Questions/Comments?Contact Us

14 posts categorized "Leesa Truesdell"

Live For Now.


Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. – Dr. Seuss

As each week passes, our "foreigner shells" crack open piece by piece. Each piece that breaks off, allows us to let go of old preconceived thoughts about the unknown, or doubts of Spain. The more we embrace the Spanish culture by exploring the unknown it becomes our new known.

There are culture and societal norms that take place by tradition, which means they exist and they are the standard for Spain. For example, part of the Spanish culture and tradition is not to live in the past or the future but to live for the now. This aspect of their culture is a trait that I am looking forward to practicing. Personally, I believe as a North American I tend to worry too much about how past performances can impact future relationships with regards to employers. For example, I know for many of us, “what if” statements can cause unwarranted stress and serious spiraling into unnecessary places. Does this sound familiar, “If I do X now will it bring me the results I need for Y later?” Really? What if X explodes and Y is nothing more than an anomaly? What then? This is an exaggerated example of spiraling. We tend to over burden ourselves with focusing on what could be or could have been. Living for now is a novel concept that I believe will make all of us healthier happier people while living here.


In Spain, teachers generally are openly affectionate with their students. They hug and kiss their students. Whereas in the United States, it is prohibited to engage in similar conduct with students. For North American teachers, this will be an adjustment.

In general, Spanish people are a more hands on culture. For example, they greet with a kiss on both cheeks. Whereas in the United States a greeting is a handshake and maybe a hug. It will be interesting to hear the perspectives of CIEE teachers that we will be following in Madrid to see and hear about their cultural observations and experiences at their schools. For example, if we live in the mindset of thinking for now then there is alot that can be accomplished over one school year with – our students and our CIEE teachers -- today.



Seven new CIEE teachers (two of which were a couple traveling together) and one veteran teacher were chosen to speak about their teaching and/or other experiences in Madrid this school year. Tune in for our upcoming Teacher Connection edition to read about our veteran teacher, Lynnette’s experiences. She will be touching on Spanish culture in and outside the classroom. She will also share her love for Spain and why she can’t bear to leave.

Until next time!

Leesa with two EE's

Photography Credits: Nicole Geist is an incredible artist who has joined the team. These photos are her work. She will be assisting with photography from time to time. 

Editor in Chief: Whitney Black


Embracing Uncertainty.

If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. – Paulo Coehlo

Letting go ...

I realize that our time in Spain has been rewarding yet challenging. We all set sail on this journey to spend the next year abroad with the hopes of embracing uncertainty at its best. We wanted to open our eyes to a new culture, a new language and a new way of life; while also teaching our students the language we know and love most. As I look forward, I see a bright future but I also see a great past for which I am grateful.

We all have different stories as to why we choose the paths we take in life. For those of us right here, right now in Spain, something(s) made us decide to take this journey. For me, my journey to go to Spain took some time to think over; but ultimately, my grandmother impacted my decision. She is very important to me because growing up it was her voice and her tales about the world that came to life in my bedroom before bedtime. She believed in me and she loved me during times when I didn’t know what love was. She taught me more about the world through her collections of memorabilia in her home than any textbook ever could.

The more I travel for longer periods of time, the more I realize it is not easy to say ‘goodbye’ to loved ones back home. On the flip side, it’s also not easy to say ‘goodbye’ to the new friends that we make in our new destinations. Life is complicated and many times I question whether or not I am doing the right thing when it comes to a particular event or action in my life. I am sure we all do this from time to time. Those little questions come up, and often times we question our decisions. Just this past week, I had one of those moments.

Here’s what happened: my grandma, who I affectionately call Tata, is ill and I had a pang in my heart that made me decide to call her. I picked up my phone and called. For those who are not aware, my grandmother was diagnosed this past year with dementia. The last time I saw her was not the best visit we had together and for anyone who has dealt or is dealing with a loved one who has this terrible disease you probably can understand some of the uncertainty I felt before I left her. ‘Over and over again, I contemplated in my mind, should I go to Spain or should I not go to Spain. What happens if Tata passes away and I am in Spain? These feelings I was feeling were and are still legitimate feelings but they are also feelings that she would not want me to have.’


