An immersive homestay in Seville in June 2010 catalyzed a passion for further study of the languages, cultures and histories of Spain. As an undergraduate at Centre College, I balanced learned classroom knowledge with practical lived experiences in my community. I co-directed an afterschool program for second language learners, worked at a civic technology company in New York and continued to pursue opportunities to study abroad. Living with Catalan-speaking roommates during my semester at the University of Lleida illuminated many of the ongoing tensions surrounding the Spanish Civil War and thirty-six year Franco dictatorship. What I discovered in Catalonia was affirmed during my year as a Fulbright ETA in Madrid: pedagogical practice itself is contested territory. The material included and excluded, highlighted and hidden, in textbooks and teaching manuals has significant influence on the ways in which Spanish students remember their country’s violent past. My experiences in Spain animate my PhD dissertation, which is a cultural studies project that examines the politics and policies of pedagogical practice from 1898 to the present. By analyzing what and how students are taught, we can understand better the complex nature of contemporary Spanish politics. Following my PhD, I will pursue a career in higher education that prioritizes student experience and will aim to facilitate the types of experiential learning that have proven so meaningful to me.
University of Cambridge