August 11, 2022

By Haley Dittbrenner ’25

Grace Shelton '23 Grace Shelton ’23Creative writing major Grace Shelton ’23 took her craft to the next level by teaching nonfiction writing in another language and country.

Through Catnova, a nonprofit social services organization based in Barcelona, Shelton taught Spanish-speaking older adults, many of them immigrants from Latin American to Spain.

“The comradery among the immigrants who come to Catnova is unreal,” Shelton, of Dover, Pennsylvania, said. “My students were vulnerable and open with me about their pasts. They loved sharing what they wrote during our writing prompts, and since the majority were from Venezuela, they always took time to describe the cultural context of their story to me.”

In her preparation to teach the four-week creative nonfiction course, Shelton reviewed English translations and reading material on Catnova’s website. In her classes, Shelton also taught memoirs from the Spanish Civil War upon the recommendation of Greg Severyn, assistant professor of Spanish studies at Susquehanna University.

Shelton taught the course in Spanish and conducted conversations in English for those who wanted to learn the language. The language barrier was a challenge Shelton prepared for by meeting with Severyn for conversation practice in the months leading up to the internship.

“The best moment was our workshop. I was worried that no one would want to speak up,” she said, “but once the workshop began, I barely commented at all as the students praised and critiqued each other’s work with wonderful understanding of our key concepts. I am grateful for all of them.”

Shelton first discovered the internship opportunity through the Barcelona Study Abroad Experience, through which she studied abroad in fall 2021. She applied for the internship with hopes of returning to Spain.

Through her internship, Shelton promoted diverse authors and provided her students with the tools to tell their own stories.

“Someone else could tell their story for them, but in my opinion, it’s so much more meaningful to give my students the tools to tell it themselves,” Shelton said. “I hope teaching this class has connected me to authors who will share their lives with the world.”

After graduation, Shelton plans to return to Barcelona to teach English before pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing.