Spalinski, Monika



Name: Monika Spalinski
Location of Study: Toledo, Spain
Program of Study: Notre Dame International Summer Spain Program
Sponsors: Nanovic

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A brief personal bio:

My name is Monika Spalinski and I am originally from Harwood Heights, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I am an undergraduate Spanish major with minors in German and European Studies. I have always had a passion for learning new languages and about new cultures, and have been fortunate enough to be able to do so at Notre Dame. In addition to these academic interests, I play tennis and also volunteer weekly at the Saint Mary’s convent and the Early Childhood Development Center.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

I am currently a Spanish major at Notre Dame, and am also pursuing minors in European Studies and German. The SLA Grant is important in giving me the opportunity to participate in a summer study abroad program in Toledo, Spain. The program offers classes in Spanish that relate to my major and minor in European Studies, and also provides many opportunities to improve communication skills in Spanish outside of the classroom. The program will therefore give me the chance to learn the Spanish language first-hand by communicating with native Spanish speakers in everyday settings. In addition, once I return to Notre Dame in the fall of 2014, I will be well prepared to continue my study of Spanish at 30000 and 40000 level courses because of both my classroom instruction and also communication with native Spanish speakers in Spain.

In addition, I hope to pursue a career in education in the future through Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. I believe that this study abroad program will help me with this goal, because it will help me improve my Spanish language skills, which I hope will be useful in my career as a teacher.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

As a result of my summer study abroad experience, which is made possible by the SLA Grant, I hope to improve my skills in the Spanish language. In particular, I would like to focus on improving my speaking and communication abilities, which will be crucial in my further study and use of the language. I hope to be able to learn phrases and expressions used by native Spanish speakers in everyday situations. I believe that there is no better way to learn a language than by immersing oneself directly in a country where that language is spoken, something that the SLA Grant is giving me the opportunity to do. In addition, I hope to learn more about the Spanish culture and people. I hope to be able to do this by conversing and interacting with people who live in Spain. Therefore, by studying in Toledo, I hope to improve my Spanish communication skills and also expand upon my knowledge of the Spanish culture.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

    1. By the end of the summer, I will be able to understand and hold a conversation in Spanish in an everyday situation with native speakers.
    2. By the end of the summer, I will be able to converse with native Spanish speakers on topics of local and national interest, such as politics, economics, and cultural events.
    3. By the end of the summer, I will not be afraid to take risks in the Spanish language, and will be willing to engage in cultural and linguistic interactions that are beyond my usual comfort zone.
    4. By the end of the summer, I will have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Spanish culture and values.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

Students who study abroad in Toledo, Spain over the summer have opportunities to participate in weekly conversational exchanges with native Spanish students, to take Spanish dance and cooking lessons, and to do voluntary work in the community. I plan to participate in all of these experiences in order to expand upon my knowledge of the Spanish language and culture. In addition, I will have the chance to participate in four excursions during my time in Spain- to Toledo, Madrid, El Escorial, and Segovia. I plan to participate in all of these excursions to have more possibilities to practice my Spanish speaking skills through interactions with native Spanish speakers. During my international language study, I will have the opportunity to apply, test, and improve my acquired Spanish language skills in everyday life situations in Spain.


Reflective Journal Entry 1:

¡Hola de España! (Hello from Spain!) It has been about one week since I arrived in Spain and I already love it so much! I am living and taking classes in Toledo, a medieval city and former capital of Spain that is about an hour south of Madrid. The city itself is beautiful with its narrowing, winding streets and plethora of old buildings and monuments. The city has been especially beautifully decorated this past week because the city celebrated Corpus Christi, a religious holiday celebrating the belief in Jesus Christ as the Eucharist. For this holiday, the city was decorated with tapestries, flowers, and banners- absolutely stunning! Being in Toledo for this holiday has really allowed me to learn more about the Spanish culture and how much the Catholic religion and its customs are really integrated into everyday life here.

However, beyond the beauty of Toledo and the Corpus Christi celebrations, I have also begun to have my first experiences and practice with the Spanish language. I began my classes at the Fundacion José Ortega and Gasset this past week. I am taking one class entitled “War and Revolution in Spanish and Spanish American Poetry, Film and Painting” being taught by Notre Dame professor Ben Heller, and also one class entitled “Conversational Spanish” being taught by a professor from Spain. Both classes seem very interesting so far and are giving me great practice with different aspects of the Spanish language. Professor Heller’s course is really helping with my reading and writing abilities in Spanish at the advanced level that I need practice with, while the conversational course allows me to develop my speaking skills on topics relating to everyday areas of discussion- food, the Spanish culture, etc. I believe that both classes are going to be very useful and enjoyable, and I will continue to post about my experiences in them.

