Sunday, June 23, 2013

Student Spotlight: Hanna Solecka

by Ann Abbott

Students of Spanish, I always say, know that they love the language, but they don't know how to integrate it into their lives and into their careers.

Now, though, I have a YouTube channel that features video interviews with former students of Spanish. They tell what they're doing now, explain how they use Spanish and give advice to current students. My hope is that the alumni in the videos will serve as examples to current students about directions they could take with their Spanish, too. It's also a way to network: if you're a current student of Spanish at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, I am positive that the alums in these videos would be happy for you to contact them.

One of the first students I interviewed was Hanna Solecka. So many of my students want to go to (or return to) Spain after they graduate. Hanna did just that, and the video above describes how she did that. The email below describes her time there. (In other videos, Hannah talks about her Spanish classesdescribes her current studies in a Masters in International Relations and Affairs and gives advice to current students of Spanish.

I encourage all students to consider following Hanna's path--investing some time into ESL training and then finding a job in a Spanish-speaking country.


"Hola Ann!

"I've officially completed my first 2 weeks of teaching and it has been challenging, but really great! The first week was a complete shock to the system. I met so many new students and parents every day that by Wednesday, I couldn't remember who I'd met on Monday. But, now that the time table has been set, I feel much more relaxed and confident that I'll be able to do the job.

"I teach a total of 24 hours/week, Monday through Friday. Friday is nice because it's a short day- I only teach from 5 to 7! My classes are all age ranges and levels. The youngest I teach are 7 and the oldest are adults, but I have classes of ten, eleven, and thirteen to fifteen year olds as well. I also have two private one-on-one sessions. The best classes are my 7 and 9 year olds, which was a surprise to me! They are very well behaved, eager to learn, and, in general, a pleasure to teach. My adults are wonderful too. There are only 6 of them, which makes the class intimate and productive. My worst students are my 10 year olds who are at a pre-intermediate level of English. They clearly don't want to be in class and make no effort to pay attention. It's very frustrating. The also don't know basic grammar terms like "noun", "verb" and "adjective" so it's slow going right now. But, hopefully, this situation will improve as the school year goes on.

"The school itself is very nice. Colorful, well stocked with supplies, has a small library and it has all the newest technology like a computer for each teacher, a new photocopier, and interactive white boards in all the classrooms. My bosses are efficient people who are always ready to help you out if you have a problem, which is reassuring.

"Life in Lucena is like a dream. Right now, it's about 80 degrees outside, full sun, and there's a nice breeze. The people who live in Lucena are all very friendly and love to engage you in conversation in places like the grocery store and various bars/restaurants. As a result, I'm getting loads of practice in Spanish, which is great! Cost of living here is pretty cheap. For my 3 bedroom, 1 and a half bath, fully furnished apartment, a stone's throw from the city center, that I share with a fellow teacher, I pay 150 euro. So, 300 euro all together. That's crazy! I was paying more for a smaller apartment on campus that wasn't near Green St. I'm definitely loving all the Spanish food. The jamon serrano and cheese here are wonderful. I've also sampled some traditional Spanish dishes that are quickly becoming favorites of mine, such as salmorejo and fried eggplant with honey sauce. I've been traveling some too. Yesterday, three of us went to Malaga for the day. We went to the Picasso museum and then spent some time at the beach. Very nice and relaxing. Have plans to go to Cordoba next week and Barcelona at the end of the month when we have a long holiday over Halloween and All Saints Day.

"Though my job is tiring at times, I'm loving it here and am so happy I made the decision to teach English for a year! Besides teaching and planning, I'm also finishing up graduate school applications. It's a long and tedious process, but I hope it'll prove fruitful. I'm looking to get a Masters in International Relations with a focus in Latin American educational development at either Georgetown, Syracuse, Columbia in NY, or Johns Hopkins next year."

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