María Rial Barreiro is 42 years old with a degree in Political Science. She works in education in Henley-on-Thames, a job that brings her great satisfaction.
After finishing her degree in Spain, María had always worked in administration and never considered going into teaching.
María and her family moved to England because of her husband’s job, specifically to Henley-on-Thames, where they started a new life with their three children, who were nine, eight, and six at the time.
They chose the location rather casually. They looked for an area they would like, and with a school that could adjust to the needs of their children. Here, the children had half an hour each day dedicated to English language basics, one of the support methods offered by the school that was crucial for them at the time.
María got involved in school activities, and eventually her first job was as an assistant during lunch hour. The post consisted of accompanying the children during lunch and supervising them for the next half hour.
From there on, María got the chance to expand her role, and began helping with class activities. Nowadays, her job is to support students who need extra help with the work.
Sitting in Patisserie Valerie drinking tea and coffee, time seems to stand still in this quintessentially English setting.
The one exception is that María and I are speaking in Spanish as we try to immerse ourselves in British society.
England has undeniably given María the chance to discover a new calling in teaching, a job that she is passionate about because she can help children to learn.
One of the advantages of her current job is that for the first time, she can find a good balance between work and family life. María mentions that she is able to attend every school event and performance in which her children participate.
She speaks convincingly, her face full of contentment, concluding, “At this point in my life, it’s the perfect job. I couldn’t have found a better one”.
María describes Henley-on-Thames as a beautiful, welcoming and safe town; so safe in fact that the police station closed because there wasn’t enough crime to justify keeping it open.
In terms of integrating into English society, she says that both she and her family have been well accepted here.
She makes just one observation regarding Brexit, which she talks about as a period when certain social sentiments were heightened and exaggerated. Some of those that voted “Leave” for social rather than economic reasons felt that their views were justified after the result, and certain prejudice towards non-British people gave rise to some unpleasant circumstances in the few weeks after.
Despite this difficult time, María is enjoying the opportunity that England has given her; the experience of living in a different country, where her children can be fully immersed in the English language – something which is not possible in Spain.
She also recognises that the language requirements here are somewhat demanding, and if her English isn’t good enough, she won’t have good job prospects.
María feels lucky to be as happy in England as she was in Spain, and concludes that she is experiencing a different and beautiful stage of her life.
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn) – Photos: Pixabay