Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why I Chose Chile

           From the time, I learned about studying abroad until the end of my sophomore year at Stonehill College, I wanted to go to London for the semester. However, this past summer I began to second guess my choice in location because my growing interest in Latin America and its history.

Coming from a Puerto Rican household, my first language is Spanish. Growing up with a single mother, my grandmother was the one to watch me when my mom was at work, and she had no formal education in English, so she spoke to me in Spanish. As I got older, I started to answer her less in Spanish and more in English.  I became more self-conscious about my English as I went to school, and I wanted very little to do with my Puerto Rican identity. I embraced certain cultural aspects like food and dance and even music; however I did not want to speak the language as much.
           By the time I was in middle school I only spoke it when it was a necessary to speak with family members. When it came to high school it was required for me to take three years of Spanish. And there was when I started to be able to read and write in Spanish. I started to embrace my Hispanic identity with pride. I became more confident when reading and writing and I got to practice talking more. After three years of taking Spanish in high school I got more interested in learning Spanish then I had been in a long time. Fortunately, freshman year at Stonehill College I had to take a language requirement, I took Survey of Latin America I and II in Spanish; and this is where my main interest started.

I was able to learn about the history, culture, and literature of Latin America and it was like it opened a window for me. I wanted to learn more not only about Puerto Rican history but of Latin America as a whole. I felt a connection to it and it is something I want to explore more. From there I began to take more classes, for example Colonial and Modern Latin America. As an International Business major I did not know what type of career or job I want, but I would love for it to focus on Latin America countries. That is why I am also a Latin American studies minor and am to take classes in different departments that pertain to Latin America. Having a focus was in a way was my way to focus my degree and also be able to continue my learning in something that means a lot to me.
The second semester of my sophomore year I had the opportunity to go to Cuba as a part of course. This experience will always be something so important and eye opening to me. It was one of the first time, where I spoke mostly Spanish to people who were not my family. It was a place where I finally felt like me speaking Spanish was significant part of  me and allowed me to communicate with the locals. From the time being in Cuba I learned so much and realized that I am not as bad in Spanish than I have been thinking and that I was able to have full conversation with people and they understood what I was saying. It was a boost of confidence for me and I began to not be as nervous when I speak.
This past summer I am really grateful that I got a chosen to work with a political science professor on a Summer Undergrad Research Experience (SURE) project at Stonehill. I was able to expand my knowledge on Latin America by doing research on the Peace Negotiation between the FARC and the Colombian government. Towards the end of the summer I reflected on the places and events I had participated in and most of the had to do with Latin America in some way. Then I thought about how studying abroad in London will connect with those experiences and my growing interest in Latin America. A best friend of mine who also did SURE and went to Cuba with me, made me see how going to a Latin America might be what I needed to continue learning about the histories and cultures and gain the confidence I wanted in speaking Spanish.

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