Tag Archives: spanish

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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The Fulbright: Why and When

Choosing to apply for a Fulbright grant was the easiest part of the application. The steps that come after that initial choice certainly lend themselves to considerably more effort and significant reward.

I decided that I wanted to apply for a Fulbright grant in my sophomore year of college. I set the application as one of my goals (I still managed to procrastinate on starting it) and kept the Fulbright in mind throughout my college experience. I chose to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship in Spain and I made this choice early on. I am fluent in Spanish and had studied abroad in Spain and visited once before. If you have been to Spain, you can probably understand how it was an easy choice. It’s hard not to fall in love with the culture, the art, and the people. However, my love for all of those things is only superseded by my love for Spanish language. The opportunity to live in a place that is the origin of the language that I love was irresistible.

The only other passion that I have that parallels my love for the Spanish language is my passion for teaching and helping others. The ETA Fulbright position offered me the opportunity to incorporate all of the things I truly care about, and the decision to apply for this type of grant was hardly even a choice. The application process comes a lot more easily if you choose what you love.

I began my application about a month before it was due, which I would not recommend. There is no such thing as having too much time to work on something. Although I regret waiting to start the application, I’m a notorious procrastinator and there is a 100% chance that I would do it the same all over again. With the help of Dr. Beverly Hawk, I completed my two essays, my application, and secured my three recommenders within the month of application period that I had allowed myself.

After months of waiting to hear back about my Fulbright grantee status, while I was in California over spring break, I decided to check my email. I normally have a policy that while I’m on vacation, I don’t check email, but I had a feeling, and following that feeling led to my discovery that I had received a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant in Spain. My last semester of my undergraduate career flew by from that moment, with me completely euphoric (aside from the visa process, which you will definitely hear about later on).

I cannot wait to be living my dream of teaching and living in Madrid, Spain and that journey starts in 8 days. An anomaly for me, I am packed and ready to go. I am still in utter disbelief that I will be living this experience in a little over a week, but thankful for the opportunity and those who encouraged and supported me on the way. I’m looking forward to updating in my next blog post, straight out of Madrid. ¡Hasta luego!

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