Furthermore, outside the classroom, I have already had many opportunities to practice my Spanish in everyday situations. My exposure to Spanish started the minute that my flight landed in Spain. First, I needed to find the coordinator of my program who was picking me and another student up from the airport, so we needed to use Spanish to ask for directions with how to find him in the airport. Then, I needed to exchange my US currency for Euros at a currency exchange place, and this turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. Having just landed after 16 hours of traveling, I found myself unable to ask, “What is the percent of the exchange rate from US Dollars to Euros?” However, the teller at the currency exchange was very kind and was able to understand my somewhat jumbled request. I found that this pattern continued once I arrived in Toledo, in that many people were very kind and understanding of me speaking slowly and sometimes asking them to repeat things when I didn’t understand. From simple tasks such as buying ice cream in a café to going grocery store shopping, I have been practicing my Spanish in Toledo. It is, in all honesty, sometimes difficult to remember words and phrases when I need them, but overall I am able to communicate what I need to the locals. However, I hope that over the next few weeks I will see progression in my communication skills. Thus, as I have been saying to everyone here, I feel so lucky just to have the opportunity to be in such a beautiful place and have the chance to better my Spanish. I can’t wait to see what these next few weeks have in store! ¡Estoy viviendo un sueño! (I’m living a dream!)

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

As I sit here writing my second blog post entry, it’s hard to believe that almost two weeks have already passed by since I arrived in Spain. However, while it seems that time is going by so quickly, I realize that I have already learned and experienced so much here. This past weekend I traveled to Madrid and experienced my first Spanish “big city”. The trip began with all the students from my university, during which we received a guided bus tour and a guided tour of El Prado, a famous art museum. The El Prado museum really fascinated me. We were able to see several works from the famous Spanish painter Goya, an artist whom I have studied in my Spanish classes since high school. It was a truly amazing and humbling experience to see his pictures at the museum. The guided tour of the museum was also very helpful because the tour guide provided us with a lot of additional historical background information about the artists and the paintings. I was able to learn a lot about the Spanish culture through this tour. After this, we were left to explore Madrid on our own for the weekend. During this time, I was able to visit several famous sights in Madrid including the Almudena Cathedral, El Palacio Real, and El Parque del Retiro. All of these places were very beautiful and interesting to see. I was also able to practice my Spanish speaking skills in more situations than I thought- checking into my hostel, buying tickets to the attractions, and ordering food at restaurants. I found using my Spanish in everyday situations to be a very good learning experience. Practicing my Spanish in situations such as these is allowing me to get closer to reaching one of my main goals for the summer, that is, being able to hold a conversation in Spanish in an everyday situation. All of these interactions are definitely helping me to become more fluent. Overall, I really felt myself getting immersed and lost in the Spanish culture, history, and community during my weekend in Madrid. My trip to Madrid was truly amazing, and one that I will never forget.

Furthermore, this past week I have been learning a lot in my classes as well. My class with Professor Heller is going very well thus far, and we have been learning a lot of Spanish history. Professor Heller then relates the history to the poetry we are reading, and it is very interesting to see how the two correlate. I am excited to see what more we will learn in this class. Then, in my Conversational Spanish class, we learned something that related to a community immersion that I completed. My conversation class has proved to be very useful so far because my professor really makes an effort to teach us phrases that are useful in everyday situations and/or colloquial words. She taught us two colloquial Spanish phrases in class, “ser mono/a” and “ser majo/a”, which I then used to complete community immersion task 1. I first found a couple in which the man and woman were both about 20 years old. I asked them what these phrases meant to them and they responded exactly as my professor had in class. They said that “ser mono/a” means to tell somebody that they are cute or pretty and that “ser majo/a” means to tell somebody that they are a nice or sympathetic person. They said that these are phrases that they would use in everyday conversations or via social media such as Facebook or Twitter. They told me that these are very common phrases used as compliments among young people. Then, I proceeded to ask a man who was about 50 years old and a woman who was in her mid 40s what these same phrases meant to them. Again, both the man and the woman understood the phrases, and gave me a very similar explanation as the young couple did about what the phrases meant. However, when I asked them when and if they would ever use these phrases, they both abruptly responded “no”. They said that these phrases were very informal and not necessarily appropriate to use with somebody who was around their age. I found it very interesting that the older man and woman both knew the phrases, but would not use them in everyday situations as the younger couple would. This shows me that there are differences between what phrases and terms people of different age groups use, just as in the United States. This does not surprise me, but it was very interesting to learn how these particular phrases are used since my professor had taught them to us in class. I loved that I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to an everyday conversation. Overall, I have already learned a lot here in Spain and I know that I will continue to do so over the coming weeks as well! The next few community immersion tasks, my classes, and my traveling around Spain will surely help me with this. Adios until next week!

