After a year in Madrid full of surprises, twists, and turns, Ellen Hietsch is back in the US for the summer. We checked in with her to see what she has been up to these past few months. Her adventures include a West Coast job, moving out of her childhood home, and applying for a student visa during what we like to call “Visa Application Season.” Read on to learn more about her adventures and her next steps.
Where in the world are you this summer?
“I have been all over the place! First, I arrived at my childhood home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A cabin fire had broken out on my plane home and I subsequently had a canceled flight. Once I made it back, I was home for three weeks before leaving for Berkeley, California, where I’m currently writing this. After my time in Berkeley, I will return to Carlisle at the beginning of August. Once again not for long. My family is moving to upstate New York (like… 30 minutes from the Canadian border upstate New York) in the middle of August. This is also where I’ll be until I return to Madrid. It sounds chaotic, but I honestly prefer it this way. After a year constantly on the move in Madrid, the last thing I want is to be sitting around in one place for three months“
Are you working or studying this summer?
“In Berkeley, I am working as an RA for Summerfuel College Admissions Prep program. There are students from all over the world. When I’m in Carlisle, I’m going to be busy with my family’s move, a whole lot of networking, and (the always dreaded) Visa Application Season.“
Why did you choose to work in Berkeley this summer?
“Originally, I had been interested in working for Summerfuel’s Barcelona program, but it was full by the time I was aware of the opportunity. I chose Berkeley instead because I had never been to California before, but it always fascinated me! If I stay in the US for my master’s, I would love to get it on the West Coast. Summerfuel has been great for getting me to think about opportunities that may exist there. Part of my job involves supervising participants on college tours around the Bay Area. I’ve found a few campuses that have piqued my interest.”
Does what you’re doing now with Summerfuel fall in line with your main interests for your career?
“Yes – I want a career in international education! Summerfuel has been interesting because I have gotten to explore it from the side of foreign students coming to the US for the first time.”
Are you applying the skills you developed while abroad in Spain to this job?
“Definitely. After working with students in a Spanish secondary school, the 19 teenage girls on my floor seem like nothing. The patience I developed while working as a language assistant has also been vital. It’s helpful in that it helps me pause to think about cultural differences that could exist between the students and me. It also helps in simply not blowing up if they won’t stop talking during our floor meetings. I also consider my own experiences of being nervous while away from the US, and am sure to check in with the girls to make sure they’re doing okay.”
Are you planning to go abroad again?
“After some unexpected scares at the end of my first year in Madrid, I can finally say YES (well, given that Visa Application Season goes well, but I feel confident)! I will be attending a Spanish language school program in Madrid for the year, in hopes of leaping towards fluency. In the meantime, I will get 20 work hours a week on my student visa. I am applying for part-time work in international education and doing private English lessons in the meantime. This will keep me floating until I find something more permanent.”
Getting Back Abroad
After speaking with Ellen about her summer plans, transitions, and the steps she’s taking to get back abroad, it’s clearer to me than ever that the roller coaster that is living abroad prepares you so well for anything in life. After you’ve been through the day-to-day stress of life in another country and experienced unexpected hurdles there, they always seem easier to tackle back home. Living abroad has a way of showing you that you are more capable than you’d ever imagined. That’s something you can take with you anywhere.
by Emma Schultz