why I'm Taking a Year "Off"

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What I hope to gain teaching English in Spain. 

In Spain, they drink cafe con leche (“caliente leche, por favor!”) before lunch and cafe cordato post-lunch. The part of Spain I am in—Asturias—is affectionately called the paraiso natural. I live in a little village and here life is sleepy and idyllic. The streets are full of laid back confiterias and small shops. There is a quaint-looking church in the middle of the town square, and it is surrounded by sideria bars.

For a girl who has always lived in big cities—New Delhi, Pune and Berlin—this is a much welcomed change. All around me I see people enjoying life without caring much about stuff city-folk tend to. Most of the people in the valley are content, and to me, this is definitely something to embrace.

Can I live here forever? Probably not. Even though I’ve been here for only nine days, I realize that after having lived in chaos all my life, I have become used to it. I will be here in Asturias for another nine months and I look forward to it, but the experience is enriched by knowing that I will be leaving.

Figuring things out; not deciding in haste 

I moved to Asturias to figure out the next course of my life in a stress-free environment. You see, after you graduate from university, there is this constant tension surrounding you. All your friends and roommates move on to the next step. One of the two cases usually ensue: employment, or grad school. And more often than not, most people are not sure of whether they’re in the right vocation or degree. Their decision is an outcome of fear over scepticism. Oh and did I mention the nosy relatives and “well wishers” inquiring about your future plans. You were allowed to be confused at 17. At 21, it’s another story altogether.

I did not want to decide in haste. Surrounded by all that nervous energy often leads to one taking the next step too fast. Of course it is true (to some extent) that getting on with life is a way of finding out what works for you. But then again, most people end up with a midlife crises because they chose too soon, and most of the time for the wrong reasons.

Now is the time (when you have no responsibilities)

I consider myself to be extremely lucky. I am young. I have a supportive family. And I have the brains to navigate my way in a foreign country, including finding ways to financially sustain myself. I am aware of how I must utilize this time by living life to the fullest—a responsibility towards my youth that I plan on taking seriously.

Moving to a new country is not just one of the many things to cross off some bucket list, but instead it is the weaving together of life richening experience that allows one to become a fuller individual. I have the privilege of being freer than ever today. If I want to run off to a small town in the north of Spain for a year to teach English, I can do that. 'Til the time I can finance my wild schemes, I can do what I like. There is immense pleasure (and power) in knowing that.

Exploring passions 

Teaching is often something I have thought of trying out. I remember being a kid and thinking of all the things my teachers could do in a classroom to make it more interactive and engaging; to have more of an impact. Now I have the luxury of making an impact. I teach kids aged five to adults aged 19. It truly is a crash course in the ways humans acquire a new skill. You can see how five-year-old Spaniards try to string together a bunch of random words—both, Ingles and Espanol—to create a delightful concoction of “Shay, can I go el bano?”

I believe, that if we can take the time to be honest and equanimous with ourselves, we’d discover that it is our vocation that chooses us.

Becoming a university professor is an idea I have played with for some time now. And while I’m teaching a completely different age group, the experience is enough to let me see whether I’d be a good fit for the profession. You see, there is this common belief that we choose our vocation. Instead, I believe, that if we can take the time to be honest and equanimous with ourselves, we’d discover that it is our vocation that chooses us.

Becoming a better communicator 

Any English-speaking teacher in a Spanish village would tell you that it is a crash course in effective communication. You must get your ideas out there in the classroom in front of a bunch that does not particularly decipher 90 per cent of what you are saying. After only a week of this experience, I can vouch for the fact that it would be more beneficial to high-end business execs. than any seminar on communication and leadership.

Living in another country allows you to understand the many nuances of your host culture that you perhaps wouldn’t come across in a textbook. This in turn has a positive effect - you begin to improve your broader intercultural communication skills.

On top of that, for me personally, it has become extremely crucial to learn Spanish, just to get around. I have no option but to learn the language (and fast). Once I gain fluency in the language (six-month target), I would speak three most spoken languages in the world, with English and Hindi being the other two. This is going to come to my advantage in the future, especially since I plan on going into business.

I truly believe this experience will broaden my prospects.  

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Shrita Pathak

Shrita (or Shay; whatever floats your boat) is a 22-year-old from New Delhi, India who is currently teaching English in Spain. She graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, with a major in political science, and a double minor in econ and film studies. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, meditating and doing anything that gets her heart rate up.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/itstheshayway/

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