Okon, Alexandra


E-mail: aokon@nd.edu

Language: Spanish

Location of Study: Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, Chile

Program of Study: International Studies Abroad

Sponsors: Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the College of Arts and Letters, and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures

Blog URL: http://sites.nd.edu/sla2018/author/aokon/


A brief personal bio:

My name is Allie Okon, and I’m a rising sophomore Finance and Spanish major from Westchester, New York. Attending high school in New York City not only garnered my interest in the financial industry, but it also exposed me to a variety of intriguing and diverse cultures, prompting my interest in becoming fluent in Spanish. I have always loved traveling and being able to most authentically engage with locals through speaking the native language of a country, and I hope to use my combination of majors to work internationally throughout my career.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

An SLA grant would afford me the chance to completely delve into the Spanish language. As someone who has studied the language abroad in high school, I understand firsthand the impact of being fully immersed into a completely different society. My three weeks in Spain during my junior year of high school gave me a new perspective on the language learning process; I began to see how fighting the urge to speak English––even if some of those around me could understand my native language––improved both my speaking and comprehensive abilities tenfold. I feel that living with a host family especially conveyed to me the importance of putting yourself out there, as I became resilient in my story-telling process, even if there were some words or concept I didn’t know how to explain. It was at this point in my life that I wanted to pursue fluency in Spanish.

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

While I acknowledge the importance of classroom learning to strengthen fundamental skills, I see excursions and other out-of-class activities to be the greatest opportunity for overall improvement in my Spanish speaking abilities. The city of Valparaíso is full of culture and color, and I would love to explore its vibrancy on a daily basis by engaging with locals in conversation. The homestay aspect of my program really attracts me, as living with a host family will give me tons of exposure to Spanish and how it is used from day to day. Beyond its cities, Chile has so much to offer with regards to its natural beauty, one of the first things that attracted me to the country. Excursions to Cajón del Maipo and Playas del Norte would present me with the rarity of exploring some of the most beautiful places in the world. I feel that each of the unique components of my program will equally contribute to the overall improvement of my Spanish speaking abilities as well as my general understanding of Chilean culture and history. Conclusively, I will use the grant to take any and all opportunities to achieve greater proficiency and cultural awareness.

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

1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to communicate with near fluency in Spanish with native speakers beyond merely colloquial conversation. 2. At the end of the summer, I will have a greater appreciation for and understanding of the Chilean culture, including but not limited to cuisine, traditions, and family relations. 3. At the end of the summer, I will be better equipped to partake in experiences and events outside of my comfort zone, especially in the context of a foreign culture. 4. At the end of the summer, I will be able to achieve a level of proficiency in Spanish far beyond my current level placement at Notre Dame. 5. At the end of the summer, I will be able to more confidently initiate and engage in conversations with new people in a different language and/or country.