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Stories

When Studies in English, Spanish, and Study Abroad Combine to Inspire a Future Teacher

Natalie Grazian is feeling reflective about the many the opportunities that Santa Clara has provided her over these past four years. As a senior majoring in English, she is grateful for the real-world publishing experience she gained as the Fiction Editor for the Santa Clara Review literary magazine.

“It has given me the opportunity to read and evaluate around 500 international submissions, run weekly editor's board meetings, communicate with authors through the editing and production process, and attend the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs publication convention in Minneapolis and Los Angeles,” Grazian said.

Another highlight has been her tutoring work at the HUB Writing Center on campus. Grazian’s experience there made her realize how much she values working one-on-one with students, “Not just helping them get their papers ready to turn in, but helping them become better writers along the way,” she added. In fact, she credits HUB with inspiring her career choice: after a year off, she plans to apply to Master’s programs in order to become a high school English teacher.

With credits like a three-year membership and the current title of president of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honors Society, and invitations to present at two annual conventions, it will be no surprise if Grazian fields multiple offers. Especially when factoring in her Canterbury Fellowship, awarded by the English Department, which provides her with faculty mentorship and funding to complete a yearlong project of her own design.

Grazian’s fellowship is allowing her to work on a historical fiction novella based on the experiences of the Spanish Jews who were forced to flee or convert during the Inquisition. Figuring heavily in her story is The Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route in northern Spain that still exists today, which she was able to experience firsthand by walking it for a week during her quarter abroad. According to Grazian, “The fellowship has taught me so much through conducting extensive historical research and applying it creatively in a sustained, long-term project.”

The experience in Spain also introduced her to an accidental new interest—teaching English as a second language. While studying in the city of Alicante, Grazian volunteered to teach English to adults with disabilities two nights per week. “I’d never taught English as a second language before, and stepping up to the challenge while learning from my students was the best part of my study abroad experience,” she says. Now, her immediate plan for the summer after graduation is to become certified to teach ESL through a Cambridge University program so that she may continue this rewarding work here in the U.S.

In addition to her travel to Spain, Grazian spent two weeks last summer in Cuba with the Food and Agribusiness Institute to study permaculture as well as Cuban history, government policy, and society.

These experiences abroad, combined with her work and studies at Santa Clara will ensure that Grazian’s future students have a role model who knows firsthand the benefits of experiential learning and becoming a global citizen.