Santander Scholarship Winner – Rachel Hingston


Rachel Hingston

Area of study: BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies

Year of graduation: 2018

Make an application, you will only regret it if you don’t. What’s the worst that could happen? You never know it could change your life, like it did mine. Opportunities are more likely if you put yourself out there and try to find them.

What experiences did you have as a result of the Santander Universities scholarship?

  • First-hand experience
    The scholarship gave me the opportunity to observe and experience how education is undertaken in Spain, which would not have been possible otherwise. There is no better way to experience something than first-hand. Exploring my areas of interest in another country has enabled me to reflect upon other ways to approach problems and improve my own practice.

  • The ability to make international connections
    During my time in Spain, I met other like-minded professionals in my sector and learned a lot from them. These people became my friends and we have kept in contact since my return to the UK and I look forward to working with them in the future. The people I was working with had many years of experience and having the opportunity to share knowledge has developed my own thinking, as I was able to draw on their experience. 

  • Improved the way that I reflect on situations
    The best way I can explain how I feel about my time in Spain is that I have been given a new set of eyes. One of my Spanish colleagues remarked upon how she thought having a food bin was a bad idea, for example. When I questioned her, she stated that allowing children to put food in a bin teaches them that what they do not like, or do not eat, is rubbish. She continued by saying we should be challenging the perception that food is disposable and not something to reuse or recycle and promote food as something to be valued. It might not seem like an important detail but it gave me a new perspective on how to teach children with more than just the curriculum.
  • Data analysis skills
    During the visit, I worked on data analysis with my Spanish colleagues, which added a layer of understanding to the results. The survey was conducted as part of a research project that is exploring what is meant by the term child-centred practice and how it is being defined over six countries. Without my visit, the discussion about the data would not have been so deep, which is very important as the dialogue we shared facilitated a deeper understanding of the data that was collected. 

Are there any particular highlights that stood out for you?

All of it! I think the most valuable thing for me was spending time with my colleague Concepción, she is such an amazing person and she maximised the experience I gained during my stay. She allowed me to draw upon her years of knowledge and I am eternally grateful to her. Her thinking, like mine, is rooted in a holistic approach and having the opportunity to deepen my understanding was invaluable.

(Right to left) Rachel, with her colleague Concepción, and an education advisor from the local council in Spain

What challenges did you face?

The language barrier was one of the biggest challenges, which initially made me want to stay in my hotel during the evening. I faced my fear and ventured out and was glad that I did. Concepción taught me that challenge and conflict are healthy, as without it we cannot change or grow. I felt a lot more confident after she told me this and it encouraged me to venture out alone to explore my surroundings. One positive of not being able to speak the language was that it enabled me to appreciate other forms of communication, a useful skill when you are working with small children and have added Spanish to the list of things I’d like to learn.

Rachel with the headteacher, discussing a project.

What do you feel you have personally and professionally gained from the scholarship?

As said previously, the trip has enabled me to build international relationships, which will improve my future professional development. The experience has also changed the way I think. I have a deeper appreciation for the values we pass on to children through our actions. This newfound deeper appreciation will support me through my masters degree in September, as I will be able to better analyse my thoughts and ideas.