Ryan and I met when he called my office looking for information about his visa paperwork for his 2018-2019 Language and Culture Assistant position in Bocairent, Spain. It was the first and last time anybody asked me this type of question while working in this position. Fortunately, it wasn’t the last time I heard from Ryan. While we were on the call, I was able to take his contact information and we soon became Dreams Abroad colleagues for life. Ryan said goodbye to both FSU and Tallahassee, and hola to a place in the Spanish sun. Two years passed since Ryan left to teach abroad. Let’s have a look at what Ryan has been up to since he left that August on his Iberian adventure to Spain. After settling in and readjusting back to life in the States, Ryan has an update on his past year.
How has life been since moving back to the US and starting work at the Plantation Police Department?
“I’ve been back in the US for over a year now. I think it’s safe to say I’m back in the swing of things. From the day I moved back home, I had been putting all my focus into getting hired by a city, preparing for the Police Academy, getting through the Police Academy, and now trying to learn how to properly do this job at the Plantation Police Department. My life has been very focused and goal-oriented over the past year. I’ve been able to have some fun with my friends in between (you know… before the whole COVID business), but there’s always been something in my schedule with a strict deadline.”
How was the Police Academy and training?
“One of the cool things about this job is that the training never ends. There is always something to work on to better hone your skills. It’s one of the factors that drove me to this profession.
Physically, the Police Academy helped put me in the best shape of my life. We were doing physical training every day. I could’ve filled buckets with all the sweat, haha. The defensive tactics training we received was a little outdated, but it was a good foundation for helping to get comfortable going hands-on with another person and learning to control your breathing and adrenaline. We received a ton of firearms training as well, which was pretty cool because I had only fired guns a handful of times before the Academy.
BUT, even though learning about fighting and shooting was a lot of fun, it was always stressed to the cadets that our ability to communicate and de-escalate is our greatest weapon. Talking to different types of people in various scenarios is something I get to do every day at this job.”
What are your aspirations after you finish up at the Police Academy?
“My Academy class had only three weeks left before COVID-19 hit us. It ended up taking another three months to graduate… which really sucked. Regardless, when it was all said and done, I finished 2nd overall in the class. I even received the Academic Excellence award for having the highest GPA in the class. Woohoo!
I’m currently in Phase Three of Field Training. The Police Academy was a controlled environment. This is the real deal. The streets don’t wait for you to get over the growing pains of learning a new trade. My only aspirations at this point are to get through field training and learn how to do better at this job. The veterans tell me it takes about five years before you actually feel like you have a firm grip on being a police officer. I’ve been a cop for 21 eleven-and-a-half hour shifts… I have a LONG way to go.”
How has living in Florida been during COVID-19?
“Living in South Florida during COVID-19 has been a disaster. Everything I like to do to unwind has been shut down. Beaches closed. My gym closed. Bars closed. Sports are coming back a little bit but were gone for months. Concerts canceled. There might not be football this year! Meeting new people in 2020 was never a thing. I can’t wait till we get this election out of the way in November so life can go back to normal. I don’t even care who wins at this point. Only in America can people politicize a pandemic.”
How has your Spanish helped in your new job?
“Practicing Spanish definitely took a hit during my time in the Police Academy. Most of the time and energy I used doing Rosetta Stone and watching telenovelas was spent studying for the Academy. Nevertheless, my current level of Spanish has helped immensely on the job. I’ve used more Spanish in the past six weeks than I had since moving back to the US. I can’t conduct a long, confusing investigation, and can’t really tell when somebody is lying to me in Spanish… but I can do basic communicating. I understand like 60% of what is being said to me. Being able to speak another language has helped keep me, and fellow officers, safer in at least two dangerous situations up to this point. I’m excited to continue learning. Spanish might save my life someday.”
What do you miss most about Bocairent, Spain?
“The simplicity. The mountains. The eight-hour nature hikes. The cheap alcohol. The sound of people speaking castellano around me. Giving blind trust to strangers.”
Did that experience help you become a better person? After being back, do you still feel the same as you did in the quote above?
“I’m a better, more holistic person as a result of my experience abroad. No doubt. And yeah, I’d say I still feel the same as I did in that old quote. Having patience and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is a vital part of my job now. Eight out of every ten people I talk to on the street are lying to my face. Even though I know they’re giving me the runaround and wasting everyone’s time, you have to take them for their word and let them communicate their side of the story across.
It takes a lot of patience. And I can’t think of any other profession where you can see a drowned toddler, a woman with a swollen face defending the guy who beat her up, and a drunk dude driving 98 in a 40 with two babies and an AK-47 in the backseat… all within the same shift. We come across countless uncomfortable situations and have to be professional through it all. My time abroad has helped me better manage my emotions.”
How did the experience change your outlook on life?
“My outlook on life has become simpler as a result of my experience. Thanks to the Police Academy, I’m in the best shape of my life. I have a great family and a small, solid group of friends. I have a career that challenges me every day. Plus, I drive a 2020 Jeep Wrangler. And once the country opens back up, I can start having hobbies again. Life is great!”
Has it impacted your relationships at work, home and all of the above?
“For sure. I’ve been a genuinely happier person since coming back from Spain. I think that good energy rubs off on everyone.”
Do you plan to visit your school and village in the future when travel gets back to normal?
“The first thing I’m doing once I’m off my probationary period (one year from my swear-in date) is booking a two-week vacation to Spain. I want to see my family again. Also, I want to visit some of the places I didn’t get to see last year. And of course, I have to make my grand return to Bocairent and see all my friends from school. The auxiliar who was assigned there last year didn’t end up going. I’m literally the only one to ever show up. That’s why I will forever be a legend there, at least in my own eyes.”
Ryan Gomez is one example of our team members who have returned home and changed their careers. He’s a part of our Dreams Abroad alumni network and will be forever. For more information on how to join our team or share your story, reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you.