A College Admissions Essay That Also Makes A Fantastic Blog Post

My interest in and passion for the Spanish language and intercultural communication holds its roots in my first grade classroom in what was not so much a field trip but rather an intellectual awakening.

One Thursday afternoon in 1997, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Deegan, announced that the class would be going on a trip to Mexico the next day. Questions immediately began swirling in my head: What does one take to Mexico? For how long will we be gone? How hot is it in Mexico? Can my mother come? Mrs. Deegan assured me that it was but a short excursion to which I need not bring anything because we would be inside for the whole time and that, no, my mother unfortunately would not be able to accompany us on our journey southward.

That evening, I tried to do as much research as I could about going to Mexico. In my youthful naïveté, I genuinely believed that there was enough money in the public school budget to fly 100 first-graders to Mexico. In an era before Google, my quest for knowledge left me feeling fundamentally unfulfilled. I explained the situation to my mother and she simply winked and told me that I was going to enjoy myself. Once again, the lack of answers was beginning to worry me.

I was extremely anxious when I arrived at school the next day. After waiting in giddy anticipation all morning, we were finally told by Mrs. Deegan after lunch that it was time to get on the airplane and leave. She lined the entire class up in the classroom and led us out into the hallway, where we were greeted by the teacher from across the hall standing amongst several rows of classroom chairs lined up in rows as if they were seats on a jumbo jet.

Whilst “boarding” the bogus Boeing, I was more confused than ever. Surely a row of chairs could not take us anywhere special. After all, this wasn’t “The Magic Schoolbus”! Nonetheless, the teacher asked us all to fasten our seatbelts and prepare for takeoff. After a 90-second “flight”, she led us into the library, which was ornately decorated with stereotypical Cinco de Mayo decorations most likely purchased from Target. Regardless of the authenticity of the decorations, we were all in an excited stupor.

Throughout the afternoon, we participated in several activities that exposed us to different aspects of Mexican culture; we made flowers out of pipe cleaners and tissue paper, ate chips and salsa, read Mexican folk tales, learned Spanish words and even explored the history of the piñata and were able to break one open (an activity that I’m sure would give post-90‘s educators a heart attack). The families of our Hispanic classmates were there to help out and to provide us with insights into Hispanic culture, making the experience seem even more authentic.

After an hour or so of cultural immersion, it was time to return home. We walked single-file back into the hallway, boarded the airplane and “flew” back to our classroom. Although I may not have realized it at the time, I am now convinced that this field trip that wasn’t really a field trip sewed a seed within me that eventually grew into an immense interest in other languages and cultures. I have been studying Spanish now for seven years and am still immensely passionate about the language and the culture and look forward to continuing my studies at UMBC. Additionally, I have yet to actually visit Mexico but I know that when I am finally able to feed my insatiable desire for international travel, I will fondly think back to elementary school my trip to Mexico and have a deep and profound full-circle moment.

Plans Nouveau

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

New career trajectory: teaching high school French/Spanish (which would require me to double major in Modern Languages and Secondary Education). This is a complete 180 from my previous (and seemingly unwavering) desire to stage manage professionally but I have a feeling that this one is going to endure.

I was lucky enough to have several wonderful language teachers in high school who instilled into me a deep and profound love of and appreciation for language. If I can do for just one student what my teachers did for me then I will be satisfied – anything beyond that is a bonus.

To me, language is one of the most beautiful and meaningful parts of the human experience and that we must do everything that we can to preserve and  to expand it. The opportunity to make a living sharing my passion sounds almost too good to be true! Of course, one must consider the reality of teaching – it is certainly no piece of cake but I think that the benefits will definitely outweigh the drawbacks.

Perhaps I have finally found my raison d’être.

(Plus, I’m pretty sure that I would be a cool teacher!)

Shaken or Stirred?

Language Scramble

It was Herman Melville who once said, “We become sad in the first place because we have nothing stirring to do.” Perhaps my present general discontent with my existence stems from a complete and utter lack of language education. For six consecutive years of my life, I was in Spanish class every day; I studied to the point of fluency.  For one wonderful year of my life, I was in daily French and Spanish classes with two wonderful instructors whom I enjoyed endlessly.

Now that I am fluent in Spanish, one of my biggest fears is losing my Spanish through nonuse. As with many things in life, it is difficult to attain but painfully easy to lose. Similarly, I consider myself to be conversant in French; I only studied it for two years however I was able to augment classroom instruction with my own personal studies to rise above the curriculum. I purchased several Portuguese instruction books during the winter but have generally fallen away from my Portuguese studies because I have been so busy. My forthcoming trip to Italy presents a wonderful opportunity to jam as much Italian into my brain as possibly in the next eleven months.

In short, I have a lot of language to maintain and no real methods by which to maintain. I do a lot of reading in Spanish but not a lot of speaking/writing. I had a Spanish pen pal several years ago, perhaps it is time to re-examine that opportunity? I don’t yet consider myself adequately versed in French to have an intelligent conversation or make any sort of contributions to the Francophone world but I have been plowing through Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series which is peppered with just enough French that I feel linguistically stimulated.

As for the Portuguese and Italian? Perhaps I would be better off waiting until I can take some classes in the fall. Either way, I am excitedly passionate about picking up both languages. It will happen in due time.

Photo: Language Scramble by magdalar on Flickr

Io Sogno d’Italia

la fontana

One of my favorite teachers from high school is organizing an Italian excursion next summer. We had an informational meeting today and she succeeded in convincing me that I must participate in this trip. Over 11 days we will be visiting and touring Rome, Naples, Milan, Sicily, Capri and Pompeii, to name a few.

The art, the architecture, the language, the climate, the culture, the wine! At this point in my life, I am convinced that my raison d’être is somehow related to culture and language so therefore how could I turn down the opportunity to visit such a historically and culturally rich region? Obviously, I’m going to have to start teaching myself Italian. What fun is visiting a country where you can’t speak the language (even if the tours are all in English)? Overachievers unite!

Of course, there is the not-so-insignificant fact that I need to somehow obtain several thousand dollars to finance this trip. Somehow, it will be done.


Photo: la fontata from seracat on Flickr

Words That I Love

As I find myself in the midst of a complete and utter love affair with the English language, I find it appropriate to perpetuate a few certain words with which I am absolutely enamored.

  • precipice (n) – the brink of a dangerous situation. I am drawn to this word’s pronunciation, the fricative “s” and the plosive “p” produce such fascinating sounds.
  • essay (v) – to try; attempt. This word is so wonderfully powerful when spoken; to me, it communicates a true desire to attempt.
  • denigrate (v) – to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame. Again, I find this word to be extremely powerful.
  • juxtaposition (n) – an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. Put simply, this word sounds so complicated but is frankly quite simple.
  • nascent (adj) – beginning to exist or develop. The “sh” sound in this word fascinates me.
  • verity (n) – something that is true, as a principle, belief, idea, or statement. I associate this word with personal morals and beliefs, additionally, it sounds so elegant when used to describe one’s convictions.
  • aplomb (n) – equanimity, self-confidence, or self-possession. It is a shame that this word is used so infrequently; the elegance that dwells within its pronunciation mirrors the meaning of the word.

I’ve been keeping a list on my iPhone recently of wonderful words that I encounter in everyday speech. I have essayed to incorporate these magnificent gems into my everyday life in an effort to expand my vocabulary and grow my eloquence.

By the way, am I the only one who is confused that no synonyms for “word” exist? One would think that such a simple concept would have several different names but, alas, the closest synonym is “unit of language”.

What is your mot du jour?