Tell us a bit about yourself.
As a native of Lexington, Kentucky, it was an easy decision for me to attend my hometown university! I graduated from the University of Kentucky in May of 2015, where I studied Communication Sciences and Disorders and double majored in Spanish. With my degree, I hope to become a bilingual speech-language pathologist serving children in the United States and abroad through volunteer work in Spanish-speaking countries. My love of languages, desire to live abroad and appreciation for foreign cultures has lead me to where I am today: currently living and working as an English Teaching Assistant in Madrid, Spain through a Fulbright scholarship.
How and why did you choose to do international service-learning in Lima?
As a student in the college of health sciences, I felt that an international service-learning program was a great opportunity to gain experience in my field of study. It provided me with a setting that combined my two areas of concentration, Spanish and communication disorders. This program offered me the unique opportunity to experience the health care system of a foreign country through active participation in a bilingual center designed for children with special needs and learning delays and also allowed me to attend lectures on the Peruvian health care systems. The ISA health sciences service-learning program helped to combine my passion for travel and learning about foreign cultures by providing me with the opportunity to live with a host family and visit world famous sites, like Machu Picchu!
Is there any advice you would give to someone who was about to begin serving at the Bilingual Education and Learning Center?
I would encourage a participant serving at the Bilingual Education and Learning Center to really get to know the students and to have an abundance of patience. It was fun to have kids eager to play fútbol or tag with me at recess and it was encouraging to receive a goodbye hug at the end of each school day. The kids made the experience more enjoyable! At the same time, they occasionally made the experience tough. When the lessons or games don’t go as planned, just go with the flow! You may have to explain a math problem 10 times, but keep trying and be open to change. Sometimes we would get through only 3 problems in 40 minutes, but just stay positive and focus on what they have accomplished, telling yourself “well, that’s 3 new math problems they learned today!”
What happened after you returned back to campus after your service-learning program?
My service-learning program affirmed my desire to work as a speech-language pathologist and fortified my interest in working with children. My work at the Bilingual Education and Learning Center was the first encounter I had with speech therapy in Spanish. I always knew I wanted to work as a bilingual SLP, but I had never actually witnessed therapy being performed in Spanish. Having observed and worked with the SLP at the Center, I finally got to see the Spanish side of my future career. I returned to the U.S. after my program ready to begin my senior year at the University of Kentucky and confident in my career path!
Congratulations on your acceptance into the ETA Fulbright Program in Spain! Let’s start from the beginning: how did you hear about the Fulbright Program?
Less than a week after returning to the states from my service-learning program in Lima, Peru, I received an email from the University of Kentucky’s Director of Nationally Competitive Awards encouraging me to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a post-graduate opportunity. After such a great experience abroad, I was eager to continue my travels; that email came at a perfect time. I immediately contacted UK’s director and began the application process!
What made you want to apply for a Fulbright?
Having attended a Spanish Immersion Program in Lexington, KY fueled within me a love for the Spanish culture and language. I have grown up being taught by individuals from a variety of Hispanic countries and feel that the education I have received helped prepare me for success not only outside of the classroom, but outside of the country! I feel like I can relate to the students at San Agustín de Guadalix because I too received a bilingual education. I use my personal experience to empathize and relate to my students, I know the frustrations that come with learning a foreign language and I wish to provide an example of the opportunities that can come your way when you embrace another culture and language! Being enrolled in a Spanish Immersion Program was a decision made by my parents when I was six years old, but no one knew how much it would shape and inspire the rest of my life!
Were there any situations from your service-learning program in Lima that prepared you for your role as an ETA in Spain?
My role as an ETA in Madrid is similar to the work I did in Lima, except with a different age group. In Lima, I learned how to effectively communicate difficult subjects, explain concepts in related ways and encourage students when they got frustrated with their work, which is exactly what I am doing as an ETA in Madrid. Without knowing it, my experience in Lima was training me for my job in Madrid.
How will this opportunity help you get to where you’d like to be?
The Fulbright program allows me to immerse myself in the Spanish culture, improve my language skills and provides me with lesson planning and classroom leading experience. As an aspiring bilingual speech-language pathologist working in the school system, every moment inside and outside of the classroom is setting me up for success in my future career. Constant interaction with others from different ways of life is allowing me to learn about other cultures, preparing me for the diverse clientele I aim to serve as a bilingual employee in the United States. Receiving feedback, both positive and negative, from my students is helping me to learn new teaching styles and adapt old ones. Through this Fulbright opportunity in Spain, I am constantly learning how to better work with and understand the Spanish culture and the people whom I wish to work with in the future. Living abroad for a year is a learning experience that will allow me to empathize with foreign populations in the United States and discover skills that are developed through being taken outside of your comfort zone: independence, adaptability and problem solving.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me? I’m asking myself the exact same question! My grant term will be completed in June, which means I will return to the states where I will then pursue a Masters degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders to prepare for my career as a speech-language pathologist. I wish to work with children in the school setting, preferably in an area with a large Spanish-speaking population, allowing me to administer therapy in Spanish! Having gone to school in the same city where I was raised didn’t provide much opportunity to explore new places, so this year in Spain is opening my eyes to new adventures, forcing me outside of my comfort zone and requiring that I finally learn how to read a map! Kentucky will always be my home, but who knows where I will end up!
The World Awaits…Discover it.