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

Greetings again from Spain! This has been a very busy and exhausting, but also exciting and rewarding week for me. This week has been all about balancing schoolwork with other activities and excursions. This past weekend I went on an excursion to El Escorial, which was organized by my university (Fundacion José Gasset & Ortega). Our first stop on our trip was the “Real Monasterio del Escorial”, a former Spanish monastery and royal palace. The entire building and grounds were extremely beautiful. Inside, we were able to tour the basilica, the former royal chambers of the king and queen, and also the tombs of several famous Spanish monarchs who are buried inside. In all of these rooms there was beautiful medieval paintings, statues, and decorations. Since I am a European Studies minor I found this all to be especially interesting and relevant to what I am studying. This was a great first hand opportunity for me to experience European history and culture. It was very exciting to see things that I have studied in my classes at Notre Dame in person. Afterwards, our group went to visit “The Valley of the Fallen (El Valle de los Caidos)”, a basilica and giant cross built to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives during the Spanish Civil War. The monument itself is one of the largest crosses in the world, under which the church is built. The church is completely under a boulder and therefore has no natural light. The very interesting part of the memorial is that it was built under the request of Francisco Franco- a former, powerful dictator of Spain. Franco is also buried here and we were able to visit his gravesite during our tour, where there are always fresh flowers placed daily by fascist and monarchist supporting groups. Franco was a rather unpopular leader of Spain, whose dictatorship many people did not support. Therefore, there were not many other people visiting the memorial. The memorial is still very controversial in Spain today because many believe there should not be a memorial built by a dictator (for example, our tour guide said it would be as having a memorial in honor of Hitler or Stalin). The memorial appalls most Spaniards. However, it was interesting for me to visit it and learn all about it because I had never known about any of this history. It was definitely a very eye-opening day all around. I learned a lot of history that related to both my major in Spanish and minor in European Studies.

Furthermore, other than this excursion, I also completed yet another community immersion task (number 5). This week I learned how to make paella, a traditional Spanish dish made with rice and either a seafood or meat component. Paella is a very popular dish eaten for dinner all throughout Spain, and has become a nationally identifying food for Spain (as hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. are for the United States). It originated in the Valencia region of Spain, and ever since then, has gained popularity all around the country. Paella has many ingredients. The typical ingredients include green or red pepper, paprika, garlic, salt, onion, tomatoes, peas, some type of seafood such as shrimp or clams, and rice. To prepare paella, one must first bake a large red or green pepper, then peel it and cut it into small pieces. Then, one takes a frying pan over medium heat and puts in several ingredients all together- paprika, salt, garlic, diced tomato, chopped onion, seafood, and rice. These ingredients must all be cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the seafood and rice are completely cooked, one can add peas and the chopped pepper and cook for a few more minutes. The key to preparing a good paella dish is to cook it for just the right amount of time. The rice and seafood should not be burnt, but they should not be overcooked either. Then, the dish is put into a large serving plate, with the seafood and peppers preferably placed on top to make the dish more aesthetically pleasing. Your paella is then ready to eat- it’s that simple! Spaniards love the dish, and according to the waitress I talked to, they eat it very regularly. I have also eaten paella at several local Spanish restaurants and it tastes just as delicious as it sounds. It is also very filling and satisfying and acts as a full dinner. Since food is an important part of most Spanish social interaction, paella is the perfect cultural dish for almost all occasions in Spain. ¡Buen provecho! (Bon appetit/Enjoy!)

