Teachers Who Lived Abroad: Grace Maginn’s Three Trips to Spain


Courtesy of Grace Maginn

Spanish teacher Grace Maginn is surrounded by her class of students who had thrown a surprise party on her last day teaching in spring 2017. While living in Salamanca from 2016 to 2017, Maginn taught as an English teacher at a high school located in Zamora, Spain.

Spanish teacher Grace Maginn first took a plane from Indiana to Spain to study abroad in 2014. Maginn never anticipated to become so captivated by the foreign country that she would later live there two more times in 2015 and 2016. She also didn’t know at the time that this trip would lead her to meet her future fiancé and inspire her to become a Spanish teacher.  

Maginn and a large group of friends from Notre Dame’s study abroad program are on a weekend outing to Salamanca in fall 2014. “I had no idea I would end up living there a few years later!” Maginn said. (Courtesy of Grace Maginn)

Even with the French language skills she obtained in high school, Maginn readily enrolled in Spanish language courses at Notre Dame University. 

“I was always interested in learning a language, and I was sort of not really satisfied with French because I felt like I couldn’t really use it very much living here,” Maginn said. “So I wanted to move abroad [and] learn a language that I [knew] I could bring back to my life here in the U.S.” 

During the fall semester of her junior year, Maginn relocated to Toledo, the historical center of Spanish culture, through a study abroad program. Maginn lived in Toledo for four months with a host family.

Maginn and her friend, Maggie Steiss, complete their hike in 2014 to La Piedra del Rey Moro (The Moorish King’s Rock), a spot that offers a broad and scenic viewpoint of Toledo city. Living in Toledo led Maginn to fall in love so deeply with Spain that she would later reside in the country two more times.
(Courtesy of Grace Maginn)

In summer 2015, Maginn moved to Spain for a second time to gather independent research for her senior thesis. This time, she moved to Madrid, Spain’s capital city, for two months. 

Unlike the first time when she had the support of her host family and other English-speaking friends, Maginn lived in an apartment alone with no connections. Maginn described that it was the “most challenging time” out of her life in Spain. 

“I had to figure out the metro, I had to figure out how to get to the archive to do my research, I had to figure out how to ask for the right documents that I was looking for,” Maginn said. “So, figuring all that out on my own was really stressful.”

Taken in summer 2015 in a Madrid archive, Maginn does research on a microfiche for her senior thesis on 20th century Spanish military history. Maginn said she felt stressed and lonely while living in Madrid, having to make sense of everything in a foreign city without the support of family or friends. (Courtesy of Grace Maginn)

Upon graduating from college in 2016, Maginn said she felt unprepared “to go back to school” or “get a real job.” She decided to relocate to Salamanca, a Spanish town famous for its ancient architecture, where she lived for over 9 months working as a high school ESL teacher.  

It was during her time in Salamanca when Maginn met now-fiancé, Javier Pérez. With Pérez, Maginn was able to visit the local and more hidden sites of Spain, not just the hotspots that attracted usual tourists. 

Despite the many foreign customs, including foods like blood sausage and octopus and surprising social norms like frequent smoking and greeting cheek kisses, Maginn said she misses the homey atmosphere of Spain.

“Your house is not really your home; your community is your home,” Maginn said. “Your house is where you go to sleep, but your home is everything that is outside of your house. Their houses were very simple, not super fancy, not super big. But that’s not where you lived your life. You lived your life out in the world.”

Maginn and her fiancé Javier Pérez are pictured in spring 2017, in a town near Salamanca, the city where the couple originally met. The Spanish teacher said she treasures her time with Pérez in Salamanca the most, as they toured the city while forming close relationships with locals. (Courtesy of Grace Maginn)

Meeting new people in Spain taught Maginn how to be empathetic, while advancing her knowledge of Spanish culture and language allowed her to connect with people beyond a surface level. But most significantly, Maginn owes her current position as a Spanish teacher to her experiences abroad.

“I wouldn’t have become a Spanish teacher obviously if I hadn’t had those experiences,” Maginn said. “I think I wouldn’t be as understanding and appreciative of other people and cultures and backgrounds if I hadn’t gotten to know people with different backgrounds and languages.