Summer 2023 was the busiest period I’ve had post 2020 pandemic. I jumped into my SLA grant just a few short days after wrapping up two months of fieldwork in Nigeria for my Masters of Global Affairs i-Lab project. While the summer was hectic, I am so glad I worked diligently to make sure I had time for language learning. My month in Guatemala was a wonderful experience and I am so lucky I was able to return to Antigua to continue studying Spanish.
While mentally taxing some days, I’m glad I pushed myself to take six hours of private lessons a day and live with a host family. This commitment allowed me the structure and immersion I needed to push my Spanish skills forward. One of the biggest things I noticed was how much my confidence grew since I was in Guate in January (I will credit Intermediate Spanish II at Notre Dame for that) and how it grew over the course of the month. By the end of the trip I was confident ordering food in restaurants, negotiating with shop owners, asking for help or directions while traveling, and striking up conversations with new people. This gained confidence was a huge win for me because my own fear of failure has been the primary factor holding me back from further learning.
The SLA grant has pushed me to seek future immersive, language learning opportunities. I am in the process of applying for a Fulbright Research Grant to return to Guatemala next year as well as a Boren Graduate Fellowship. Both would allow me to conduct research on the intersection of environmental and development issues while continuing to improve my language skills. I am also excited to continue weekly Spanish tutoring with a CSLC tutor and practice conversation with my three housemates who are all fluent/native speakers. The SLA grant reminded me that opportunities to learn Spanish are out there if I am bold and committed enough to apply for and take advantage of them.
Studying Spanish in Guatemala this summer may not have changed my life per say, but it has certainly pushed me further out of my comfort zone into a level of language learning I have never achieved until this point in my life. I also was lucky to have developed some wonderful relationships with my host family and teachers who will always hold a special place in my heart. For that, I am incredibly grateful to the SLA program and CSLC for the opportunity to learn new skills, even later in life as a 25-year-old graduate student.