I have just spent a week as a volunteer with Diverbo – pueblo ingles in Coto del Valle set within the stunning scenery of the Sierra de Cazorla in Andalucía.

Just over 100km from my home in the Granada province, I was able to drive to the location within 2 hours.  Most of the English-speaking volunteers fly into Madrid, are met by the organisers and brought to the location by coach.  The students are bussed in from various locations, this time from Valencia.

So, what is Diverbo?  I first heard about Diverbo whilst browsing Facebook.  They are an English language school based in Madrid. But a school with a difference.  The difference is ‘total immersion with native English speakers’, hence the volunteers.

I arrived at the hotel around 1300 hours to find that the previous week’s course had yet to finish, but the scenery was beautiful, the sun was shining, so I took my camera and went off for a walk to explore the grounds.

When allocated my room I found I was sharing with another lady, neither of us were particularly happy with this situation but the documentation does say ‘be prepared to share a room’.  However, when we voiced our concerns, Marcos (the event organiser) went out of his way to resolve the situation and Sandy and I ended up with our own rooms (until the day before we leave at least).

It was 1700 hours before I could access my room, but this had given me the opportunity to chat with volunteers and students (who on this particular course were teachers from Valencia) and start to get to know people.   The rooms were clean and tidy, albeit basic, but they had all the facilities needed.  With less than an hour to unpack, I was off to join the welcome meeting at 1800 hours.

The meeting was fun, with games to get people introducing themselves and chatting, this lead to short presentations by each of the group and by 2100 hours everyone was ready for dinner.  The food was warm and well-cooked, with a vegetarian option, and considering the numbers they were catering for it was served with great efficiency.  It was also another opportunity to speak with the students.  Another quick ‘welcome chat’ at 2230 and then your time was your own (although they do encourage you to stay and socialise in the bar).  And, so it began!!.

The days start with breakfast at 0900 and, after a quick look at the schedule, 4 hours of one to ones, lunch at 14.00 and about an hour’s break before starting again at 17.00.  More talking, meetings and group exercises until dinner at 21.00.  Dinner finishes around 2230 followed by an activity in the bar (which is voluntary)

This is an intense week and hard work for the volunteers (although it is even harder for the students, who have the added task of speaking in English)

Whilst it is tiring and intense, it is also great fun and the people are delightful.

One to ones were like surfing the internet!!  I came away with stories of trips to turkey, travels around the world, sailing across the Atlantic, nutritional advice on how enzymes break down certain categories of food and new authors to read. i learned how to identify lichen and its use as an indicator on the health of the environment, the difference between fungi and algae and  I learned more about ‘the real Spain’, its politics, history and culture.  I even had a demonstration on how to use my walking poles properly!!

To say the week was hard work and fun would be an understatement.  I laughed so hard at times that tears ran down my face.  I walked miles in beautiful scenery, saw wild deer and griffon vultures as well as saying hello to the hotel dogs every morning.  I made new friends and listened to stories of people’s children and family life and found myself sharing some of my own life experiences which I had not talked about in years.

A surprising thing was realising how much I speak using idioms!!!  But, then, that’s another story.

You spend a lot of time moving around, often from indoors to out and back again and of course you talk, talk, talk.  They recommend that you take any daily medications needed but, in addition, my advice would be to take a good moisturiser, lip salve (lips gets surprisingly dry when talking so much) and throat lozenges (60% were suffering with a sore throat by the middle of the week).  For some of the ladies, you may want to take a product that helps disguise the dark shadows under your eyes, if you didn’t have them at the start of the week there is a good chance you will have them by the end!! 

What do you get out of it?  Well don’t expect fine dining (although the meals are good and there is always a selection) or 5 star accommodation, do expect a very intense week with the opportunity to meet some wonderful people from Spain and all over the world and to make friendships which may last a lifetime.

Would I go again?  In an instant!!!

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20 responses »

  1. kayla says:

    if you don’d mind me asking how much out of pocket did you spend and is there transportation into the city for extra free time travel?

    • Sorry kayla, I have not been able to access my blog for while so I hope that this answer is still useful. It is worth looking at the pueblo ingles website as it provides all he information you need. However you pay your own travel to and from Madrid plus overnight hotels if your flight times need it. There is very little free time, so no they do not provide transport for city visits although they do have an organised trip into the local town.

  2. Linda Murphy says:

    This is a very helpful summary, and answers a lot of my questions…my husband and I have applied to volunteer in October. We heard, very promptly, that our applications had been approved/accepted, but have yet to receive word about being actually assigned to one of our chosen October weeks. How soon were you notified that you were actually assigned to volunteer for a week? We would like to make plans for the Fall, and it would be great to know, sooner, rather than later!

  3. The Nest Keeper says:

    I begin my Diverbo experience this upcoming Friday, June 10-17, 2016. Looking forward to it!

  4. xtinalouise says:

    Very helpful post! I’ve just been accepted with Diverbo and hope to volunteer with them in October!

  5. Scott says:

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Michelle says:

    Thank you for the information about your Diverbo experience. My 16 year old daughter would like to volunteer. However, I am concerned that this sounds too good to be true. There are two locations that they offer for teens – Aldeaduero or La Alberca. Do you have a recommendation as to which one to pick? Also, I understand that you attended the adult version, but have you heard any negative comments about the teen program? Thank you!

    • I don’t know Aldeaduero, I have only been to La Alberca and Sierra de Cazorla. La Alberca is a great location. I haven’t heard any negative comments at all about either programmes but I would encourage you to email Diverbo direct. They are extremely helpful and friendly and I am sure will answer any concerns that you may have. Good luck

  7. SB says:

    Great post, really looking forward to applying for this 🙂 just a quick question, how long was free time for and is there WiFi? Also if you went in summer, did you have use of the pool?

    • Hi SB. Free time is minimal, about an hour in the afternoon and after dinner if you like to stay up late as dinner does not finish until about 10.30 p.m. I didn’t go in summer but the hotel was only open for Diverbo and the pool and spa were closed. You really would not have time even if it was open!!!

  8. Heidi says:

    I loved my week with diverbo last april…in La Alberca…and our group still texts each other across the globe often! I definitely intend to go again..

  9. Maida says:

    I spent a week at La Alberca as a volunteer at the end of September. It was quite an experience for me and I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the accommodations, the food, and all the activities including a fabulous party mid way through. I even met a fellow volunteer who I flirted with extensively but being in a relationship it was kept at bay. I would also love to go again either to a different part of Spain or Germany.

    • Thanks for looking into my blog and for taking the time to comment. Like you I had an amazing time, it is certainly on my ‘to do’ list for 2014 and like you I fancy Germany or the north of Spain, maybe we will end up on the same programme. best wishes Jacquie

  10. Matthew of Freila says:

    Marvellous blog. What a fabulous way to spend a week and get to know your host country or any other country. I bet you feel more integrated now than you did before. I shall definitely be applying as a volunteer in the new year.

    • Barbara Gibney says:

      My 2 english speaking teenage daughters are volunteering this summer. Would u recommend this or do u think it would b too intense?

      • I personally think this is an amazing experience for teenagers, it’s a great way to make new friends, practice and develop social skills and help other people learn in a safe environment. I haven’t done the teenage one, but my understanding is it is less intense and is full of games and activities. I hope they go, I am sure they will see it as a wonderful experience.

    • Thanks for your comment Matthew, yes it really was a great experience.

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