On October 21, 2016, the Global Engagement Fellows hosted a discussion group at Second Wind coffee, focusing on Latin America and Spain.
The discussion group consisted of students interested in studying abroad in Latin American countries, students simply interested in the Latin American culture, and a few students who had studied abroad in a Latin American country who were able to offer some wisdom to the prospective travelers.
I mostly spoke to Sindhu Garimella and Katherine Voss, two Global Engagement Fellows. Sindhu had studied abroad in Spain for a semester, living with a host family who was adamant about avoiding English in the household.
Sindhu explained how when she first arrived, being in a 100 percent Spanish-speaking environment was very tough, and she would have to think a moment before being able to respond to questions and have conversations.
However, at the end of her journey, she was able to have fluent and mostly unburdened dialogue in Spanish. In fact, she said a big part of the culture shock upon returning to the United States was being in an environment where she didn’t have to take a moment to translate and speak Spanish.
Hearing the stories from those studying abroad was both enciteful and intriguing. Before, I hadn’t considered studying abroad in a Latin American country but the stories of culture and their experiences made me consider it. It was very interesting to consider being placed in an environment where people actually avoid speaking English for the sake of speaking their native language.
In the United States, foreigners are often expected to speak in English no matter what. It is interesting to see this attitude reflected elsewhere, mostly amongst Sindhu’s host family.
Currently taking German myself, I’m excited to be placed in a situation where I can only speak German to communicate. I look forward to the challenge and the experience of having my world flipped upside down!