Spanish speakers are so incredibly prevalent in the United States, yet too often they are unfairly marginalized. As a future educator, I can prevent this from happening at the student level by educating myself in order to better understand and communicate with people from different cultures, nations, and languages. Through this, a better tomorrow for those in the United States who are not primarily English speakers can be achieved. I find it fascinating to communicate with individuals from cultures different than my own, and immersion into Spanish language and culture will be an invaluable learning experience that I hope will serve me for the entirety of my academic and future professional career. A scholarship to attend CIEE’s summer program in Santiago in the Dominican Republic has afforded me this opportunity.

Truthfully, studying abroad still sounds so foreign to me. I don’t mean this in a literal way, implying foreign country- but it sounds so distant because it is truly an opportunity that I never thought I would be able to pursue. When I received news that I had received the scholarship I was quite honestly in shock. It sounded too good to be true. Suddenly there was a light at the end of a tunnel I had never thought it possible to travel down. The prospect of being able to study abroad is more exciting to me than I can express, and I am absolutely honored and elated to have the opportunity. It will be my first time out of the country! I will be attending the summer program in Santiago in the Dominican Republic where I will enhance my linguistic abilities and work on practical application of my Spanish speaking skills. I will get a taste of daily life in the city known as La Ciudad Corazón (City of the Heart) through excursions, a homestay with a local family, and real-world experience that brings classroom teachings to life. I will have the opportunity to explore the socioeconomic effects of tourism around the North Coast, take classes at at Centro Cultural Dominico Americano, and deepen my understanding of the culture and language in the Dominican Republic first-hand by living with a host family.

What excites me most about this study is the opportunity to participate in a range of field experiences that lend practical context to classroom-based learning. I have been studying Spanish for eight years, and this program will give me experience and knowledge I have not been able to get in the classroom alone. I will be provided unique opportunities to hear from and engage with people at the center and forefront of the country’s issues. I hope this will greatly develop not only my Spanish speaking abilities, but provide a chance for me to serve as an instrument of change for their struggling country. I plan on becoming an educator and I strongly believe that having this multicultural experience will enrich my knowledge of not only the Spanish language, but diversity as well.

I am currently studying Education and Spanish at the University of Alabama, and I plan to pursue a career as an educator. My philosophy is that it is my responsibility to guide students to ratify cognitive strategies that will cause them to be more effective learners. By establishing an understanding and communal educational atmosphere, as a teacher I am able to provide the most learning conducive environment possible. However, for many Spanish speaking students in this educational climate, access to equal educational opportunities is not a possibility in the United States. As an educator, I refuse to let this continue. I plan on combating this through a career advocating for justice and equal access to education for Spanish speaking students. In Santiago, I will be taking an intensive Spanish language course, in addition to living with a Spanish speaking host family. Studying Spanish in Santiago this summer will give me a valuable opportunity to refine my speaking abilities so that I may utilize them for the betterment of my local Spanish speaking community.

It is my responsibility to engage students’ minds and inspire in them a determination to pursue knowledge. I am so incredibly passionate about my endeavors at The University of Alabama, and I hope to continue to pursue these endeavors and accomplish my goals with the competitive edge of an in depth study abroad program. This summer my passion for serving Spanish speakers in the education system was encouraged when I helped teach a writing camp for underprivileged students in Los Angeles through 826LA. 98% of the students (ages 7-12) that attended the camp’s first language was Spanish. It was so rewarding to use my Spanish skills to work with them one on one to help them with not only their writing, but making them feel seen and valued in the classroom. Studying abroad in Santiago will not only allow me to strengthen these skills and be able to better serve Spanish speaking students in my future career as an educator. The only way to combat ignorance is through education and the ability to inspire and lead the next generation through a subject I myself am so passionate about is a prospect I am thrilled to be pursuing.