One of the last conversations I had with her before she became unrecognizable was one where I could see her smiling and telling me, “Leesa, I want you to be happy.” I think about those 6 words constantly as I persevere through this journey. I think about the last time I saw her and how much she had changed into someone I didn’t know anymore. I realized that she is not even aware that I am traveling or living abroad. And, if I told her she would forget by tomorrow. At the end of the day, I remember what she told me two years ago and it was this: she told me she wanted me to be happy. Also, despite not knowing any of my future plans, she shared some of her happiest memories with me. They all involved destinations of travel.

When I think of her each day, I realize that my connection to her will be through my writing. My grandmother is a sincere and thoughtful woman who raised me to be considerate and thoughtful too. I know my journey is a very personal one; I know Tata’s words are the fuel that keeps away the fear in order to embrace the change each day I am here. Therefore, in the weeks ahead, I want to showcase the journey of others and what this experience means to them. We all have a story, and for those who want to share theirs please contact me directly so we can learn about your journey and the experiences about to come.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Leesa with two EE's

Photo: Tata and me before my trip to Spain (2016).


The Name Game


“What's in a name? that which we call a rose. 

By any other name would smell as sweet.” –William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

It’s been one week since my arrival in Spain. We just wrapped up our orientation with CIEE. At orientation, we learned many things many of which will help us around the city of Madrid. For example, how to use the Metro— one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen! Also, I got to see my very first Flamenco dance. What a beautiful dance!


2016-08-09 20.21.48

There are around 70 of us in this group; therefore, we have been trying to get to know one another each day by doing different activities. On our first day at dinner we paired up with a partner in our group—my group was number 8 (shout out to group 8). In this exercise, we asked each other some pretty thought provoking questions such as what was your most embarrassing moment or if you could invite someone to dinner, living or deceased, who would it be? When my partner asked the question about who I would invite to dinner, the first person that came to mind in a split second was my grandfather. There are so many questions that can be answered over a meal and also, it would be such an honor to sit and speak with him as an adult. My grandfather loved to cook, so of course as an adult it would also be such a treat to taste his cooking just one more time. The goal of this exercise was to get connected to your partner. But, also, the exercise helped us get in tune with some of the things we hadn't thought about before. For me, it made me think once again about the memories of my childhood and how much I truly love my family.

The most interesting exercise and one that connected me yet again to my grandfather was the exercise that we practiced when we discussed culture. This exercise involved pairing up with a partner and asking them about their given name. Each participant asked the same set of questions to each other. For instance, my partner asked who named me, why they named me, what my name means to me, and what others think about my name.

What I learned about my partner, who happened to be our group leader, was that he is from the south of Spain, from a city called Sevilla. In the south of Spain, it is traditional for your first-born son to be named after the father of the family. Since my partner was the second born, his mother chose to name him after her father, or his grandfather. His name is Luis. For Luis, his name carries a special honor to him because his grandfather was seen as a very intelligent man.

After speaking to Luis, I realized I have so much more to learn about others while living in Spain. I am going to try to reflect upon the interactions I have with Spaniards and other Americans in order to understand more about them and myself. I need to make a commitment to pause and reflect while being abroad. Often times in our daily lives we are so busy that we miss the meaning of what things really mean. Or, maybe we don’t realize the importance of why something means so much to someone else when it may seem so irrelevant to us. Every day we say multiple names as we greet one another but have we really stopped to think about who that person is or where they come from? Or, perhaps thinking about what makes up their life story. Everyone no matter how old they are has a story -- at birth, we start off with a story given to us by our parents who in turn have been a given a story to them by their parents -- our grandparents. That's personal history. 

After you finish reading this, think about what your name means to you. Also, what does your name mean to others in your community? What’s your story? Has anyone that you interacted with lately made the effort to find out? Or, vice versa?

As we anticipate the next chapter of our immersion program, we are excited about the challenges that await us. For some, these challenges mean renting their very first apartment after post-undergraduate studies in a foreign country, in a different language, with a foreign currency... a new job ... new coworkers ... new transportation ... For others, it means learning a new language and exploring a city that doesn’t get dark until about 10:00 pm. For all of us, it means making everlasting friendships and preparing to teach abroad very soon!

