Cultural ambassadors with the Spanish Ministry of Education

Editor’s note: This story was written by Julie DeCook, a student in Lyle Olson’s magazine writing class. Other stories written by the students can be viewed at www.sdstate.edu/as.

SDSU students travel all over the world in order to learn from different universities and cultures, but how many students can say that they went to a foreign country sponsored by its government to teach others?

Three students from the modern languages department can. Kayla Blindert, Shane Madison and Sean Krohse all applied and were accepted to be teachers through the Spanish Ministry of Education.

After graduating, they went to teach English wherever they were sent by the Auxiliares de Conversación or the English Language Assistant program, which is run by the Ministry of Education.

The role of the native English speakers is to assist with activities at an elementary or high school in Spain. They are not in charge of a class, but rather to help out with speaking, conversation, pronunciation and cultural activities when the classroom teacher didn’t have first-hand experience.

Sean Krohse
Sean Krohse

Sean Krohse

Krohse was a part of the program for two years.

“The program is first-come, first-serve. If you apply right away, you will more than likely be chosen,” says Krohse. “If you apply early, you have more choices of where you want to go.”

Krohse taught in the northern Spanish province of La Rioja — in Haro, a town of 12,000, and Logrono, a city of 153,000 — for his two years. He applied right after graduation in 2008 and in February 2009 completed his application. After being accepted, he applied for a visa and was on a plane to Spain by September. “It was the best two years of my life, hands down,” says Krohse.

He didn’t stay in schools the entire time, however. He walked the Camino de Santiago across Spain before returning to the USA in summer 2011.

Shane Madison
Shane Madison receives a birthday present from one of his students.

Shane Madison receives a birthday present from one of his students.

The paychecks for Shane Madison did not come from the Spanish Ministry of Education but rather the Basque government.

“I don’t have much to say about the selection process. I filled out an application online, and the organization selected Donostia for me,” Madison says. Donostia, or San Sebastian, is a city in northern Spain in the Basque Country.

“Being placed in Donostia was the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me,” says Madison, who arrived there Sept. 23, 2009.

Madison promised the people of the Basque Country to help support its peaceful search for autonomy.

Madison says he is passionate about the Basque Country. Whenever encountering anyone, he likes to tell people about the Basque culture and language, and how he learned how to speak it a little during his time there.

He recalls that when he found out about the cultural ambassador position in January 2009, he was staying in Brookings and had one credit remaining for his Spanish degree and three credits remaining for his psychology degree.

“I was working at Bravos as a server and a cook,” says Madison.

He had already spent the 2007-08 school year in Spain through an internship in Valencia.

“I was doing my internship at a partially private Catholic school for my psychology requirements when an instructor fell down the stairs. The principal burst into my office, and he asked me to cover her class.

“I loved it, so I continued doing it. I helped cover English classes for juniors and seniors in high school from December 2007 to May 2008. When I was not in class, I was working under the wing of the school’s psychologist.”

Madison now is in Hong Kong, where he arrived Jan. 5 and will spend a few years as a native English teacher for primary and secondary schools.

Madison says he craved for a new experience and wanted to learn an East Asian language. Cantonese and traditional Mandarin typically require at least two years to master, he says.

Kayla Blindert
Kayla Blindert

Kayla Blindert

Blindert is in her second year in Spain as an English teaching assistant.

“Last year I worked at an elementary school in rural Castilla-La Mancha, a central Spanish autonomous community,” says Blindert. “This year I’m working at an official language school in urban Cantabria, a northern Spanish autonomous community.

“Apart from elementary schools and language schools, English teaching assistants can also work at high schools throughout the country.”

Blindert says after living there in 2011 and seeing the protests and revolts, she knows that the economic situation for Spaniards is tough right now.

“The English teaching program for North Americans was suspended this year in the autonomous communities of Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, and Valencia. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the program will continue throughout the rest of the country next year,” says Blindert.

“It’s really unfortunate because it is a wonderful program. I can honestly say that this experience has been absolutely amazing. I have met so many incredible people and seen so many places in Spain and Europe.”

Many other countries offer positions similar to this as well through their ministry or departments of education.

Julia DeCook

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