|The old campus of Universidad de Murcia|
It is important now to reflect on what has been the value of the exchange and what do I think will change as a result of it?
Firstly for me, the immersion in a new environment, a different culture and with the opportunity to speak and listen daily in the language I am studying has been invaluable. This is a tiring process but the rapid development of fluency and vocabulary is amazing - and it is something that just doesn't happen in a normal holiday experience, especially if you go with another English speaker, as you simply don't need to speak as much when you are pretty much a self contained unit. Travelling alone brings different challenges and working rather than just being a tourist requires a more sophisticated vocabulary altogether.
In terms of personal learning about education, this has many levels. I saw at first hand the impact of democratic processes in the appointment of senior managers - something which doesn't happen in my university. It is interesting to compare the different educational systems (UK and Spain) - the growth of private universities for example. And student experiences differ, with many young people often choosing to continue living at home whilst studying.
I was very careful in my choice of university to visit. I had a specific interest in technology enhanced learning and the University of Murcia is fortunate in having a reknowned Innovation Unit and reknowned innovation leaders in Mari Paz Prendes Espinosa and Linda Casteñada. In particular being able to work with Linda and Maria Mar Sánchez in their classrooms taught me a huge amount about trusting the students to find their way with technology and about the value of setting creative challenges.
Delivering a workshop for the bilingual student teachers was a personal challenge. My delivery and design was not really very much different from what I would have done for my own class, but the room set up and available technology presented another sort of challenge - and performing in front of an unfamilar audience (and such a great teacher as Linda) did make me a little nervous. But I can at least now add international teaching to my CV!
The links forged with the University of Murcia have the potential to be of great mutual benefit. I hope on a personal level to continue having contact with the Innovation team in order to collaborate on projects - and to undertake a language exchange with Marimar Roman with regular Skype calls or Hangouts.
I am also hopeful that there could be student and other staff exchanges in the Social Work discipline as a result of contacts I made there - and with luck I'll be going back!