Today’s Shero Spotlight is one of my best friends, Alicia Heninger! I met Alicia during my sophomore year of college and I have been incredibly inspired by her ever since. Despite changing her major seven times [a running joke amongst our friends ;-)], she has been extremely strong-willed in what she wants and has never been afraid to pursue her passion. Alicia has studied abroad three times and will be moving to Galicia, Spain toward the end of the year to teach high schoolers. I am SO excited to spotlight her for today’s blog!
Why did you decide to major in education?
I picked education because I always liked working with kids. I nannied and babysat growing up and working with kids seemed like my best next step. When I first picked education I was really torn between math, English and Spanish, those were the three things I excelled in at school and so that’s what I wanted to teach. I ended up picking Spanish because I still wanted to incorporate Spanish and I had been learning it for the past seven years. Ideally, I wanted to teach high schoolers because I really wanted to teach students to be able to speak in Spanish [beyond just colors and days of the week.
How many times have you studied abroad and where?
I volunteered abroad in Peru for five weeks three years ago and I worked in a school there. Then, I studied abroad last summer in Toledo, Spain and I took a couple of classes and lived with a host family, and then I studied abroad this past spring in Thessaloniki, Greece and I finished my student teaching there where I taught Spanish to high schoolers.
Most memorable study abroad experience?
I think it would definitely be while I was in Thessaloniki. I was helping a group of kids with their Spanish who had never learned it before and one of the girls said I was her favorite teacher and that just really made me feel good.
Why the inclination to travel?
I’ve always traveled, I think the first time I was ever on a plane I was six months old. I’ve always been very curious about other places and when I decided I wanted to teach, especially teaching a foreign language, it’s really important to know what you’re teaching and know the history and culture which is why I wanted to go to Spanish-speaking countries to be able to learn that so my students could get a second-hand experience of the culture.
What are you most nervous about moving to Spain?
I think I’m most nervous about not meeting people. I can be very outgoing but I can also be very closed off and to myself, so I think when you move across the world by yourself, my whole experience is gonna be make or break based on the people I meet.
What are you most excited about moving to Spain?
Definitely getting to go to a new place and working with the students. I’ve never been to this part of Spain before so getting to experience a new culture and they also speak a different dialect of Spanish that I’ve never experienced, so that will be really fun.
When did you first become interested in Spain and Spanish culture?
I’ve been learning Spanish since I was in fifth grade because that was the only language they offered, but I just think that our world is very global today and I think for me, it’s more probable that I’m going to use Spanish in my life. English, Spanish and Mandarin are the three biggest languages in the world so I think by knowing two of those three languages it gives me a little bit of an advantage because I can go to non-touristy places and I can experience other parts of the country or city that I’m visiting.
What will you be doing as a teacher in Spain?
Basically, I’ll be working part-time at an American high school, and an American school doesn’t mean that it’s all American students, it means that it’s a school in another country but you get an American diploma. So, most of the kids that go to those kinds of schools, their parents are like diplomats and they move all the time and they go to those schools because they have roughly the same curriculum. I’ll be teaching English and Spanish while I’m there.
What sort of impact do you hope to make in the lives of your students?
I think in general everybody that wants to be a teacher they just want to be able to help at least one student, whether that’s being the teacher that kids feel comfortable going to their room during lunch or who you ask for relationship advice or college help. I just want to be the type of teacher that can really make a difference in a student’s life, even if it’s just one student.
What advice would you give to someone nervous to study abroad or move away for a job?
Before studying abroad, the biggest thing is to do research on where you’re going. Before I went to Greece I had no concept of the Greek language and I was really stressed before going there, so I didn’t learn as much Greek as I wanted to. So, it was a huge culture shock to walk down the street and people were speaking and I had no idea what they were saying. If you want to move away for a job, just do it. I think the biggest thing is putting yourself and what you want first. There may be a lot of people who don’t support it, but even if you go for a year or five years do what you want.