Stretch Yourself Through Experiential Learning

Stretch Yourself Through Experiential Learning

My Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course has arrived back on campus after a week of service in Santo Domingo, a moving experience to say the least. We worked with West Indies Christian Ministries participating in service for its school and working with kids at the site for the entire week. Some highlights of the … Read more

My Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course has arrived back on campus after a week of service in Santo Domingo, a moving experience to say the least. We worked with West Indies Christian Ministries participating in service for its school and working with kids at the site for the entire week. Some highlights of the trip were plastering the side of a Dominican church (after mixing concrete in the street), giving food donations to a community living next to a landfill, playing with children and teaching them team dynamics and making other clothes and equipment donations. This experience made me realize that simple is better, and to try to live a more relaxing or tranquillo lifestyle.

It was also a great time to practice more and more Spanish, and interacting with Dominican children who’s Spanish was probably better than mine. I am certain there were a few times where they were poking fun at me, and I just couldn’t understand them! That being said, some dialect was different, and I now find myself repeating ‘que lo que’ (what’s up) and ‘tranqi’ (short for tranquillo or relaxed) whenever possible in the states. We also rode around the countryside in ‘guagua’s’ or smaller buses, my new favorite Spanish word. There are times when you would see a group of 15 inside a small guagua with two backlights out and a door missing!

The trip promotes a sort of class style that I am very fond of and that our professor believes in too, called experiential-based learning. David Kolb is a doctorate who studies this sort of learning and states that experiential learning is ‘education that occurs as a direct participation in the events of life.’ Here learning is not sponsored by some formal educational institution but by people themselves. It is learning that is achieved through reflection upon everyday experience and is the way that most of us do our learning. This was very effective, as our class reflected on the day behind us, every night.

As I said before, I was moved by the trip, especially after some of that group reflection and response time. Professor Kramer offered a bit of life advice, saying to stretch yourself through experiences whether its socially, culturally, spiritually or intellectually. I felt that this trip did exactly that, improving my view on gratitude, finding meaning in life, stretching me beyond my limits and comfort zone. This trip has definitely made itch and want to travel more! Where to next, any suggestions?

Social Responsibility Trip to the DR!

Social Responsibility Trip to the DR!

This semester I am enrolled in Dr. Kramer’s Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course, one that I already highly recommend. We are reading several incredible books, like World on Edge, full of factoids on how to make the world a better place, and also find ourselves within deep conversation on achieving personal growth within our … Read more

This semester I am enrolled in Dr. Kramer’s Social Responsibility and Personal Well-Being course, one that I already highly recommend. We are reading several incredible books, like World on Edge, full of factoids on how to make the world a better place, and also find ourselves within deep conversation on achieving personal growth within our lives. One of the reasons I was drawn to the course in the first place as well was the spring break service trip to a Spanish speaking country.

Originally we planned to go to El Salvador, but due to a travel warning, we weren’t able to go and are now headed to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. In the DR, our class will be working with West Indies Christian Ministries participating in service for its school and working with kids at the site for the entire week. Although we leave on Saturday at 2:15 in the morning to catch an early flight out of Cleveland, I am stoked for the trip.

I have been itching to practice my Spanish more since returning from Spain, and am glad I can be immersed in another spanish speaking culture. I also plan to document the trip through photo and video, potentially making a digital short or documentary if you will. Who knows! I also am excited to pack as little as possible for this trip to really challenge and stretch myself. I am very excited for the trip, and will share many fotos upon our return!

Later, and have fun on your very own spring break trip! Hasta luego, y diviértete en su viaje de vacaciones de primavera!

5 Keys to Learning a Language Abroad

5 Keys to Learning a Language Abroad

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It has been two months into my study abroad program and I have a confession, I am not bilingual. One misconception about achieving this is that “you will just pick up the language right away,” or that one day a switch will turn and you will know everything Spanish. The truth is that you need to work very hard to achieve this milestone, and with time you may be able to accomplish this goal. Hopefully with two more months to go, I will be able to say that I am at least almost bilingual. Here is a basis that every study abroad student should follow, and perhaps read before they go to a new country and learn a new language.
  1. Force yourself to hangout with locals or intercambios. I came across a Robert Louis Stevenson in which he says, “there are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” The matter of fact is you would be surprised how open people are to help you. You are in the same world and on the same planet, just in a place where people prefer to speak a different language. After making some friends, maybe you could teach them a bit of English too.
  2. Make a pact to speak Spanish amongst Americans. For me, it is a challenge to speak Spanish amongst other USAC students because it is way to easy to resort back to English. This won’t work for everyone, but if you find another friend who is very dedicated to learning the language and totally emerging themselves in a new culture, never speak a lick of English to them. Make it be your own little manifesto.
  3. Although it may feel like you are on vacation, study and do your homework. It is important to remember that you are still in school. You start achieving a higher level when you practice a lot in bookwork, then apply what you learned to the outside world. You really have to want to learn, and constantly be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual. This is hard, patience is a virtue.
  4. Converse with your host family or roommates. If you live with a host family don’t sit in your room all day. Hangout with your new family and converse, the best learning is having people help correct you on the spot. If you live in an apartment, try to live with Spanish kids, or go out in the town and to the market to practice buying things, bargaining, etc.
  5. Above all, positive attitude!

I hope this helps anyone who will be studying abroad, is thinking about studying abroad, or people who need to kick it in high gear before the semester ends. I may go find a new intercambio as we speak, this kind of opened up my own eyes a bit! Be motivated by the possibility of being bilingual, patience is a virtue…