Colombia: Alejandro Abella
Alejandro Abella

Colombia: Alejandro Abella

Alejandro Abella, 25, who comes from Colombia, spent a year studying English and working in London. His language skills improved so fast that his school, English UK member centre, Language Studies International London Hampstead, offered him the chance to work in its reception as an intern.


Why did you choose to learn in the UK?

The great thing about the English language is the sheer number of countries where it is spoken. When I made the decision to work towards English fluency, a number of options were open to me. I chose the UK for a range of reasons, not least the iconic status of London as a world city. Also, coming from South America, European travel opportunities, music, architecture and the arts were all huge draws.

Did you apply to be an intern before joining the course, or did you decide later to stay on and use your English for work?

Initially I had intended just to study English on the International Year School (IYS) course and work part time outside the school. My level of English developed further and faster than I had expected and I was subsequently offered a 4-month internship in the school reception providing webmaster and general office assistance.

Why did you want to be an intern in the UK?

The opportunity to use my English in a working environment was invaluable in working toward fluency. I was quite friendly with a number of employees at the school and this helped me to settle in and further my language skills.

What was it like using English in your work for the first time?

I remember the first time I had to answer the office telephone. My hand was shaking and I wanted to run straight to Heathrow. The first step is always the hardest.

Did working improve your English very quickly?

The theoretical learning of a language is great for obtaining knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. The pressure of being in a work environment required me to call on all this knowledge in real-life situations with a variety of people. Within two months I felt very confident working in an English-speaking environment.

What did you like most in the UK? Did anything surprise you?

I come from a mid-sized city in central Colombia where I grew up in a house with 3 bedrooms and front & rear gardens. Space comes at a premium in London and this came as a bit of a shock to me. I soon adjusted and found the fast-paced challenge of the London lifestyle a great help in learning to manage my time. I have always loved the variety of the music scene in London, which reflects the diversity of the city. And I have to be honest, I discovered a rather dangerous weakness for Stilton cheese.

Has learning English changed your life?

Absolutely. In terms of higher education, employment and travel opportunities, a whole new world has opened up for me. The same is true for my social life.

What are you doing now? Could you have done it without your English?

I am applying to study at postgraduate level in Spain, and some of my new best friends are English speakers from various countries. To this end, it is impossible to define the value of my English knowledge in just a few words.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying and working in the UK?

Take lots of warm clothing and keep busy with organised activity.

 

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