Reflective Journal Entry 4:

It’s hard for me to believe that my summer study abroad program is more than halfway done already! It feels like I just arrived a few days ago, but in the time that I’ve been here I’ve been learning so much. My everyday conversational Spanish skills have improved tremendously. I can now order food in restaurant, pay for my groceries at the store, or ask for directions without any hesitation. These tasks were quite overwhelming just a few weeks ago, and now, they are not difficult for me at all. All my interactions and conversations with local people and students have helped me so much. Furthermore, last week I started my volunteer work here in Spain. I am assisting at a preschool/day camp with children ages 3-6. My time at the day camp is probably my favorite part of the week. The children are very friendly and loving. I help assist the teachers with various tasks ranging from playing with the children outside during recess to helping them do their arts and crafts. Not only is this experience very enjoyable, but it is also helping me with my language skills. The children have no restrictions when they talk- that is, they speak very quickly and use many colloquial words. They treat me as if I were any other teacher and don’t speak to me more slowly or differently than they normally would. This is very good practice for me even though I don’t always understand everything the kids are trying to tell me- but, I’m learning and trying my best! I really like having this practice because I have found that adults will sometimes speak to me more slowly or even in English once they realize that I am from the United States. While I understand that most people have good intentions, it can be frustrating at times when I am trying to improve upon my Spanish and an adult will only respond to me in English. Therefore, I really like working with the kids because not only is it a wonderful experience, but my language skills are also greatly improving!

Furthermore, my classes at my university are also going very well. I am really enjoying my class with Notre Dame professor Ben Heller. Thus far, we have mainly been studying two main events in Spanish history- The Spanish War of Independence and the Spanish Civil War. In studying these wars, we have read a plethora of poetry and also watched two films. Going into this course, I was not very familiar with Spanish history at all. However, during my time in this class I have learned so much. I have also had the chance to practice my writing skills because of our midterm examination and weekly reflective journals. In addition, I also really like my Conversational Spanish course. The professor has been teaching us many colloquial phrases and expressions that I have found to be very useful. We also practice our speaking in various settings- in a big group, with partners, and individually during presentations. While this can be nerve wrecking at times, I have found that all of this practice is really paying off. I find myself making far fewer grammatical errors and pronunciation errors.

Also, this week I was able to complete one more community immersion task (number 4). This task involved finding two people who are members of a minority and ask how they feel they are treated here. The first person I talked to was a young Muslim woman in her mid-20s. Toledo, Spain, the city in which I am studying, actually has a significant Muslim population in comparison to other Spanish cities. Therefore, the woman told me that she felt quite comfortable here. She said that although she has been singled out various times in her life due to her religion and the way she dresses, on a day-to-day basis she usually never feels different. She says that most people in the community are very accepting of her and her religion. She commented on how friendly her neighbors and friends are. Then, the second person I talked to was a woman originally from Australia living in Spain. The woman moved to Spain after coming on vacation here and falling in love with the country. I was particularly interested in talking to her because she, like me, has blonde hair and blue eyes, a rarity in Spain. I was curious about how others treated her in the community and whether she ever felt out of place. The woman told me that even though she has lived in Spain for several years, she still often gets labeled a foreigner when she goes to stores or other places where she is not familiar with the people. She told me that she often gets spoken to in English even though she is fluent in Spanish. However, she also noted that she feels very comfortable in Spain and loves living here. Her friends are very accepting of her and do not treat her any differently. It was very interesting to complete this task and see that although minorities are not treated poorly here in Spain, they do stand out more. That is, in the United States we are very accustomed to a melting pot of people. Most of us know people from different religious, political, economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. That is not so much the case here in Spain, where many people are very similar to one another (although this is changing more in recent years). Overall, minorities stand out more amongst the population here in Spain, although they are generally treated and integrated into the communities very well.

