By Kristen Pflumm ’12

As I walked across the stage at my college graduation in May 2012, I felt I had the world at my fingertips. My “glory days” (as many like to call it) were coming to an end and it was time for me to close one chapter of my life and head into adulthood. Of course there were tears of joy and of sadness as I said goodbye to professors, friends, roommates and a school that had become a part of me. I knew exciting things were coming my way, but I feared not knowing what exactly may lie ahead.

In November of my senior year, I applied for a program to teach English in Spain. I dreamed of living abroad again after I had fallen in love with the country during my semester abroad in Barcelona. I still did not know whether I was accepted to the program when I graduated. The questions: “Kristen, have you heard back from the program yet?” or “What is your plan after college? Are you still going to Spain?” were all too frequent. I dodged these for months and gave short replies because I did not have an answer and was honestly tired of being asked. What was my plan if I didn’t get into the program? I began to worry.

4All of my hard work and waiting finally paid off when I received an email with the subject line, “Acceptar.” I was officially moving to Spain and could not wait to begin my new adventure. As I departed for Madrid with my life packed into two overstuffed suitcases, I was filled with every emotion; excitement, joy, fear, anxiety. The reality of moving to a foreign country completely alone started to sink in as I began the nearly 24-hour journey across the ocean. After arriving in Madrid, I had to find a place to live, but first I had to find roommates. During my orientation to the program I sat between absolute strangers who appeared nice. These strangers quickly became my best friends since we were all in the same situation: alone and in desperate need of friends.

During the next few months I began to find my way through living in a foreign country, speaking a different language, and attempting to teach English to rebellious teenagers. My students asked questions such as “Do you like Obama?” and “Does everyone in the USA carry a gun?” I tried to answer as politely as possible. By the end of the school year, I had developed relationships with these kids and had seen tremendous improvement. I hope they enjoyed their time with me and feel more confident with English.

I credit my education from Drury for teaching me flexibility and creativity in these unfamiliar situations. My professors always encouraged me to think outside the box and taught me to appreciate diversity in many ways. They understood that everyone has a different way of learning, and I think I brought this same principle to my classes. I learned to appreciate all my students and wanted to provide the best environment possible for them to learn. My professors had my best interests in mind and wanted to see me succeed, much like I wanted to see my students succeed.

I have been back in the United States for a year now and have adjusted to the American way of living. Little things remind me on a daily basis of my time living in Spain, and I miss the time I spent there. I am now living in Kansas City and working as an analyst at Cerner Corporation. Drury not only prepared me for life in a foreign country, but also prepared me to start my career as a young professional. I feel confident in the work I do every day and know my education played a pivotal role in my work ethic and ability to collaborate.

As I reflect on my time in college, I miss my walk from College Park to Breech and always running into a familiar face along the way. Drury gave me a unique outlook on life and encouraged me to take chances. I will remember the impact my college years made and take away all of the lessons I learned. I am proud to be a graduate of Drury University.