At the beginning of 2019 Techniquest Glyndwr greeted volunteer Xavi to the centre. The Catalan student has been working with us on various things at TQG but his time here is coming to a close.
Here, Xavi tells us about his experience and the differences between Barcelona and Wrexham.
Hi, I’m Xavi, I graduated from Autonomous University of Barcelona with a degree in environmental biology and, later on, I studied a master’s degree in oceanography and management of the marine environment at University of Barcelona. Even though my academic training, I had never had the chance to work as a biologist in Spain because the unemployment is absolutely shocking, in particular for the youth (32.4%). Furthermore, I didn’t know what to do so as to find a job opportunity in my country related to my education. Despite knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to find something, I was lucky that one day I heard that the European Social Fund (ESF) was giving some scholarships to unemployed people. That’s the main reason why I decided to apply for the scholarship.
Never before had I thought that the ESF would give me the opportunity to work abroad, in that case, in Techniquest Glyndŵr. To be honest, at the beginning I couldn't believe my eyes because the ESF was offering what I was looking for a long time. I’d like to point out that nowadays for non-native English speaking countries, if you want to find decent job, a higher level of English is required. As a result, as you can imagine, non-native English speakers have to invest a lot of money in extra classes in order to improve their English level. So that, as I was saying before, I was really lucky because they offered me to work in Wales forcing me to practise that language everyday.
Regarding my experience in Techniquest Glyndŵr working as a science communicator I must confess that everything is going pretty well. When I first arrived to my new work placement I felt comfortable and motivated. If I had to highlight the most tricky thing, I’d definitely say Welsh employee’s names in addition to their correct pronunciation. Apart from that issue, all the employees are amazing and really friendly. It seems to me that it’s easy to see that they truly enjoy what they are doing and they work hard on it. I think is superb that this charity is composed of a lot of people from different places because it allows me to learn loads of interesting things from them! The schedule is great because everyday is completely different and you don’t know what you will be doing the rest of your day. What’s more, you have the opportunity to interact and talk to different employees and public every day.
If I had to talk about which tasks I do in this science discovery centre, I must admit that I’ve had the chance to do a little bit of everything. For instance, interacting with the public, hosting school groups as part of their education programmes, accompanying the children around the centre, explaining and assisting them with the exhibits, working closely with the staff on the production of their workshops and shows, working alongside with the science communicators on outreach at schools and events, working a little bit as a marketing and communication assistant, working on the till, etc. Therefore, I think I’m very lucky to have had the chance to try each of those tasks. I’ve been working in Techniquest Glyndwr for 3 and a half months and, honestly, I’m happy to see that, even though the language barrier is always there, I haven’t had any problem at all in understanding what they were saying or asking me. Recently, they have asked me if I’d like to present a workshop, which I feel it’s quite challenging for me, especially considering that I’m not an English native speaker. However, I believe that if I practise a lot, I’ll be fine.
Public awareness of science is not an easy task if you want to achieve your goal perfectly, nevertheless, I’m confident that this centre had been working and offering a vast diversity of options and opportunities to promote this field and it’s paying off!
Here are just some of the differences between Wales and my home, Barcelona.
- Greeting: It’s funny because in Spain we are use to do two kisses, one in each cheek, and we’ll probably shake your hand as well. So, I think we tend to be closer than Welsh people. What’s more, now I’m getting used to Welsh greeting but, I feel Welsh people tend to be colder.
- Meal times: The point is that in Spain we’re used to have long meals (1h ish), specially during midday because it allows us to break and disconnect a bit. For that reason, when I came to the UK for the first time, I was impressed how is it possible that people have lunch in less than an hour! I think is quite stunning but, at the same time, not very healthy. However, when you live there, you can easily understand why they tend to eat sandwiches, you don’t have to cook and it’s cheap! Moreover, in Spain we are use to have lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 9 pm, whilst it’s completely different from British schedule.
- Food: This is definitely the foremost topic that had been worrying me since I’ve been living in Wales. When I was in Spain, I remember one day I was watching the BBC News and they were reporting that nowadays, obesity is a significant health concern. What’s more, they described it as a national emergency! In spite of knowing that it was happening, I couldn’t believe it! I’m confident that for Spanish people it’s easier to keep and have a healthier diet due to the fact that we produce loads of fruits and vegetables, nonetheless, I’ll like to highlight that we don’t have many advertisements promoting junk food. However, to be honest, British baked goods are amazing! No matter which one do you order, that you’ll definitely love it! For example, carrot cakes, Welsh cakes, scones,
- Supermarkets: Why do you use too much plastic for all kinds of stuff? To be honest, I don’t really understand why vegetables, fruits or any other product, are covered with plastic. I must confess that for some products it’s really important, however, do you think we need a plastic envelope for just four apples for example? As an environmental biologist I’m worried about our ecological footprint and our impact, so that, I hope this policy will change soon. As far as I am aware, some UK supermarkets reduce the precise of those products which are going to be out of day the following day. I strongly feel that this initiative it’s a good alternative not to throw aways loads of food everyday.
- Pubs: What should I say about this lovely places… Pubs are undoubtedly the best place to feel the real Welsh atmosphere. Not only do they offer you a large variety of pints or ciders, but pubs also provide good food and typical meals after all. I have to admit that I couldn’t believe how expensive are all kinds of drinks in those places, however, I feel it’s kind of normal for Welsh people.