Teachable Moments

Nicolas Zamora’s Oberlin experience prepared him for the classrooms of Spain.

May 22, 2023

Tyler Applegate

Nicolas Zamora.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Nicolas Zamora’s Oberlin life became grounded in teaching and service. In four years as  a Bonner Scholar with the Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Research, he served as a literacy assistant, a tutoring leader for America Reads, and as a teacher of Spanish at the nearby Kendal retirement community.

He even co-taught six semesters of an Experimental College (ExCo) course on astrology—beginning in his first year on campus.

“Being a Bonner Scholar helped me understand how to use my leadership skills and become aware of issues faced by my communities," says the fourth-year politics major from Miami.

Now Zamora is preparing for the next step in his journey: Over the next year, he will teach English language and lead a Model United Nations program at a high school in Madrid, Spain. It’s an opportunity made possible through a Fulbright Fellowship. 

“Being able to work in a school throughout my time in Oberlin has given me the opportunity to help positively influence children’s minds and grow close with them,” he says. “There are children I have known for four years now and will have to say goodbye to, but I want to form that bond with the new students that I will be teaching.”

Spain called me, and I picked up the phone.”

For Zamora, the process of applying for a Fulbright was instrumental in sorting out his aspirations.

“I started to think about what I wanted to do after I graduate,” he says. “The main answer I had was that I wanted to live abroad and immerse myself in a new culture—experiencing intercultural exchange has become a main life goal of mine.” Zamora got his first taste of this goal when he studied away in Amsterdam during his junior year. A year later, he accepted his Fulbright award with an opportunity to once again venture across the pond and immerse himself in that European culture he fell in love with.

As he puts it: “Spain called me, and I picked up the phone.”

During his time at Oberlin, Zamora became involved with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, serving as a trainer for the Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct (PRSM) program and helping with mandatory Title IX training for students. He completed an internship in advocacy and public policy at the Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation in his hometown, where his work involved research and creation of resources to educate low-income citizens on how to advocate for themselves and their communities. This role deeply enriched his understanding of community needs and ignited a passion for using education as a tool for empowerment.

Susan Pavlus seated with Nicolas Zamora.
Among Zamora's numerous Oberlin mentors was Susan Pavlus (left), director of education outreach at the Bonner Center. (photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones '97)

Zamora doesn't have a clear vision of his career plans post-Fulbright, and he’s comfortable with the uncertainty. “I want to see if I enjoy teaching high-schoolers or if I want to pursue further education,” he says, adding that he’s interested in graduate studies in political communication or public policy. “But I hope to continue living in Europe and making new connections wherever I end up.”

He is effusive in his thanks to the faculty and staff who supported him through his Oberlin journey, among them professor Claire Solomon in Hispanic studies—one of Zamora’s two minors, along with Africana studies—and the staff of the Bonner Center, most notably Director of Education Outreach Programs Susan Pavlus.

“I also want to thank my mom and all my friends,” he adds. “It takes a community, and they are mine.”

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