Andrew Morrow is a 1999 graduate of Pius X High School, and is now a college professor in Spain.
What is your current title and workplace?
Like any good chameleon, I have several titles and various workplaces. First and foremost, I am a professor of American Literature, Composition, Poetry, and Introduction to Philosophy at the American College in Spain. I also teach English as a second language and Academic Writing at the University of Málaga. When I’m not teaching, I translate. I’ve been working as a translator for over ten years now and have published several translated books and articles. I am also currently working on a project in conjunction with the Spanish Department at Pius X to build a study abroad program in Marbella, Spain for students at Pius. The central idea is to bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between U.S. and Spanish youth. While the program focuses primarily on the organic acquisition of the Spanish language via classroom study and home-stays, we also provide students with the opportunity to take cultural excursions to the major historical sites and cities in Andalucía.
How did you get from Pius X to where you are now?
This would take far too long for me to answer. In brief, I graduated Pius X in 1999 and attended UNL for two years. In the summer after my sophomore year, I attended a summer course at Oxford, England, and the travel bug bit me good and hard. Upon my return I transferred to CU Boulder, continued to study Literature and Philosophy, graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2003 and began an M.A. in Literature. During my undergrad years, I backpacked around Central America several times and got hooked on the Spanish language. Accordingly, much of my Graduate work entailed literary comparisons between the American poet, Ezra Pound and the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. When I began work on my dissertation I was told that I needed to be able to read Neruda without the aid of translated texts; in other words, I had to become completely fluent in Spanish. Now, given that Neruda hails from Chile, the logical choice for my sabbatical would have been Valparaíso, Chile, but in 2005 I had met a very special person from Spain while traveling in Guatemala. As such, I went to Spain to learn Spanish and to see about a girl, so to speak. I lived and studied in Madrid for two months, Barcelona for three, and Granada for two. At long last, I met up with my now wife…I’ll spare you the drawn out romantic details and simply say that I skipped my flight home and have not looked back since. The trouble, at first, was that I was not legally allowed to work. Yet, after clearing the staggeringly high hurdle of international immigration, I landed a job at the University of Málaga, completed an M.A. in Translation and Interpretation, and was given the opportunity by the American College in Spain to return to my first love and intended career, i.e.: teaching poetry and literature.
Tell us about the experiences that you love most about your current work?
Getting my students to fall in love with literature is my greatest professional joy. Each class is different; their tastes are different; their interests are different. But the beauty of literature is that there is something for everyone. If Faulkner doesn’t move you, perhaps Hemingway will. If Jane Austin ain’t your bag then pick up Kerouac, Ginsburg, Stevens, Butler, Lowell, Woolf…find something that stirs your intellect, your ineffable self. As a literature professor, I feel it is incumbent upon me to find fiction that speaks to my students’ souls; and though they may, at first, be averse to reading, once they find their groove most become very avid readers.
What is it about Spain that you think students would enjoy and learn from?
In comparison to the U.S., Spain has such a long, rich and intricate history and it is palpable everywhere, from the major cities to the remote countryside. When I was first here I was floored by the breadth of the historical, architectonical, artistic, religious, cultural, and linguistic development of Spain, and Europe in general. As an American, much of Europe seems old, distant, born out the mothering-past which later stamped its foot on the New Continent. But, it is, at the same time, oddly familiar, akin to an old relative who has seen much in life but divulged little. If genuinely taken in, it truly is humbling to behold. As such, I think students from Pius X would learn, apart from Spanish, invaluable lessons about Western culture at large, but also how thorny that particular appellation actually is. From 711 to 1492, much of Spain was under Moorish rule and the architectural, cultural and linguistic vestiges of their empire are clearly visible here, making it difficult to imagine a history of the West that is linear and homogenous. Instead, students will be forced to confront the complexities of European history as well as the religious and political vicissitudes that have helped shape the continent and were eventually taken to the Americas. In other words, the experience will be, to use an obvious cliché, eye-opening; they will be given a rare glimpse into the past that will help re-form their vision of the present, thereby accruing that priceless intangible of “cultural capital”.
Were there classes or teachers or activities at Pius X that shaped who you are?
Certainly. I was extremely dedicated to soccer and that undoubtedly had a major impact on me while still at Pius X. With the passage of time and the power of retrospect, however, I now know that, while soccer was an all-engrossing endeavor at the time its impact on my life has steadily faded; in contrast, the once elusively momentous lessons I learned whilst at Pius X have proved to hold much greater sway over my adult life than the things that interested me in my youth. There are plenty of teachers whose lessons left an indelible mark on me, from Ms. Mendenhall sparking my curiosity in science to Father Mark Huber encouraging me to explore Church history and Christian theology. But the one who undoubtedly had the most lasting impact on me was my Contemporary American History teacher, Ted Witulski. He introduced me to Bob Dylan, the Boss, E.E. Cummings, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche (much to the chagrin of my religion teachers), Howard Zinn, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joseph Heller, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Miles Davis, etc. He infused culture into his class and brought history alive. More importantly, however, he taught me that there is no such thing a purely linear, truthful, unadulterated account of historical events, that everything is influenced by ideology and hegemony, that the world and way in which events unfold are deeply complex and richly intertwined.
When not working, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
My hobbies have changed drastically since becoming a father. I still read quite a bit and play the guitar when I can, but not nearly as much as I used to or would like to. We try to do as much together as a family as possible; as such, we hike the sierras a lot, take bike rides together, go to the beach, experiment in the kitchen (I love cooking and am trying to learn how to bake proper French bread), color and draw, spend time with friends, and travel when we can.