Ciao for now,

Leesa with two EE's

Photo: This was group 8 at orientation. There were 8 of these groups and Luis (who is standing) was our group leader. He is a Spaniard. 

  2016-08-11 13.24.25


¡España, ahí te voy!

My name is Leesa and this is my first post about my journey with CIEE.  Before I start discussing my experiences, I want to introduce my motivations and myself. I also want to say that I would appreciate comments you might have over the course of my blogging. I want my posts to detail my time with CIEE and the journey that I am on so that it will be valuable for you as you consider your own path.

I recently graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the College of Education. I truly enjoy teaching. It gives me the opportunity to lead and make a positive impact in my students' lives.  I will consider myself fortunate if I can spend the next 20 or 30 years teaching English to those who are ready and willing to learn it. I have spent the last three years dedicating myself to learning my craft, but I still have a long way to go to master it.  I am hopeful that my time in Spain will allow me to grow, learn and ultimately achieve my aspiration of being a truly impactful teacher.  I am a proud American of Puerto Rican descent so I want to share how teaching a language and learning a second language can enrich your life in so many ways. I'm proud of who I am and I want to share my journey with you. Please read on to see why...

My background and upbringing led me to pursue a career as a language teacher.  I am a native Floridian born in the generation X era. My grandparents are Hispanic. They were born in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. My grandfather is someone who will always be a part of my life. Even though he passed away about 20 years ago, not a day goes by that I don't think about him, mention him in a conversation or recall a fond memory that we shared.

When I was a little girl, my grandfather wasn't around all the time, but when he was around it was special. I remember his presence as if he were still standing here in front of me. He had this grin of mischief and this glare of, "Come on girl, let's go." When he came home from his travels overseas, many times from a country in South America, he would bring me a thoughtful memento back. The gift would be a coin from the country he came back from or sometimes, it would be something as small as a match from a match book that was carved to resemble a ballerina. The gifts he chose for me were so special and unique that as a child, my mind would fill with wonder about the world. I knew I wanted to travel one day. I wanted to see all the places he had been. 

I didn't start traveling abroad by myself until about three years ago. I am very fortunate to have traveled with my family, but traveling alone has allowed me to reflect and experience my heritage in a very personal way. My first trip alone was to Puerto Rico; traveling there at the specific moment in my life allowed me to focus on the things that I and I alone cherished most. I had time to truly fall in love with the culture. It was a culture that was so close to my heart that I could not believe that I had not been to see the island sooner. The food tasted exactly the way my grandma cooked it and all of the stories she told me when I was a little girl about the island, they came to life.  It was one of those moments in my life when everything sort of clicked when I returned. I knew that my destiny at that moment was to learn more Spanish. Unfortunately, Spanish wasn't fully taught to me growing up for reasons I will never understand but I don't make it a habit of looking back.

During my visit to Puerto Rico, I wrestled with some profound career questions and how I wanted to lead my life.  A visit to the island is what I needed. It was as if my grandfather in his own way was sending me a sign. At that moment, I needed one. This visit led to my Masters and my professional focus on teaching languages.  Since that time, I haven't stopped traveling to learn, grow and experience the world. 

I look forward to blogging regularly to help others on their journey and to inspire them, as I was inspired three years ago in Puerto Rico.  It was amazing to see firsthand how and where my grandparents lived. My grandfather’s house was still there and it was as if I could see him as a small boy playing in the front yard with the whole world right before him.  That moment inspired me to want to do more and since that moment I have.

My journey is about to start and I hope you will join me on yet another exciting and career defining moment as I travel to Spain. My passion for teaching others the English language is one that I never thought I would have in a million years.  Since my Puerto Rico visit, I have taught English in 8 public schools, I have taught all ages and I have even taught in Medellin, Colombia.  Right now, I can happily say, I am the teacher to ten wonderfully bright amazing students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. They are from Mexico City, Mexico. The irony of it all is that the last place my grandfather traveled and lived for three years before he was diagnosed with cancer was Mexico City. 2015-07-22 15.00.57



This blog is dedicated to my incredible and generous grandfather, Fernando E. Colon. May he forever be remembered as a man who gave his family everything he had with love and dedication.  I look forward to hearing from you and discovering your many journeys and adventures. 



Keep Me Updated