Palek earned his degree at Auburn in Political Science and Business Administration with a minor in Spanish. He is an Alabama native, born and raised in Huntsville, and until recently Auburn was the second place he has ever lived. Now, Palek has gone entirely out of his comfort zone and is currently residing in Ibiza, Spain.
Ibiza is a small island off the coast of Spain known as the “Party Capital” of the universe in the summertime. However, Ibiza is actually a small town with a population less than Auburn.
“In the winter months when the children are in school, it’s not like that here,” said Palek. “I feel right at home, and it’s a city so I still get to walk around.”
Palek is working as a Language and Culture assistant for the Spanish Ministry of Education. His role is teaching English to students ages 3 to 18. He actually teaches his students about Anglophonic countries meaning all English-speaking countries. Occasionally he uses his expertise and teaches about Southern American culture.
“They find it very interesting because our culture in the south is very different from their culture,” said Palek.
In comparison to the American education system, education in Spain stops at age 16. Students have the option to continue their primary education two more years if they plan on attending college. Palek says these are his favorite students because he can relate to them by sharing his experiences as an adolescent and how it compares to their culture.
Palek teaches his older students about things that are illegal in the south which are mostly legal in Spain. For example, gambling and the legal drinking age are very much different. The legal drinking age is 18 years old in Spain and grocery stores do not card people when they purchase alcohol.
Although Palek earned the position independently of Auburn, his job is actually counted for internship credit to graduate from Auburn. He first learned about the internship from his RA during freshman year. Since then he was always interested in working for the program specifically for the Spanish ministry because of his Spanish background.
Palek says the job is heavily advertised to Americans specifically college graduates because they are excellent native English speakers. Also, he says American college graduates are highly wanted because they are more likely to savor the experience rather than European students. It is a low salary position, however, the assistants have the opportunity to live abroad.
While living abroad, Palek says being from Alabama has raised curiosity not only from Spaniards but other Americans from other parts of the United States.
“I’m probably the biggest supporter of Alabama, which has been interesting being over here,” said Palek. “When other Americans find out I’m from Alabama, the jokes start coming and it’s surreal how much pride I have in it that I didn’t know I had before.”
“I’m always quick to defend Alabama especially since where I’m from. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said Huntsville has the most Ph.D.’s per capita of any city in the country,” said Palek.
Interestingly, Palek’s dream career is not to be a teacher instead, he aspires to go to law school. He planned to take a gap year between college and law school, and this unique internship experience fits in perfectly. In addition, his internship has made him attractive to law schools.
“It has been fortunate while applying for law school because I am asked frequently about my internship since my address says Ibiza, Spain on applications,” said Palek. “I’m glad I did it this year because it has increased my chances.”
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