I am now two weeks post-arrival in the United States, and while I certainly feel more comfortable back at home, I would give anything to be pushed out of my comfort zone once again in Chile. My biggest takeaway about language acquisition from this SLA experience is that language acquisition is by no means a linear process. One day I’m on top of the world because I understand the jokes in El Rey León, and the next, I’ve lost my keys and can’t figure out the directions that my host mom gives me to get them replaced. The feeling of culture shock definitely comes in waves, but for every difficult day, there are three more which are absolutely fantastic.
To anyone thinking about applying to an SLA, I would absolutely say, go for it! And go somewhere that you wouldn’t initially think of going! I am so glad that I chose Chile for my SLA because I don’t know when I would have had another opportunity to go somewhere so different from the United States. I am studying abroad in London spring semester, and while I am greatly looking forward to this experience as well, I am very glad that I chose to have this fully immersive experience. The SLA is a wonderful opportunity to just put yourself into an environment far from the Notre Dame bubble. In my experience, this is where my most valuable learning occurred–both about another culture, and about myself.
I hope to go to law school somewhere down the line, and I am most interested in practicing either working on criminal justice reform or practicing immigration law. In either of these areas, Spanish proficiency will be absolutely crucial. No matter what I end up doing, Spanish is rapidly becoming an important skill to have in the United States, as the Spanish-speaking population will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. While I do not consider myself fluent by any means, the SLA grant has allowed me to get much closer to that long-term goal.