#TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

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Cleo Reiss is a 22-year-old University of Delaware graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. She has spent her first year out of college teaching English as a language assistant at a bilingual high school in Madrid. In her spare time, she is learning Spanish, blogging, volunteering, and traveling around Europe. She will continue teaching next year in Madrid and is looking forward to another fantastic year filled with challenges and adventures.
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

What motivated your decision to teach abroad? How/why did you choose where to go? 
I believe everyone has at least one city to which they are drawn; one that sparks curiosity and the urge to know more. For me that city is Madrid. I studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain three years ago for a short summer session. We spent just a weekend in Madrid, getting to and from the airport, but I knew that 3 days in Madrid and 5 weeks in Spain wasn’t enough to immerse myself into the culture. I have been studying Spanish since I was 13 years old and minored in it in college. Upon graduation from the University of Delaware, I knew that I wanted to go abroad. My commitments were minimal, I was unclear of where my career path was going to take me, but I knew that continuing my Spanish studies, traveling, and living abroad were three things I wanted to do. It was the right time and the right place for me.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? 
I found my job through the non-profit organization, CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange). CIEE acts as the liaison between the Spanish government and you to help facilitate the “moving abroad” process. This is one of the most well-known organizations for study, teach, and work abroad opportunities. I found out about the organization through my own research online and by word of mouth through friends and faculty at the University of Delaware. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to go abroad.
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

What was your experience like? Can you share some favorite memories - and challenges?
My favorite memory is my school’s prom. Two other assistants and I, along with our student committees, planned an Oscar´s themed Hollywood Night Out prom for the faculty and graduating students. We worked very hard for several months to pull of their first ever school dance and it’s safe to say that we started a tradition. For the entire night, the students and staff were non-stop dancing and non-stop smiling. It was such a fun project to lead and a nice way to give back to the school by combining a big part of American high-school culture with Spain’s.

There are definitely many challenges that come along with teaching abroad. I teach in physical education. The class where students want to run, kick, hit, play and let out their energy. It´s very difficult to feel like you’re being effective in this environment because, in addition to the language barrier, their attention isn’t fully there. But I have learned, and am continuing to learn, from both of my main teachers and through trial and error, what works and what doesn’t. 
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your teaching experience abroad? 
Teaching and living abroad has certainly made me more patient. When dealing with different customs and people, things aren’t always done the way you would like them to be done. 

I’ve also started to appreciate the little things in life. The friendships I have made abroad with both Americans and Spanish people are some of the most special relationships I have. Every time my Spanish intercambio (language exchange partner) and I grab drinks, or a bite to eat, I always reflect after and think about how much I value our relationship and the time we spend together. Having friends from different cultures, who are truly your friends, is an invaluable thing.
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

Any advice for teachers thinking about working overseas? What are some highlights or things that you gained or changed your perspective? 
If it's something you want to do, don't hesitate, just do it. Of course it isn't as easy as that, but you hear many stories of regret and people saying, "I wish I did that when I had the chance." You have to figure out when your chance is, when is your right time, and go for it. Mine is different from yours and yours is different from the next person, but everyone has their right time.
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity? 
By teaching abroad, I have met people from so many different cultures; within Spain, within Europe, and throughout the world. And by meeting different people and learning about different cultures, we start to really understand that the world is a lot bigger than where you came from, in my case, the United States, then New York, then Westchester County and lastly, Yorktown Heights. Everyone we meet is from somewhere different, with a completely different story than yours. This isn’t something you can understand in the blink of the eye; it’s ongoing, and the only way to keep learning that we are just a small part of a very big world is to keep exploring.
Cleo Reiss: #TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place

#TeachAbroadBecause… Life’s too short to stay in one place



Ally Buzzanga, our study abroad editor, is a 25 year old postgraduate who’s passionate about cultural shock, urban environments, and fish & chips. She notes, "I spent the fall of 2012 studying abroad in London and decided then that living and traveling abroad was something that I was passionate about. Study abroad programs are getting more and more popular in the US and that’s great. I’d love to see American culture fully embrace the “gap year” and “gone travelling” attitude that my foreign friends so casually mentioned. So many young people take the time to go on months-long journeys that are pretty much a rite of passage in their society. In the past 4 years, I’ve been able to see parts of the world I never even considered, from Europe to Africa and many a sheep-riddled village in the UK. I attribute so many of my skills and successes to my years spent outside of the US."


All photos courtesy and copyright Cleo Reiss