Cultural Icon

By Matt Hawkins
December 5, 2014

A semester in Spain set life’s course for Anna Marie Mitchell ’13, who returned to Spain this fall for a yearlong stint as a cultural ambassador. The alumna hopes the cross-cultural experience will launch her career teaching others the language that gripped her as a student.

As a cultural ambassador, Mitchell is a living representation of American culture to elementary students and teachers. She teaches students English and American culture through basic learning activities. Plus, she occasionally steps in front of the class to teach math and science lessons in her native language.

This exposure makes Mitchell, a Chicago native who double-majored in Spanish and communication with a public relations concentration, an icon to the young, inquiring minds.

“The kids treat me like some sort of celebrity,” she said. “I am one of the only people they’ve met from America, so they are interested and excited to talk with me and learn more about me, which proves the importance of this program. The education of our language and culture is much more interesting and engaging coming from an American.”

Mitchell discovered the program after spending a semester her junior year in Granada. That time sparked her passion for Spain and made the cultural ambassador program the best experience to strengthen her cultural knowledge.

By virtue of placement in Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mitchell actually is exposed to three languages because the semi-independent island government educates students in Spanish, Catalan and English.

As a result, she is living her Bradley dream of cultural immersion beyond initial expectations. The extended stay enables her to build relationships that more fully open her eyes to the Spanish world.

“You can’t be fully bilingual and fluent in another language until you become fluent in their culture,” she said. “That’s made being bicultural the most spectacular part of this year abroad. Interacting with children allows me into their lives and the beautiful Spanish-Mallorcan culture while they’re able to understand who I am and how I’m shaped by American culture. It’s so enlightening and eye-opening to be part of this exchange.”

Relational cultural immersion paid off quickly this fall when an 11-year-old girl approached Mitchell at recess one day. The child said she enjoyed learning languages and hoped to master English during her stay. 

“That statement alone validated why I am here and reminded me of my own purpose and passion for languages,” she said. “It is inspiring to see that same passion in someone so much younger than me who is on her way to achieving her dreams.”

As the child is chasing her dreams in school, Mitchell chased hers while on the Hilltop. Though she double-majored, her passion for Spanish surpassed other interests. Classroom and cross-cultural experiences prepared the path for her to pursue a career teaching Spanish in higher education.

“Without Bradley, I truly would not be where I am right now,” she said. “The foreign language department exceeded my expectations and allowed my passion to flourish into something real. Bradley gave me the education and experience to take this on with total confidence and the necessary preparation for the real world.”