Madeline Lennon is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Santander, Spain. Originally from Ireland, Madeline has a passion for travel, adventure and Spanish culture. Using these skills, she helps students studying abroad make unforgettable memories, lifelong friends and develop a love for Spain. Read on to learn more about her exciting position with IE3 Global!
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
I was living and working in Santander, teaching English as a foreign language in the Language centre, Centro de idiomas de la Universidad de Cantabria (CIUC) where the Oregon students have classes. Someone was needed to be the on-site Coordinator, who was based in Santander, was a native speaker of English and interested in working with study abroad students, so that somebody turned out to be me! That was over 10 years ago now and I feel I was really fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
I’m actually from a small town in Ireland, and I am still very much Irish at heart! My ‘adopted’ country is Spain. It is a fantastically diverse country; each region has something wonderful to offer, from distinct cuisines and traditions to art, history and architecture. From the smallest village hidden in the mountains to the bigger cities, there really is a lot to see and do and tons to experience! Santander, where our program is based is a really beautiful medium sized city, lying on the north coast on a Peninsula completely surrounded by golden beaches. Inland it’s surrounded by the mountains. It really is picture postcard stuff!! It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in, it’s not too big but, better still, it’s not too small. It has a wonderful lively, compact city centre, with all modern amenities and everything in walking distance. The students reside with families near the centre of town and are also in walking distance from the University.
What I particularly like about the city as a base for a study abroad program is the fact that it is very safe and is not over run with English speakers, like you might find in the larger cities of Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla. While there are other foreign students around, many from the European Erasmus program, they are also here to immerse themselves in Spanish language and culture. I also love the fact that we have an international airport with low cost flights to many Spanish and European cities. The bus and train system running from Santander is also really good and there are plenty of destinations and combinations to choose from. The program is structured in such a way that students are free to travel most weekends.
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
Gosh, difficult question…I have quite a lot of contact with the students, generally seeing them on a daily basis, and over the duration of the program a relationship builds up; we talk quite a lot and do activities and excursions together so I get to know the students quite well and they get to know me. In result, there’s probably not much ‘important’ stuff they don’t know about me. However, I don’t think I have ever mentioned that I came second in the All Ireland under 8’s 80 metre sprint; I was 7 years of age.
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
My favorite aspect of the job is the interaction with the students and teachers. I have always found that the students who sign up for study abroad programs to be fantastic to work with. I have met so many really nice people over the years; every group is different so it always feels new. I really enjoy forming part of the team.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
This is 10 week intensive immersion program so it is all engines go right from the start. The first week is crucial to a successful program. There is a lot going on and you have to be a step ahead of everything, whilst making sure that everyone is settling in and doing well. I am very fortunate as our students have been well informed and guided by the staff in Oregon before coming here. That really helps making the transition period a lot smoother for everyone.
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Again while it is true to say ‘Spain is different,’ it is a modern country in the European Union, so I think the initial challenge of deciding which study abroad program to choose and then setting out and organising it! It’s plain sailing after that, at least on the Santander Program.
This immersion program is not just about learning a language though, the students LIVE here for a term and that involves adapting to a new country, language, host family, teachers, classes and timetable to name but a few! All of these are challenges, and while not to be taken lightly, our students rise well to the challenge and by the first week most students have adapted and are living life like the locals. In fact it usually turns out that the biggest challenge the students face is the reality that after 10 weeks the program does comes to an end and they have to go!
Be prepared to immerse yourself in all aspects of the program and take advantage of all the opportunities to practice Spanish that come your way. You will learn more Spanish here in one day of class than a week of classes in the States, better still; the classes are only a part of your day. You live with a Spanish family and have Spanish conversation partners, and it’s all in Spanish! It is practically impossible not to greatly improve your language comprehension.
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
A genuine interest in doing a study abroad program and in learning Spanish. On a practical level, comfortable shoes for walking and a rain jacket. On an even more practical level I think less is more when packing, as you might want to pick up some stuff along the way and you’ll need the space to get everything back.
Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
To be able to ‘take-away’ you have to also ‘eat-in’. Meaning, to really benefit, you have to give it your best, and really want to make it work. By doing this, students gain on all levels. Academically students obtain a major boost, a fast forward in their language capacity. On a personal level students ‘grow’ and gain more confidence, a better understanding of themselves and others, more insight the world and their relationship with it and their part in it. Study abroad is such a unique experience, something you have to do to really know what it’s like.
To learn more about study abroad programs offered in Spain, click here!