Why I Study Spanish Even Though I’m Not A Spanish Major

 

 

As a student studying economics and philosophy, it may be odd that every semester I carve out time in my schedule to take a Spanish course. For as long as I can remember, I have valued sharing stories with other people. It’s in this act that we can learn from each other and forge life-long friendships. Quite honestly, it wasn’t until recently that I acknowledged the true extent to which I would be able to create friendships with the people around me.

 

I had studied Spanish for the majority of my high school career; yet, I only tested into second semester Spanish. This barely shocked me. I found Spanish class ridiculously difficult to pay attention in. Language isn’t an innate strength of mine — and enrolling in a class with all your friends didn’t help me overcome this hurdle.

 

During my junior year of high school, my family spontaneously decided to host a foreign exchange student from Argentina named Nicole for the entire academic year. When I say “spontaneous,” I mean we made the decision about a week before Nicole left Argentina for the States.

 

Through my family’s spontaneity, I forged an unbelievable relationship with one of the brightest and most courageous, genuine and beautiful women I’ve ever met. I hold so many heartwarming memories with Nicole. I’m justified in saying that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for meeting her. To go one step further, I wouldn’t be who I am today if Nicole didn’t see the value in learning another language so much that she was moved to venture to another country to strengthen her skills. Language helped both of us help each other. Despite this epiphany, I remained static in my Spanish education.

 

 

The summer going into freshman year of college, Nicole and I made plans for me to visit her during my winter break. The notion of bettering my Spanish skills entered my mind once or twice, but to be frank I just genuinely didn’t think it was a plausible goal for me to attain. I had already wasted so much time with my Spanish education. How on earth was I supposed to bounce back from that?

   

As I walked out the international terminal in the Buenos Aires airport, I saw Nicole for the first time in over a year. We exchanged greetings in Spanish but the rest of our conversations would have to be in English. To me, this wasn’t the thing that struck a chord with me. I was used to speaking to Nicole in English.

 

 

What opened my eyes was the fact that in my conversations with the people that Nicole is closest to in Argentina — the people who raised her and love her the most — I was unable to delve in any real dialogue with. I could say “Buenos días,” “Cómo estás,” “Estudio económicos y Filosofía,” o “Me encanta mate.”  But where is the depth in that?

 

As Nicole and I rode the bus to the airport to send me back to the States, I remember staring out the window and then at Nicole. The weight on my heart began to increase as I realized how limited I let myself become. I’ve let a language barrier stop me from getting to know people who mean the most to Nicole, and therefore the most to me. I decided there and then to stop playing the victim. If I so badly value conversations with people, why have I allowed myself to be limited to only English speakers? I want to be able to talk to Nicole’s family and friends, and create my own life-long friendships with them. This is why I have decided to restart my Spanish education here at UW.