Fun in the Canary Islands

Posted by Logan F.

In my sophomore year of college, I fell in love with the Spanish language. Before, I saw it more as a useful skill to be able to better understand patients down the line in the medical field. However, during a Beyond Bama service-learning trip to Nicaragua, I found that Spanish wasn’t all conjugations and vocabulary- it was a gateway to another world. Spanish was the key to not only learn about real people and their histories, but it was a way to connect and form relationships. I was amazed at how easy it was to bond over food or traditions when I put myself in situations in which I couldn’t use English. This love for Spanish and enthusiasm for cultural exchange were my main reasons for applying to Fulbright.

Once I narrowed down my options to Spanish-speaking countries only, it was an easy decision to decide to apply for Spain’s Fulbright program. I already had an understanding of life in Spain because of a summer study abroad program in Madrid. Visiting museums and parks all over the city, meeting Spanish college students, and finally gaining confidence in my Spanish abilities helped to make the experience incredible. I knew Fulbright would be immersive in a completely different way, but I couldn’t wait to return.

Little did I know how different of an experience serving as an English Teaching Assistant in the Canary Islands would be! As an ETA, I spend 16 hours each week teaching classes, and 2 hours coordinating with other teachers. I work at a primary school, but I spend time only with grades 3-6. After school, I’m exploring new hobbies, like surfing, hiking, and running. I’m still trying to find the best tortilla in Las Palmas, and I’ve become obsessed with bocadillos and fresh squeezed zumo de naranja. In my free time, I’m also working on my side project. Originally, I had hoped to develop a service-learning curriculum partnering with a nonprofit, but volunteering is much harder than I expected here, especially with a group of elementary students. Instead, I’m searching for a volunteering site and plan to include lessons where students will act out different volunteering scenarios and can learn how they can get involved in their local community.

Coming into this experience, I was feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I knew that all of my involvement had helped me to feel more ready for my Fulbright year, but nothing compares to walking into a new school on the first day, making friends in a new country, or the challenges that accompany everyday life when living somewhere unfamiliar. Add in an actively erupting volcano, and welcome to las Islas Canarias! I had mentored various ages of students throughout college- from programs like READ Alabama with first graders, Tuscaloosa’s One Place and Discovery Buddies with middle schoolers, the Spanish LIFT program with high schoolers, and even college students through UA’s ELL program. I also loved volunteering as a Spanish interpreter at Maude Whatley Health Clinic. After college, I spent a year working for a nonprofit in Greensboro, AL called Project Horseshoe Farm where I got even more experience mentoring and developing classroom materials, building relationships, and being outside of my comfort zone. Upon arriving in Gran Canaria, I realized I have so much to learn. But I cannot wait to experience everything.

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