As any soon-to-be or recent college grad knows, there are so many different things you can do after graduation. Get a job? Of course. Travel the world? Yes! But today we are profiling a Communication Studies alum who managed to combine both… she got a job that gave her the ability to travel the world! How did she do it? And who is she? The author of today’s “The Expert Files” is 2009 Communication Studies graduate Amanda Jensen! Amanda chose to teach English abroad after she graduated and I asked her to share her experiences with us.
“When I sat down to finally write this blog post I became depressed as I realized all the memories that have already begun to fade. Moving back to the United States I was immediately re-immersed into the fast-paced, high-speed world that I had left behind while living and teaching in Spain for 13 months. The ideology in Spain is strikingly different from here in the United States. I was surrounded by Spaniards who embody and enliven the spirit of Spain’s most culturally traditional region, Andalucia. Upon moving there I was immediately embraced by the unparalleled spectacles of Southern Spain and the quieter magic of its daily life.
For memory sake, I poured over photos of learning to dance flamenco, dressing up in polka dots for Feria, debating the tradition of the bullfight while watching a bullfight, practicing my Spanish with flourish, traveling, and most importantly becoming an active member of a foreign school and community.
After graduating from the University of San Francisco in 2009, I knew I wanted a challenge and I wanted to do something bold. I had always wanted to travel but just backpacking through Europe never interested me. I wanted to travel with purpose and I wanted to make a difference in my life and in the lives of others. I didn’t want to blow through a ton of money in 2 months. What interested me was embracing a new culture and way of life. I wanted a challenge, remember?
Many people decide to Teach Abroad after college and everyone has their own reasons in mind for why they want to. Many want to travel to as many countries as they can, they want to become fluent in another language, they want to re-live their study abroad days, see famous places that they had previously only read about or seen pictures of, and they want to experience a new culture. Those reasons were all included on my list, but for me, I wanted to teach. I wanted to build relationships in the classroom, in my school, and in my community.
I think that graduating from USF with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies allowed me to realize how diverse our world is and how the possibilities for our future are intimidating and endless. I chose to study communication because it would give me tremendous flexibility in terms of a career choice and it has proven to be effective in all aspects of my life.
The job I had in Spain was perfect for me. I was assigned to teach at an elementary school, in a small town within the Huelva province in Andalucia, Spain. My official title within the school was a Language and Culture Assistant. I immediately fell in love with teaching those children. I fell in love with Spanish and my surroundings. Being one of the first and only American, white girls, to live in the small town of La Palma del Condado, I was a celebrity. I was welcomed with open arms and the children, teachers and members of the community were eager to learn from me. For the students in Spain, having a Language and Cultural Assistant was very rewarding because the interactions they had with a native helped them improve in all aspects of learning English; reading, writing, pronunciation, and most importantly confidence. As a conversation assistant I found the job very rewarding because I saw the interest build in each individual student. I also saw the improvement and respect the students built for the language.
It was advantageous to experience living and working outside the United States to really discover how the Spanish people live, work, and function. It has been an incredible adventure learning about the Spanish educational system, learning to speak the language, and participating in all the traditional and cultural events. The relationships I have made with both the teachers and students I will keep forever.
All aspects of the experience I look forward to using one day in my own classroom.
You can take from your teach abroad experience whatever you want. For me, the experience solidified my passions for the Spanish language, for culture, and for teaching. Besides the real-world skills that were put to test daily, I was afforded international competency, being an active member in a foreign community, enhanced independence, increased language skills, lifelong friendships and relationships, and the difference I made within the La Palma community. But what I really left Spain with was a whole new perspective on myself, the career I wanted, and how I wanted to evolve my teaching methods.
It is because of these experiences that I want to become a teacher. What it really comes down to is, who my future students will be and who they will become. I want to help them build relationships with each other and with their teacher that they will remember forever. I love being around children because their spirits are infectious, their minds are imaginative, their capabilities are endless and their enthusiasm and innocence gives me hope. I have a unique opportunity to bring what I have discovered into my classroom.
If you think that Teaching Abroad is something you are interested in, I highly recommend you pursue it. In my mind, no other experience compares. There are many countries and programs that utilize natives coming into their school systems. The program I went through is called CIEE: the Council on International Educational Exchange. http://www.ciee.org/teach/about/aboutCIEE.aspx I found this program by researching ‘teach abroad programs’ that are recommended through Universities. CIEE also has an active study abroad program in over 50 countries. It is affiliated with many colleges across the country. I found it through Oregon State. It provides you with all services and support you will need while abroad. Depending on where you are interested in traveling to there are many programs. I have friends that are or have taught in Portugal, France, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, Cambodia and Chile.
If you are interested in reading further about my daily life in Spain, more specifically, the daily challenges and affirmations, here is my blog link:
Congratulations, Amanda, and thanks for sharing your experiences! Amanda’s blog is GREAT, so take a look at it if you want to learn more about her experiences in Spain.