TILF Success Stories: Meet Kathryn English

Posted by Trudy Richards on 10/20/2014


Kathryn English got a chance to visit the Alhambra during her time studying abroad in Granada.

Whenever asked, Kathryn English always tells people that her hometown of Denver City, Texas is “incredibly classic, and in the middle of nowhere.”

When she discovered UIL speech contests, her world grew just a little larger. Kathryn competed in Cross-Examination Debate along with Informative Extemporaneous Speaking. In doing so, she began the love affair with politics and government that to this day she holds dear.

“It was milestone moment, being in speech and debate,” Kathryn said. “It was the motivator for me to choose my major, my minor, to even come to Spain.”

Kathryn’s passion for politics followed her from Denver City High School all the way to the University of Granada in Spain.

A sophomore at West Texas A&M University and recipient of the CH Foundation scholarship through TILF, Kathryn was the only one chosen from her school to study at the prestigious Spanish institution. She is grateful for the flexibility the award has given to her education, as she has the opportunity to apply the intricate culture of Granada to her degree in Political Science and minor in International Studies.

“Granada is the perfect place to study for that. In one instance it’s Spain, it’s Europe, in the same breath, I get to learn about the Arab world,” she said. “They still have a strong influence in Granada because Granada was the last city in Spain to be re-conquered by the Christians. It was very much a Muslim part of Spain and being here I see how strong that influence is.”

She’s hoping that being at the crossroads of two dramatically different cultures will enrich her educational experience and consolidate her future in government. “I want to work for the State Department in some capacity. I’d like to be a political officer,” Kathryn said.

Throughout the past summer, she has studied in intensive Spanish workshops at West Texas A&M University and the University of Granada in preparation for the journey. Now she is fully immersed in the culture, and living with a host family that doesn’t speak English.

However, the language barrier hasn’t stopped Kathryn from taking the potential for new experiences by the reins.

“I’ve been to la Abadia del Sacromonte,” she said. A center for pilgrimage for Christians, this site holds ancient religious texts and relics while offering a tangible way to look at Granada’s religious past.

In a whirlwind adventure, Kathryn and a group of friends packed up and went to the coastal city of Nerja in southern Spain on a whim. “It was super last minute,” she said.

“I’m a planner. I plan things to a T,” she said of herself.  “Looking across the Mediterranean, I remember telling myself to breathe this in, to remember this. It was so incredibly gorgeous and it was one of the moments where I realized that not everything has to be planned out.”

She’s also had the chance to visit the Alhambra, a fortress and former home to the Sultan of Granada. “That was huge,” Kathryn said of her experience there. The Alhambra stands as one of the last examples of Muslim art and power in the final stages of dominance in Europe.

For Kathryn, it was a metaphor for her goals on the international stage.

“I narrowed it down to Europe and the Middle East,” she said of her preference in concentration of her international studies. “Being here, I can get a good feel for what I’m interested in.”

Kathryn explains that her drive to change the world is rooted in her experiences competing in UIL.

Having the opportunity to compete in UIL, particularly Informative Extemporaneous Speaking, “produced that interest in government, in people, and the relationship between the two,” Kathryn said.

It was sophomore year of high school when Kathryn knew UIL was where she belonged.

“I remember I was really nervous. I made it to finals and I was so excited. I got a topic that was about China’s economy,” she said. “I was so terribly nervous.”

“The thing that stuck out was my ballot. The judge had put that this was a state quality speech,” she said. “Getting that validation was fantastic and that year I ended up making it to state. I look back on that as a motivator.”

Kathryn plans to take that motivation and turn it into action by inspiring change and cooperation on a global scale. Whether that change is in small towns like Denver City, Texas, or in cultural melting pots like Granada, Spain, she’s intent on taking the skills she’s learned from UIL to make it happen.

Though her passion and experiences in Spain will last a lifetime, Kathryn reveals that UIL is where her dream of political involvement found a place to flourish. “That’s where the roots are.”


Written by Katarina Antolovic

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