Updated: Aug 25, 2019
So, I sang a song in Spanish for some strangers tonight… who am I becoming?
Three things I’ve realized about myself on this trip already:
I am capable of becoming a morning person if I know it’s necessary. For the last three years since coming to college, I’ve fought with my body to wake up before 9 a.m. and simply can’t do it. I end up staying up until two or three o’clock in the morning working on something, urgently writing or editing photos or finishing a project. But here, I can easily wake up at 6 a.m. and feel perfectly rested. I have one responsibility here, and that’s to learn Spanish. I already feel so much less stressed and panicky, which has affected my sleep tremendously.
I love Costa Rican food. Beans, rice, bread, vegetables, fruits (all types, but especially PLANTAINS), chicken, fish, and eggs are what I eat on a daily basis back in the United States anyways. But they taste much, much better here.
I’m not as bad at Spanish as I thought I would be coming into this trip. I’m not exactly where I was at the end of freshman year, but I did better on my placement exam than expected and ended up being put into Advanced Spanish I. I absolutely love my professor — she’s adorable and very understanding about us not knowing Spanish very well. I’m hoping the class will be a good refresher that can help me communicate better with my host family and other people around the country as I travel.
Why I want to become bilingual
The view from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica (or just “ULatina”). It’s brand new!
This seems to be a good time to explain why I would continue with Spanish even though I don’t need the credits for my university. Considering most students give up on their language after their school requirements are completed, it probably would’ve made more sense for me to give it up.
But I knew I could’ve just give up 10 years of Spanish classes. Sure, most of those years were just learning the same vocabulary and grammar rules until I came to college and actually had to learn to speak the language, but I’ve still put a lot of effort into learning the language. I knew I needed an immersive experience to push myself closer to becoming fluent.
As someone studying communications and creative writing/literature, of course knowing a second language opens a lot of doors professionally — globalization is causing language and cultures to interact, which we’re already seeing the effects of today. But I also think it’s a lot more than that: knowing a second language can also make you more confident with your first language, too.
I’ve noticed this especially as an introvert (and thus someone who spends most of their time alone) with both social and performance anxiety. I have trouble talking to people in English, my first language, because I’m awaiting a reaction from the other person. Either that, or I’ll rush through whatever I’m saying because I don’t know how long the other person will listen to me before they interrupt or zone out.
For my entire life, I’ve been much better at reading and writing (in both languages) than listening and speaking, so learning Spanish and operating in another language is difficult for me. I always feel guilty that I can’t communicate better or understand people the first time they say something.
So here’s my realization: forcing myself out of my comfort zone and into a new territory of language has made me so much more confident in all other aspects of my life. The more I do it, the more I trust my ability to communicate in general.
Another thing I’m fascinated with is storytelling. As a natural storyteller, it’s disheartening to think that a vast amount of the world’s people are completely inaccessible to me due to language barriers. I believe that you can’t gain a broad scope of the world without finding a way to communicate with others who speak a different language as you, because their perspective on the world is significantly different because they speak another language. I would have never been able to connect with my host family and learn about their lives, for example, if I hadn’t spoken any Spanish.
If you haven’t gathered by now, I love hearing new stories and learning about people from different backgrounds and experiences. This study abroad trip and Spanish in general has already brought so many wonderful people in my life (both from Costa Rica and from the United States), which makes me thankful that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone even when it wasn’t necessary.
What went down today: a scavenger hunt, karaoke, and Imperial
After class, SOL organized a scavenger hunt for the new cohort of students to familiarize ourselves with the campus (see here our “human pyramid” photo in the parking lot).
My group had so much fun walking around, taking pictures, and ended up eating frozen yogurt at the mall for an extra few hours before turning in our completed tasks list. I already feel like I know everyone so well even after just a few days.
And tonight, almost everyone in our cohort went to Otto’s to celebrate the start of classes. The main bar was closed because it’s a Monday, but we had pretty much the entire outdoor patio area to ourselves — and the karaoke machine. My friend Gloria and I had a really nice deep talk before butchering “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj.
After that, I sang “Me Voy” by Julieta Venegas which is the only Spanish song I’ve memorized. It began as a joke in my high school friend group because my friend Veronica and I sang it for a class karaoke duel, but I honestly really love the song.
For those of you who don’t know Spanish, “Me Voy” means “I’m leaving” — essentially, the song is about leaving a relationship behind and leaving through the window to float away in a hot air balloon… or at least that’s what happens in the music video.
I’m trying to channel that energy here as I leave my insecure, panicky self behind in my comfort zone while I travel and grow. Maybe part of that is knowing how to handle my mental health, how to enjoy a moment instead of thinking about my to-do list, and how to trust my abilities.
And maybe all of that starts with confidently singing Spanish karaoke in front of people I just met.
My therapist would be so proud.