Last year, I moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English in a public bilingual secondary school. This post is about who I am and how I came to the decision to teach abroad.
I would consider myself an avid traveler, but it was not always this way. To the contrary, I am the only one in my family with a passport. I grew up in a suburb of Orlando, Florida. As a child, my family did not travel much. I do not think that I ever went outside of a 100 mile radius of my hometown for the first decade of my life. Still, I grew up around much cultural diversity and regularly came into contact with people from all over the world. I always wanted to travel and experience other cultures and places first hand.
Fast-forward to college and I found myself as a first-generation college student at Vanderbilt University. This was an incredible but also very difficult experience (that I may visit in another post.) I double majored in Human and Organizational Development and Spanish. To get the most out of my Spanish major, I made the decision to do a study abroad program in Madrid during my junior year. The second flight of my life was from the U.S to Spain.
My study abroad experience was definitely what led me to want to teach abroad. I had my ups and downs, but it was overall a very eye-opening experience. Unlike most of the students in my program, I was very tight on money during my time abroad in college. My travels were limited to trips within Spain with the exception of one trip to Oporto, Portugal. My lack of travel expertise caused me to make some mistakes. The only reason I made it out of Barcelona was that my flight was delayed. I was stranded in Bilbao when I went to visit one of my cousins that was living with his father in Basque Country. These things happen to the best of us and in the end make good stories. Travel makes you a stronger, adaptable, and more resilient person. After returning to Nashville, the desire to return to Europe and travel more extensively was always in the back of my mind.
When I graduated, I joined Nashville Teaching Fellows, taught high school Spanish in the Nashville area for three years and earned a Master’s in Education in the process. Towards the end of my third year of teaching, I knew that I needed to make a big change. I didn’t want to settle down in Nashville; I wanted to travel and acquire more international experience. Teaching abroad seemed to be the perfect fit, as it would allow me to continue acquiring valuable teaching experience and allow me the opportunity to travel and experience new cultures. At the end of the school year, I went off to Honduras to teach over the summer and then to Spain in September for the school year. I was looking to gain professional experience and skills that I would be able to take back to the United States as a Spanish/ESL teacher.
If you’re contemplated taking the risk of moving abroad, DO IT. It will change you in all the right ways. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Stay tuned for my part 2 segment on what I learned from my experiences and what I would do differently while living abroad.