Natalia is an 18 year old student from Ogólnokształcące XVII Liceum of Poznań, Poland, and she’s a gold medal Spanish Olympian! How can that be? Well it’s simple: every year, Poland organizes an event called the Spanish Olympics, which draws over 1,400 participants, and Natalia came in first place! But beyond the sweet taste of victory, winning also brought Natalia to AIL Madrid. In her own words,

“By winning the Olympics, I was given the opportunity to travel to somewhere in Spain to take a one week intensive Spanish course. There was a list of several options, I had always dreamed of seeing Madrid, and I saw the fun afternoon activities and how professional everything was on the AIL website, so I chose AIL Madrid!”

Natalia Poland

Intensive Course

Meet Natalia!

Natalia and the Spanish Olympics

Winning the Olympics wasn’t all fun and games; it was also a lot of hard work, she says,

“The Olympics not only measure your Spanish language level but also to test your knowledge of Spanish and Latin American history and culture. The topics are announced, you have about a year to prepare, and then you have to give it your best shot!

I studied a lot to get ready but I wasn't just sitting and repeating vocabulary: I usually read book and articles, listen to Spanish music and, to get used to speaking Spanish since I don't have the opportunity often in Poland, I read aloud. I also practice at school, where I’m in the bilingual section, so I also have the opportunity to practice speaking with my teachers.

My teachers helped me so much; they organized additional classes and gave me tons of additional materials to read at home. I have three Spanish teachers in language, literature, and History and Geography of Spain and they are all so great!”

The competition was tough and narrowed down to 10 extremely competitive finalists: the final competition was held on April 17th and, after hours of giving it her all against some of Poland's fiercest Spanish speakers, Natalia won!

Natalia and AIL Madrid

“After I won, I had a list of schools I could choose from and, since I always wanted to visit the capital, I chose AIL Madrid! This school seemed more appealing than the others and it was very easy to get in touch with people at the school; they responded so quickly to emails!

I would definitely recommend it to the next winner because the environment at AIL Madrid is special. For example, on my first day of class, I immediately started to talk with people and they were all so friendly, it was wonderful! Also my teacher was always smiling and explained everything so clearly. I took classes at another language school before and it wasn’t like this; the people were nice but it lacked the fun, energetic atmosphere of this school.

My teacher, Isabel M, is very spontaneous and always has time to explain everything in detail. She doesn't just rely on the book and exercises but also teaches us the latest Spanish slang, how to use colloquialisms naturally, and what vocabulary words are more popular in Madrid. The group activities are my favorite exercise: they help us work together, because sometimes a person knows some word or some grammar trick that the others don't, and so we can exchange knowledge.

Outside of class, I've participated in all the activities and my favorites are Welcome Tapas and Noche de copas: we all get together and you can meet people from all over the world, the United States, Italy, Ireland…its phenomenal!! Also, after these activities, you become friends with other students and I definitely plan to keep in touch.”

Natalia and Madrid

“I chose the host family because I like arriving home and having someone there to talk to and practice Spanish with, and my host family always wants to help and I can count on them if I need anything. I’m staying with a youthful couple that has three children about my age. They’re a super nice family and I would recommend them to everyone!

At home, I like to meet friends, read books, and listen to music in my free time. But here, I like to go out and do things; eat, try local dishes for example. I leave home at 7 in the morning, I go to school, and I don’t get home until 2am because I'm always out walking and walking until my feet no longer support me!

My favorite areas of Madrid are the Campo del Moro gardens, along with the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral. I still haven't seen the inside of the Palace but the inside of the Cathedral is incredible! And the square next to it has a very special atmosphere; there is always someone playing something deep and emotional on the guitar or violin, so I like to sit there and watch people.

At first, when I started studying Spanish and knew nothing about the country, I was surprised how open the Spanish are. Normally, in Poland you shake hands or say "hi" when you meet someone, but here: hugs, kisses! People are so open!

For me, the best part of travel is meeting people. You can share different viewpoints and learn so much. Apart from that, it's also just the impression that Madrid has given me; it is a monumental city and every time you walk through the streets you're surrounded by beautiful and ornate buildings. I walk down the street and take pictures constantly because everything looks so lovely!

Natalia and the future

I want to use my Spanish to travel, since I love to travel! I’m hoping to visit South America next year, but eventually I'd like to be a Spanish translator or interpreter. I want to live in Madrid, so I'm thinking about moving here for my studies. I’m definitely going to come back!