What are you up to now?
I am currently an English Teaching Assistant at an Honors bachillerato school in Madrid, Spain. This type of school in Spain is beyond the students’ state-required education and it is a two-year school that prepares students to attend a four-year university afterward. This is essentially 11th and 12th grade in the American education system.
I am the primary teacher for eight 50-minute classes each week for both first-year and second-year students. I write lesson plans for these classes and deliver the discussion-based or audiovisual lectures. My lessons cover an array of topics from discussing the American Revolution to food ethics to personality tests, and most recently, we discussed the Ukraine conflict. I do much more than providing assistance in the classroom as I also revise assignments and lead the school’s debate team!
What does a day in the life look like for you? What’s your favorite part about living/working abroad?
On a normal day, I go into work around 9:15am. Thankfully, I only live two miles from my school, so it takes me about 20 minutes to take the underground metro to work. I teach two classes each day, so when I get to the classrooms I will set up my slideshow presentation and pass out a worksheet if I have made one for that class. I try to have a very interactive classroom environment, where I will ask the students questions about the day’s content or about their lives.
My favorite part of my day is engaging with my students because they are pretty goofy, but also ask fascinating questions. Early on, they would ask me a lot of questions about America and American politics. Recently, they asked me what I would do if I was directly involved in the Ukraine conflict. They really keep me on my toes all day long.
While I am not physically challenging myself much anymore (though I did run a half marathon last December), living and working abroad has challenged me every day.
– Ellie Winslow, ACE in Place 2020
When I am not teaching, I will sit in the English department office and edit essays or prepare my lectures for other classes. I will help the English teachers in any way they need throughout the day. During the break in the day, I will typically go for coffee with the other American teaching assistant in my school and the German teaching assistant, who are both around my age.
The end of my day at school is around 2:30pm and that is when I will take the metro home. In the afternoons I typically either go to the gym or go on a run around Retiro park. I live with two other American teaching assistants from Oregon who have become two of my best friends!
How has your life as a student-athlete impacted your post-graduate/international work experience?
All my life I have really only known the balance of school and sports. My role in Spain has been a lovely transition away from diving, but has allowed me to stay in the classroom, which is a comfortable environment for me. With being a student-athlete, I have always liked a challenge and wanted to push my personal boundaries.
While I am not physically challenging myself much anymore (though I did run a half marathon last December), living and working abroad has challenged me every day. While living in a country that doesn’t speak my first language, I am constantly working to improve my Spanish. I have learned how to travel abroad and have been presented with new adventures and challenges in each new country. This job has been the best jumping off point from my student-athlete life at Duke.
In what ways did your ACE experience prompt you to pursue international teaching opportunities?
I have always wanted to have the experience of engaging closely with international communities and that is why I wanted to take part in ACE in Thailand in 2020. I love working with kids and my experience in Thailand would have been very similar to what I am doing now. I would have been an English teaching assistant working with refugees in Thailand; and while I was devastated to have not been able to have that experience, I am not sure I would have taken this opportunity in Madrid if 2020 had gone as planned.
I would have been an English teaching assistant working with refugees in Thailand; and while I was devastated to have not been able to have that experience, I am not sure I would have taken this opportunity in Madrid if 2020 had gone as planned.
– Ellie Winslow, ACE in Place 2020
I loved the cultural exchange aspect of ACE and I wanted to have a first-hand cross-culture experiences. ACE also connected me to people who had taken part in Fulbright and other post-grad international experiences, which really sparked my interest in applying to CIEE. The connections with ACE allowed me to explore multiple opportunities for visiting other countries and engaging with the community.
What advice would you have for prospective ACE applicants or current ACE alums interested in international engagement work?
Every part of this experience has been invaluable. I am learning every day. My students teach me about Spanish culture and about what it is like to be a teenager in today’s society. I am improving my Spanish every day and learning about the challenges of living in a country that doesn’t speak my first language. With my work schedule, I am also fortunate to travel on the weekends. I have learned a lot about international travel and how to navigate public transportation. I have travelled to nine different countries in the last eight months and have been so grateful for each experience!
Lastly, I have learned a lot about myself and my relationships with other people. Keeping up relationships across six time zones can be a challenge, but I am really grateful for the relationships I have continued to form across continents and the ones I have created in Europe. One of my best friends from Duke, Mackenzie Willborn, just moved to Brussels, so our relationship has definitely grown stronger as we’re back in the same time zone together!!