Instructor shares international experiences

“I would say that my recommendation to all people is be willing to take a risk and step out their comfort zone and into someone else’s so that they can appreciate and understand others’ culture and way of life,” said Alison Owens Seward County Community College Spanish instructor, on traveling. Owens traveled across Mexico and Europe while in college and went to Australia and Hawaii in high school. The Spanish instructor, who is also an assistant volleyball coach and originally from Hugoton, played volley for SCCC for two years before transferring to Kansas University in 2008 where she decided to study Spanish. Owens said she decided to take advantage of the numerous studies abroad programs the university offered. She studied aboard in Mexico for the summer of 2008 and in fall 2008 in Spain. Both places offered courses she wanted to take, she said. She also taught Mexico in the summer of 2010. “I applied for the trip to Mexico first, then I decided I might as well go to Spain while I am at,” Owens said. “ So I went to Mexico first in the summer of 2008. I stayed there for two months, and I absolutely loved it. I traveled all over Mexico. I was in Puebla, and I traveled all over place while I was there, mostly the south.” The assistant volleyball coach said she had so many experiences from study abroad programs she really could not even begin to really pick one out. The experiences Owens had while traveling and living in those Spanish speaking cultures makes her a better Spanish teacher, she said. “Being able to live in the culture that I studied sets me apart from a lot of students who studied Spanish,” Owens said. “Language is part of a culture and if you are not going to be enveloped in it you really don’t learn the language. You may know grammar and read and write, but as far as feeling it and living it, you don’t do that until you are actually literally rolled up in a culture.” While studying aboard in Mexico for the summer of 2008, Owens said she had one of her scariest experiences. She along with other students, mostly American, were taking weekend trip on a commercial bus when it was pulled over by people dressed in full camouflage carrying guns. “They pulled our bus over, and I was just reading,” Owens said. “I didn’t realize we were pulled over for a specific reason. I thought were just stopped at a stoplight or a toll booth. All of a sudden I look up and there is a man standing beside me, and he is a big man with a huge gun and in camo, and he is looking at me. I was so scared but I didn’t want to show it, so as I was looking up at him I said, ‘Hi, What do I need to do?’ and he was like, ‘Just sit, the men need to get off.’” “They were searching all of the men and everything because apparently they were drug cartel people looking for a commercial bus that was supposed to be coming through with drugs, and they were going to be jumping the bus basically,” Owens said. “So it was really kind of freaky. You hear about all of that stuff but you don’t ever really go through.” However, the experience did not ruin Mexico for her, she said. “People are kind of shocked when I say my favorite place is Mexico,” she said. “Mostly because of the culture and the people. It is a very warm, loving culture. They’re just comforting people. They take you in like you are their family.” Her many adventures continued in Spain. “I traveled all over Europe while I was there,” she said. “I went to England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and Portugal and, of course, all over Spain. So I was mostly just traveling all over the place trying to do my homework for my class while I was on airplanes and buses, but it was a lot of fun.” One adventure is labeled as her craziest experience. The assistant volleyball coach said at one point she and a friend had taken a weekend trip to Scotland to visit another friend. With no direct flight from Scotland to Spain they had to patch together flights to get to Scotland. They managed to get there with a lot of country hopping, she said, but leaving Scotland was a harder. Owens said the crazy experience started when taking the bus to the airport. They told the bus driver to drop them off at the airport but did not say which one, and he did not know. He dropped them off at an airport, and they had four hours until flight, she said. They slept and woke up with an hour to spare, so they decided to check in early. However there was no line for their flight. Owens said it turned out they were in the local airport and needed to be in the international airport, which was about an hour away away. Owens said in order to try and make their flight they took a cab that cost them 70 pounds the equivalent of $140 instead of the 3 pound bus. It was important that they make it back because they were trying to get back for school on Monday, and it was Sunday. She said they reached the right airport only to found out that flight had been delayed until noon Eventually they arrived in London, where they would get a flight to Portugal, which she said eased her stressed because she knew how to get to Spain from there through the buses. However, they ended up sitting on the runway for an hour because someone did not turn in his or her ticket. She realized they were not going to make it to the bus in time. Owens said in the end she managed to tell the attendant that she had overheard the people behind her that they didn’t understand English, and that the attendant needed to find someone to translate Portuguese for her. The assistant volleyball coach said she ended up translating in Portuguese that someone didn’t turn in their ticket and couldn’t leave until have ticket. She said after she said that an old man in the back held up his ticket. However, she said, due to the delay they had to spend the night in an airport in Portugal. The airport was new and all glass, and it was cold since it was November, Owens said. Finally she went to the restroom and found out that it was small and warm, so they slept in the there. They did not make it back for class and had to explain why they missed, she said. Owens has “a lot of fun and interesting stories” like that one but also has some tips to share with other would-be travelers. “The No. 1 safety tip I could give is learn the language,” Owens said. “The most important thing is to learn language and culture. You are walking into their home.” She said it is a must for travelers to learn how the host people do things. “They appreciate when you try. If not, they don’t want anything to do with you,” the assistant volleyball coach said. Owens said she knows there will be more trips in her future. “Not planned, but there will be plenty,” she said. “I like to explore and meet new people.”Owens Aztec Pyramids - Teotihuacán, México

Alison Owens travels through Mexico.
Alison Owens travels through Mexico.