TeachingTraveling.com: Welcome, Anna Drapkin! Tell us a bit about your background.
Anna: I’m a 24 year old Bostonian at the end of an eight month experience living and teaching English in southern Spain.
Originally from a small town in Maine, I first became hooked on travel during a high school trip to France and Italy. Swimming against the strong tides in Nice, taking a boat cruise along the Seine, viewing the lights of the Eiffel Tower at night, playing cards on a high speed train that zipped through the French countryside jump started my love affair with travel.
Thinking I wanted to study international affairs, I enrolled at Tufts University. Although I never took a class in International Relations at Tufts, it was at college that I was able to first live abroad in Madrid, Spain.
After college, I served for two years as a National Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools, a national non-profit that provides high quality after school programs for low-income middle school students. One of the highlights of my time as a Teaching Fellow was translating for our Spanish-speaking families. I realized that the ability to speak another language provides an additional layer of trust and communication. Families enjoyed teaching me Spanish and we laughed together whenever I made a mistake (which happens quite often!) The travel bug bit me during my second year in the Fellowship, and I decided to apply to this teaching program in Spain.
TT: Tell us more about this teaching fellowship in Spain!
A: Currently, I live in a small Spanish town with my boyfriend, where some of our best moments involve simply stopping to talk on the street with our neighbors. We have become a part of this community: inviting people over for dinner, attending community theater performances such as “Flamenco School Musical”, and joining in local holidays and celebrations. Recently, my parents visited us for a week of the Feria, which is like a New England fair with a Spanish twist. You can read more about my experiences in my blog, Taste of Olives.
As an American abroad, I am always aware of my position as an unofficial diplomat. My boyfriend and I are the only Americans in our town, so everything that we do reflects on the image of our country as a whole. I think it’s very important for Americans to remember this fact as we enjoy our travel experiences.
TT: Amazing! How did you find this travel opportunity?
A: This opportunity to teach English in a Spanish public school is available online by clicking THIS LINK. I highly recommend this program, especially if you love teaching and have even a basic understanding of Spanish!
TT: I hope a bunch of TeachingTraveling.com readers apply for this great-sounding fellowship! Now, do you have any funny story of your time abroad that pops to mind, Anna?
A: In my first week as an English teacher here, one of my sixth graders asked me if I go home to the United States every night!
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
A: I am still at the beginning of my teaching career, but I look forward to bringing Spanish language and culture to my new students in Boston next year. I hope to create a classroom experience where students become more sensitive and aware of other cultures while gaining fluency in a foreign language. In a concrete way, I hope to start a pen pal program between the two schools, celebrate Spanish holidays with my students and teach them about differences and similarities in our cultures.
TT: Lucky students! How have your travels and your time in Spain impacted you as a person?
A: Traveling has taught me to relax and live in the moment. My days are much more unstructured abroad than they were in the US, and this was difficult for me at first.
What does one do with a lazy afternoon and no deadlines?? This may seem like a dream come true, but it can be hard.
When I return to Boston, I will strive to find a balance between the intensity and fulfillment of a busy professional life and the simple pleasure of life one day at a time!
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?
A: You can do it! Whether your travel adventure is a year spent teaching in another country, a month volunteer teaching, a week-long vacation in a foreign land, or a weekend trip, travel will open your eyes and change your perspective on our world.
TT: Thanks so much, Anna! Have a wonderful final few weeks of your fellowship, and we’ll be in Boston waiting to welcome you back! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Anna?