Reflective Journal Entry 5:

Time continues to fly by in Spain! It’s been over a month since I first arrived here, and only about ten days remain until I’ll have to say goodbye to this beautiful country that I’ve learned so much in. I’m really trying to make the most of my final days here. While schoolwork consumes a large portion of my time nowadays, I take any free time I have to interact with members of the local community so that I can continue to improve my Spanish speaking abilities. For instance, I have several examples of things I did this past week. I continue to volunteer at a local preschool/day camp here in Toledo. The kids are so much fun! I am also learning so much from them. Since they are so young (most are 3-6 years old), they don’t even realize how much they are helping me with my Spanish. However, they love to talk about anything and everything- sports, television shows, games, etc., which are all topics of everyday relevance and importance in a lot of conversations here. Therefore, not only am I learning a lot of interesting cultural information that I wouldn’t normally hear about from adults, I am also learning the Spanish words for all of these things. Furthermore, this week I also attended Spanish Catholic mass at the famous cathedral in Spain. This was a very interesting experience for me. While I didn’t know the proper responses in Spanish during the mass, I was surprised at how much I understood. I could understand the prayers, the homily, and most parts of the mass. However, another thing that I was surprised at was how casual the mass was. Even though the mass was held in a very famous and historical cathedral, most people came dressed in jeans and sneakers. Several people seated near me took out their phones during mass and started texting. The women behind us were also constantly chatting. All of these distractions didn’t bother me much, but it was very interesting to see how laidback everybody was. I could never imagine such things happening during mass at my parish back home.

Furthermore, I also had the chance to go to the “mercadillo” or little market here in Toledo. This was also a fantastic experience! There are many small vendors who sell things such as clothes, home goods, small souvenirs, and food. It was really interesting to be able to look at all the goods and see what items are popular in Spain. I also had the chance to practice my bartering skills, which I must say, come with practice. The first time around when I asked one of the venders to lower the price on a watch I wanted to purchase, he didn’t agree. I purchased the watch anyways but was determined to make my next bargaining experience more successful. At the next vendor I was much more persistent. I continued to ask for the vendor to lower the price until she finally agreed. Looking back on it, this was also a great way for me to practice Spanish. I didn’t think much about it in the moment, but I now realize that having this quick, back and forth conversation with a native Spanish speaker was definitely very useful.

In addition, I was able to complete my last community immersion task this week (task 2). I talked to three local people in Toledo about their opinions on the Spanish “siesta”. Siesta is part of the daily schedule in Spain. It is a time for about three or four hours in the middle of the day during which all shops and businesses are closed and people go home to eat lunch with their families and rest. People then return to finish work in the early evening hours. This is a highly debated and talked about topic in Spain nowadays since the unemployment rate is so high here. Many people blame the siesta as a factor in this high unemployment rate; therefore, I wanted to see what people in Toledo really thought about. The first person I talked to was one of my professors. She commutes to Toledo from Madrid on a daily basis, and she said that she does not like the siesta. She said the siesta makes her commute nearly impossible and impractical. There is big traffic in Madrid and going home for a few hours in the middle of the day is nearly impossible. She said that by the time she commuted back and forth from her home to work, she would have less than hour left to actually “relax”. Therefore, she usually ends up just going to a local café and working on her computer from there. She is not a supporter of siesta. Then, I talked to my intercambio (Spanish conversation partner) who is 22 years old. She said that the siesta does not apply to university students and therefore doesn’t affect her much. However, she said that growing up she enjoyed siesta a lot because it allowed her whole family to be home to eat lunch together. This meant that the family had a minimum of two meals (lunch and dinner) together everyday, so she said it really allowed them to all grow closer. Finally, I talked to a local shopkeeper, an older man. He seemed to be very traditional and insisted that Spanish traditional values be upheld, so he said that he really enjoys siesta. His shop is right below his apartment where he lives. Therefore, he can just go upstairs to his apartment and get rest there. It is not a hassle or a struggle for him, and it seems as if this is something that he really enjoys. The siesta gives him a nice rest in the middle of the day that people in most other countries do not get. Therefore, overall, the siesta seems to be a matter of convenience more than anything. The siesta can be useful or pointless, depending on where a person lives and what kind of work they do. I don’t think the siesta would ever be practical in the United States with high commute times in cities, but it is nevertheless an interesting concept to talk and think about.

