Culture shock: Area student to teach English in Spain

When an area college student arrived in Spain in September she needed to get used to the cultural differences. But now after being back in the states for only about three months, she’s already landed a job that will take her back to Spain in October.

“I think I definitely will have a more realistic outlook this time,” said Erica Motter, Jersey Shore Area High School graduate and Lock Haven University senior, as she prepares for her second trip to Spain in as many years. “I’ll know now what to expect.”

Motter, a communications major, said she always has been interested in languages and studied Spanish since her ninth-grade year, which helped her make the decision to study abroad while attending Lock Haven. Studying abroad was her main goal – besides graduating in four years, a goal she is set to meet in May – when going to college.

“It was a really good opportunity,” said Motter, on why she chose to study abroad.

While in Spain for a semester, Motter took Spanish grammar and Spanish conversation. But perhaps the biggest lesson she received there was culturally. From sports to food to the pace of life, mastering the culture was just as important as her studies, Motter found.

“I had culture shock as soon as I got there,” she remembered. “… For the first week I was there I was worrying.”

Motter said it took about a week for her to feel comfortable in her new home town of Ronda. And although she has studied the language for eight years, it still was “overwhelming,” she said.

Even when meeting new people upon her arrival was new. Complete strangers came up to her and kissed her cheek, which she said caught her off guard. And while life in the states can be very fast paced, in Spain everything is slower.

“I knew it was going to be slow paced but I guess I didn’t know how relaxed it was going to be,” Motter said.

She explained that its common for people to take their time getting to meetings and to take Siesta for three hours in the afternoon. Stores are closed for the duration of Siesta.

The violent sport of bull fighting and the economic crisis also were a shock to Motter. But a part-time job she had during her semester abroad, has helped her prepare for a seven-month stint she will be doing in October. For two days each week, Motter would help a 10 and 12 year old learn English.

“(The parents) want you to hang out with their kids so they know what English sounds like,” Motter explained.

After meeting others in the government program, Motter applied and will be heading back to Spain to perform a similar set of tasks from October to May 2014. There is an option for her to renew her contract, if she chooses to do so.

Her study abroad experience and new job has made more outgoing, Motter said. Besides a semester of living in a dorm while attending Penn State University, Motter said she had never lived away from home.

She still hopes to write and travel after coming back to the states after her second stint in Spain but she said she couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

“Just living there made me a lot more confident to go out and do things,” she said.