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Broaden the Mind, Learn the Language

An interview with Daniel Chapman

By Drew Evans
On March 4, 2012

Having a foreign language may look great on a resume but what else is it good for? Is it worth the studying and all the hassle that comes with learning a new tongue? For many they feel that there is no need to learn a new language. Most people know English so they think that they are perfectly fine with what they have. But should one learn a new language? Should one broaden the mind to learn new things? The answer is yes, because the outcome can lead to new experiences.  In the following interview with UCBA student Daniel Chapman, he talks about his adventure not only in a new place but, with a new language.

Where did you go?

I went to Costa Rica and stayed in the city of Heredia, which is right outside of San José. On the weekends, we also went to Monteverde and Manuel Antonio.

What program or class were you apart of that allowed you to go?

Since I had a year of Spanish by the beginning of the trip I was able to go. As long as you have one year, then you can go.

How long did you stay?

Two weeks

Where you nervous at first?

Throughout the whole planning process I was not nervous. I was more excited than anything and couldn't wait! I have traveled internationally before so it wasn't anything new to me. The realization finally set in when the airplane was arriving into San José. At that time I became extremely nervous. I remember thinking, "What did I get myself into."

How was the first day?

The first day was the roughest for me. I had been tired from the night before because I arrived very late and figuring out how to work the shower was an adventure in itself. From being in a different place with people I didn't know and experiencing a completely different culture, everything was a challenge and so was communication with the family. As the day went on and I was able to see the other students that also went on the trip and things started to get better. This was just what I needed. That night dinner went much better. I forced myself to do my homework with my mamática as well. This was something we were able to talk about. Things continued to get better from this point on.

How confident were you in you speaking skills?

Before going on the trip I thought I was decent. Never really had a problem in class, I found out quickly that being in Costa Rica would be a completely different experience. The car ride from the airport to the house was very quiet. I knew what I wanted to say but just couldn't get it out. After a few days I became better accustomed to the language and picked up on some big parts of it as well. I feel like my speaking skills improved everyday. By the end of the trip I was able to talk with my family much better.

Where did you stay?

During the week, I lived with a family in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Who did you stay with?

I lived with a Costa Rican couple for two weeks. At times, their children would stop by as well.

What made you want take a foreign language to begin with?

I have always been fascinated with culture when I have traveled abroad. I figured that learning a foreign language would be a good way to get a glimpse of that culture. Because of this, I wanted to take Spanish.

How long have you been taking a foreign language?

I took two years of Spanish in high school and one year of Spanish in college before the trip, so three years altogether.

Would you ever want to go back again?

Yes! No question about it. I often find myself wishing I were there.

Will you ever go back again?

Yes. I'm saving up already. As soon as I have the funds saved up I will go back.

What was the most frightening experience for you?

The most frightening experience for me was getting off the plane and getting in the car with a family that I didn't know and could barely speak with.

What was the best?

I think the best experience was the language classes that we had everyday. I learned much more of the language while making some great friends.

What do you remember the most?

I remember waking up one morning and going outside to eat breakfast. Looking out you could see Arenal (a volcano). It was one of the best views I have ever seen. This was part of one of the weekend trips and was probably my favorite. The next day we went zip lining!

Do you have any funny stories to tell?

Not that I can think of off the top of my head… sorry.

Did you get lost?

Definitely, the first time was walking home from school the first day.

How did you get back?

I just kept walking. There were times when I had to go back a few blocks to where I was before and retrace my path. After that, I made sure to keep track of where I have walked and what was nearby, like the local store or school.

How much different is it from the United States?

Although they both have their similarities, they also have some huge differences as well. The first thing I noticed was the way that the Ticos (Costa Ricans) gave directions. When I found out who my host family was, the address I was given was "four blocks away from the firehouse, to the left, and the yellow house." In Costa Rica, the people rely on landmarks to give directions. The food is also very different. Every meal you will have rice and beans. Fruit is also a huge part of their meals.

Do you prefer there over the United States?

This is a really difficult question. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The thing I miss most about Costa Rica is their way of life. In the U.S., we live to work whereas in Costa Rica, they work to live. Life is taken at a slower pace unlike here in the U.S., how we seem to be on the go nonstop.

How important do you think it is to learn a foreign language?

I think it is very important to learn a foreign language. I believe it gives you another outlook on the world and different cultures. You also learn more about your native language while learning a foreign language. Some of the things I learned about English happened from taking Spanish, not another English course.

Is there any more information you want to share?

If you ever have the opportunity to study abroad, then go for it. Don't be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Although it may be tough at first, there are people there to help you out along the way. By the end of the two weeks, I didn't want to leave. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the interview with Daniel it's easy to see why one would want to take up a new language. It looks great on a resume but it's more than that. With learning a new language more of the word is open to you. It will be a new experience and you can learn so much. Anything new will come with a little bit of fear, we all have fear of the unknown but that's okay. Life is all about taking risk and stepping out and doing something you aren't accustom to because if you don't how will you learn? Taking a foreign language was a bit of a wakeup call for Daniel and it can be one for you too. So don't be afraid to broaden the mind. So go ahead, broaden the mind and learn a new language.


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