This story begins long ago circa Summer 2014. I was getting my BA in Spanish Language and Literature, Secondary Teacher Preparation at Stony Brook University on Long Island. As I was going through my undergraduate career, I couldn’t help but think… ‘How the heck am I going to be a Spanish teacher if I’ve never even experienced the culture?’ So I began researching study abroad programs in Spanish speaking countries through my university. While perusing through the websites, I stumbled upon Instituto Franklin’s Teach and Learn Program. I watched a video (which I’m sure most of us have seen) with a woman walking around Alcalá, talking about her daily routine in the MA program. I can still hear the words at the end, “¡Aprovéchala!”, echoing in my head. I knew from that moment that this MA program would be something I’d be interested in. It seemed to be a perfect fit, allowing me to live in a foreign country, get my MA, and pursue a career in foreign language education. But first… I had to get through one semester of study abroad.
Forward one year, and I was in Spain, studying abroad. I had an amazing time. I travelled, I lived in a Spanish household, and I went from only being able to read, write and listen to Spanish to actually being able to communicate in Spanish. I was unable to really express my opinions in a classroom setting on Long Island where 90% of my classmates were native Spanish speakers and we discussed medieval Spanish literature… Study abroad allowed me to grow as a Spanish speaker outside of the classroom, as a teacher, and made my decision to apply for the Teach and Learn MA program that much easier.
As soon as I left the Fall 2015 study abroad program I began applying for the Teach and Learn Program for the 2016-2017 school year. I was finishing my last semester at Stony Brook University and student teaching (thank goodness I did study abroad the semester before). The paperwork for the student visa was tedious, even more so than I remembered from the year before. After numerous mistakes and paying for the wrong background checks, I got my visa. It was official. I finally graduated and I had a year of living in Spain to look forward to. I couldn’t wait to get back. I rented an Air BNB for the first weekend, packed my bags, and I was off. I found an apartment by my second day and lived with two Erasmus students (a girl from Austria and another from Italy) and a guy from China living and studying in Spain. Everything seemed to be going well. But after a couple of weeks, I began to miss home, which definitely did not happen during my study abroad experience… not once. This year was absolutely nothing like the year before. I was waking up at 7:00 every morning, getting home at 8:30 in the evening half the week, doing work for the MA classes, preparing and writing my thesis, and barely had any time for much else during the week. Somehow I still managed to balance a social life, but I had much more responsibility and work than I originally anticipated. I mean, it is a MA, so I should have expected it.
But I digress… I didn’t expect so much. The hours in the charter schools were much longer than I was used to, it took a lot of adjusting to fit in at the school, with the students and the staff, as well as adjusting to living on my own and making ends meet without any additional help for the first time in my life. Not to mention, the disorganization and waiting in Spain doesn’t make the transition for a punctual person like myself any easier! While it was one of the most challenging years of my life it was definitely worth it. I became friends with teachers at the school, grew close with the students, made long-lasting friendships with like-minded individuals, established great relationships with our professors, and wrote a research paper that I am so proud of, and worked so hard on, that I was runner up for an award, awarded a certificate of excellence and now my thesis is being published. I couldn’t have asked for more. If I ever had any doubts in myself, this program helped me realize my strength as a person and my potential as an academic and professional.
Now, why am I going back, you may ask? Why do I want to write another thesis, and work long weeks and have classes every Friday evening again? I thought I had it all planned out, but as we all know, plans change. I went to an Alumni Meeting in November for Instituto Franklin. Some alumni from previous Teach and Learn Programs had come to speak about their experiences during and after the program. These alumni had found amazing jobs that they loved and the MA program played a big role in where they ended up. As one alumnus was speaking, he mentioned that he was working on getting into a career with Study Abroad. The more he spoke about it, the more it sounded like a perfect fit for me. I love teaching, and this is still part of the plan for me, but I also want to be able to help others achieve similar international experiences that I have been so lucky to have. This alumnus also did the MA in Bilingual and Multicultural Education, but then continued at NYU in International Education while working with their registrar office. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I wish I had done the International Education program from the beginning.’ However, I don’t regret what I have already accomplished and am glad that I did the Bilingual and Multicultural Education Program. I feel that it has been a stepping-stone and sort of trial run for me, going in to this second year. It’s worth the effort for only one year. I want to learn more, in a program where I am saving so much money compared to a MA in the states, and I’ll have two masters in two years time. If I do have to go back to school a little more, it still won’t take nearly as long or cost as much money, but I don’t think that will be necessary either. This year I’ll know what is required of me, how the school system works, how to write a thesis and now I have so many close friends in Spain that it feels like a second home.
I am writing this after being home in the states for about 5 weeks now and I can’t wait to get back to Spain (only 2 more months – you’ll be reading this a week before I get back). If you had told me I’d feel this way at the beginning of the program last year, I may not have believed you, but I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead this year. I am about to start my third year living in Alcalá and I couldn’t feel more secure in my decision to do another program. I’ve grown tremendously as a person, a student, and a teacher over the past two years and I guarantee that Instituto Franklin has played a huge part in that growth and I am beyond grateful to have had an opportunity such as this to continue expanding my knowledge and education in what I love to do. During this upcoming year I plan to start the application process in search for my first job within my chosen career path and while I’m a little nervous and anxious to see what’s out there, I feel prepared and confident that my experience gained and to be gained with Instituto Franklin will increase my chances of finding a good job as soon as I leave those beautiful stone steps that have welcomed me for the past three years.
Erin Glayzer Alumni Instituto Franklin – UAH.
Study abroad in Spain Fall 2015
MA in Bilingual & Multicultural Education 2016-2017