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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Study abroad leads to graduate's job in Spain

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A last minute decision to study abroad turned out to be one that dramatically changed the life of Erin Ennes. Ennes, a 2008 honors graduate, decided to study abroad in August 2006. She had no idea where she wanted to study but after working with Heidi Gregori-Gahan, director of International Programs and Services, as well as other staff members, she decided to study abroad in Spain for the fall semester.

Gregori-Gahan said, “Erin seemed particularly inquisitive about experiencing things outside of the United States. She was eager to experience more. I enjoyed working with her. Upon her return she even served as an international orientation assistant for students studying abroad from other countries because she could relate well to them.”

During her time studying abroad Ennes enrolled at La Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where she took 15 hours of Spanish courses. She studied literature and took a culture class that taught the history of Spain. She also developed her own radio commercial in Spanish as part of a communication and society class. She learned to cook traditional Spanish foods such as seafood paella, a combination of rice and saffron, gazpacho, and Spanish tortilla, a mixture of eggs, potatoes, and onions.

While in Spain she traveled to numerous countries, including Amsterdam, Belgium, Denmark, France, Morocco, and Sweden. She said these travels gave her an in-depth look at cultures from around the world and offered her a unique perspective. She met other students from around the world, many of whom she still communicates with today.

In September, Ennes will be traveling to Spain once again, but this time to teach. She will be teaching English at Virgen de la Cabeza, a primary school for students age three to 12 years old. She will be working with the Council for International Educational Exchange in a program called Teach in Spain. This also is the organization she studied abroad with in 2006. She will receive a stipend of 700 euro (per month), which will cover her food and living expenses.

The international organization began the program in 2006 to improve the English skills of students in Spain. Ennes submitted an application and followed a formal process as part of applying for the position. She also submitted an essay and was eventually asked to participate in a phone interview.

Ennes graduated in May with a double major in public relations and advertising and Spanish. She was involved in campus life through a variety of organizations, holding memberships in Alpha Mu Gamma, a National Honors Foreign Language Club, the Honors Program, where she served on the Honors Council for one year, and the Student Government Association, in which she served as attorney general, executive clerk, administrative vice president for business and finance, and administrative vice president for social and cultural issues.

Spanish has been a major presence in her life. She began studying Spanish over 10 years ago and was enrolled in Spanish courses as a student at Valparaiso High School. Upon arriving at USI she had even earned college credit.

Ennes credits David Hitchcock, assistant professor of Spanish, for influencing her life during the time she spent at USI. Hitchcock also assisted her by writing a letter of reference for the teaching position.

Hitchcock said, “Erin was in my composition class and she was one of my most enthusiastic students who showed a real passion for the language. She always had that “go-getter” attitude and sought after opportunity.

“Last semester she was in my literature class and showed through her class participation and community activities a real presence. I’m not surprised that she is taking on this challenge, which I’m sure she’ll excel in.”

Ennes said, “Being immersed in the language really helps to understand it a lot better. Studying abroad was the best experience of my life. My Spanish dramatically improved upon returning to the United States.”

Ennes is excited to return to Spain to experience the culture, food, and lifestyle once again. She also hopes to travel to Greece and Switzerland.

Adam Trinkel
News and Information Services Intern

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