Gena Saldaña has a unique perspective on how it feels to learn a second language and study abroad. This Nashville native got closer to her family’s heritage by studying Spanish.
“I wanted to learn to speak Spanish when I was 3 years old,” says Gena. “It was my dad’s first language, but he didn’t speak it in the house very often. It wasn’t until I was in my senior year of college that I decided to seriously pursue learning it!” She spent half a year perfecting her Spanish in Guadalajara, Mexico, and calls it “one of the best decisions and experiences that I have ever had”.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music, Gena considered becoming a Spanish teacher, but started teaching English first to get a review of the grammar of her native language. “I decided to stay because I love meeting people from all over the world,” she says. “I enjoy sharing English with them in order to help them meet their goals. I also learn more from them than they will ever know!”

Now Gena has been at IEI since May 2014 while working on her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, which she expects to finish next year. Her favorite class to teach is Listening Lab, where she can work with student one-on-one. Like many people, she particularly looks forward to trying foods from around the world at International Lunch each term.

When she isn’t teaching, Gena continues her passion for music by singing with the Metro Nashville Chorus, an award-winning women’s a cappella singing group. She also enjoys sci-fi movies and television shows, running, and traveling. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Orlando, and her dogs Diohji and Travi.

Gena offers the following advice to IEI students: “1. Get outside of your comfort zone. Make friends with people who speak other languages. Practice English as often as you can! In the future, you will not regret using English, even if you feel uncomfortable doing it now. 2. Will Smith said, “Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” So practice for hours and hours! It will be worth it. I promise!”