Reflective Journal Entry 6:

Well, I can’t believe the time has come for me to say this, but this is my last blog post from Spain. As cliché as this may sound, these past six weeks have really flown by. It seems like just yesterday that I arrived here as a nervous American student, unsure of what to expect. Now, here I am, six weeks later, preparing to leave the country I have learned so much in. I really have learned and seen so much this past six weeks! I have had the opportunity to travel to various cities all across Spain- Toledo, Madrid, El Escorial, Segovia, Barcelona, Cordoba and Granada (some which I talked about in my previous blog posts). The things I saw in these cities were varied but all beautiful- from cathedrals to museums to beaches to restaurants and everything in between. Each and every trip was amazing. I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel to all of these places. They are all excursions that I know I will never forget. Furthermore, on these trips and during my time in Toledo I have also met amazing life-long friends. I have met many friends from Notre Dame that I’m sure I will keep up with on a weekly basis. We’re already planning our frequent reunions back on campus to reminisce on our time here. I’m glad to have a group of friends back at Notre Dame that will understand exactly how much I will miss Spain. I have also met so many great people from other schools across the United States. I know that we will also all keep in contact with one another in the future. Again, I feel so incredibly lucky to have met these kind and loving people who have made my time here in Spain so great.

Furthermore, I believe that my language skills have improved tremendously during my time in Spain. I have had countless opportunities to practice speaking Spanish. My classes were the biggest help during my time here. I improved my speaking, writing, and reading abilities because of these classes. I also gained important cultural and historical knowledge about Spain.Not only did I learn so much from both of my classes, but they were also very enjoyable. My language skills also improved through my interactions with locals- during my time volunteering, in shops, in cafes and restaurants, at tourist locations, at hostels, etc. While I didn’t realize it in the moment, every conversation I had at these places helped me with my language skills. I have become accustomed to understanding Spanish when it is spoken at a rapid pace. I have learned many colloquial expressions that will help to make my language more authentic (such as vale & venga!) I have gained more experience with everyday conversations and phrases- asking for directions, ordering food, etc. Therefore, overall, I feel like my language has improved tremendously and can’t wait to continue to use my newly acquired language skills once I return home to the United States and in my Spanish classes at Notre Dame!

Therefore, to conclude, I have one last thing to say- thank you. Thank you to my family for allowing me to come on this amazing study abroad program and for helping me in so many ways with this experience. Thank you to the University of Notre Dame and the Fundacion José Gasset y Ortega for giving me and other students the opportunity to participate in such an amazing program. Thank you to my SLA grant donors/sponsors for making this experience possible for me. I would have never been able to participate in this program without your generosity. I am forever grateful and indebted to you for giving me the opportunity to not only improve on my language skills, but also to make incredible memories and friends that I will never forget. This has truly been the experience of a lifetime and again, I am so grateful to have been able to participate in this study abroad program. I have made memories here that I will cherish forever. ¡Viva España!


Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
My summer abroad in Toledo, Spain taught me many valuable things about the language learning process. First and foremost, I learned that the best way to acquire a language is in everyday situations, not in the classroom. Learning a language in the classroom is without doubt still extremely beneficial- there is arguably no better way to develop reading and writing skills. However, for everyday conversational and communication abilities, interactions in places such as a supermarket or at a post office prove to be very useful. Therefore, in relation to this, yes I did meet my goals for language learning that I articulated at the start of my program. I am much more comfortable with my Spanish speaking abilities, especially with regards to topics of everyday interest. I am also much more familiar with topics and values that are important to Spaniards, due to my conversations and interactions with local Spaniards.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
As a result of my experience, I feel that I am much more open-minded and aware of cultural differences. That is, I better understand how and why people hold different viewpoints on various issues. One’s viewpoint is largely influenced by the environment and culture in which he or she is immersed in, which is something that I learned after spending several weeks in Spain. I saw my own perspective on things begin to change and become more open. Not only has my summer language study abroad greatly helped with my language skills, it has also allowed me to become more accepting and understanding of different personal views and opinions. Furthermore, the best advice I could give to someone who was preparing to start their own summer language study is to not be afraid to take risks. Go outside your comfort zone. Talk to new people and try new things, because you never know, you may end up loving them.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I will continue to use my improved language skills and intercultural competences both at Notre Dame and in the future. My acquired skills will surely help me greatly in future Spanish classes here at Notre Dame. I also hope to continue to use my language skills for the rest of my life, in whichever career path I choose to pursue, whether this is education, law, or international relations. As a result of my time abroad and my SLA Grant experience, I will also continue to be more open-minded and accepting of various viewpoints and differing opinions. I also hope to continue to have a deeper awareness and understanding of cultural differences, which will be important in my professional working life. The SLA Grant has also taught me to be extremely grateful for all that I have. I am extremely grateful for this experience over the summer and my Notre Dame education, and I cannot wait to see what else the future has in store.