Tony was a Fulbright ETA in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia). After Fulbright, he stayed in Spain to do a master’s in Bilingual and Multicultural Education in Madrid. Tony used his Fulbright experience to decide whether to pursue a path in transportation engineering or pivot to a career in teaching. His Fulbright experience convinced him his future lay in education.
What was a typical day as a Spain ETA?
I’d carpool to work before starting to assist in my classes. Usually, I had anywhere from 3-5 classes, each about an hour long. In between my classes, there was time for a coffee break at the in-school cafeteria. After that, I’d go home by carpool, eat lunch around 3pm, and prepare my classes for the following day. When my roommates got home around 6, we’d usually hang out whether that meant watching a movie, going for a walk, or playing sports. My roommates were very international, including a person from Galicia, someone from Italy, and someone from France.
Tell us about your community engagement.
For the school community, I did a music club. We talked about the popular music that the students were listening to, how to analyze it, and how to understand it. Outside of school, I was often trying to find ways to meet people who lived in Santiago. One big thing I did was take lessons in the Galician language. Galician is a beautiful language, and I found that being able to speak even small amounts of Galician made it easier to get to know some of the people there, even though everyone also speaks Spanish. For example, I joined a boxing gym where everyone spoke Galician and it was so much fun!
Any advice for future ETA applicants?
Listen to Julia Mongo! She’s an incredible resource. Also, be aware that being an ETA is very different from being a teacher as you will be primarily an assistant. While you get to be in the classroom working with students every day, the expectations, responsibilities and even the respect placed on you will be very different from that of a teacher. It’s a lovely learning experience and I’m hoping a good stepping stone into a full teaching position.
How did the Fulbright ETA experience impact you?
My Fulbright ETA definitely confirmed that I wanted to be a teacher. I’m now working on moving back to the States to teach as a career!
Living in a new country has affected me personally in uncountable ways. For example, living here gave me a lot of confidence in speaking Spanish. There are also certain parts of the culture that I’m not sure I’ll never let go of like the coffee breaks and the value placed on work-life balance. Finally, my appreciation for cultural exchange has increased. Leaving the US was the first time I really felt like a foreigner where I was living, and learning to navigate my relationship with Spain, the culture, and it’s people has me both wanting more and respecting the deep and tumultuous waters like never before.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I highly recommend the Fulbright Spain Program. The Fulbright Spain Commission is so supportive that you never feel alone even though the process of moving to a new country can be a mess of paperwork and difficulties.