When I signed up to take Spanish I in my freshman year of high school, I was only taking it because a language credit was a required class and I already knew how to say "hola". I had no interest in becoming fluent in Spanish but now that I am, I wouldn't have it any other way. I now am able to communicate with a whole new group of people and have familiarized myself with a culture that just four years ago, I knew nothing about.
Learning Spanish opened me up to so many opportunities and still continues to today.
Being able to speak Spanish with a native speaker and be complimented while doing so is an amazing feeling. My senior year of high school I had the chance to practice speaking with my Spanish teacher, fellow classmates, and my friends from Mexico. After doing this for a whole year I was prepared to go to Spain the following summer and talk with people who didn't know English. At first, it was very difficult because my host mom and the townsfolk in the quaint city of Salamanca spoke Spanish very fast and at times combined words together. I struggled at first but because of my previous practice, I caught on quickly and began speaking clearly and confidently. Some of my other friends had only taken one or two classes before enrolling in the program and were unable to hold a real conversation with the people they stayed with. It made me realize what a great decision learning Spanish was because it made the process of adapting to a new culture much more easy and enjoyable.
Spanish culture differs from U.S. culture in various ways but learning and then immersing myself in it was an unforgettable experience. I got to try all new types of food, operate on a different daily schedule and most significantly, speak a different language. Switching up your lifestyle every once in a while feels very refreshing and learning about aspects of a different culture can be fun and interesting because you're becoming more culturally aware. Not everyone has the same values, traditions, and beliefs, which is very eye-opening. I wouldn't have been fully exposed to this opportunity without becoming fluent in Spanish.
Traveling to Spain and studying abroad wasn't the only opportunity I have had due to my Spanish speaking ability. I also was a T.A. for a Spanish II class my junior year of high school. This gave me a ton of practice because I was constantly reviewing vocab, grading papers, and helping students one on one. I developed a great relationship with the teacher and learned strategies that helped struggling students learn and memorize vocabulary and grammar. At one point, the teacher let me teach a class which was very nerve-racking because I had to know what I was talking about and answers everyone's questions while the students stared at me with their big blank eyes.
After teaching and making a class and homework plan, I gained more confidence in myself because I taught them everything correctly and inspired some of them to become fluent in Spanish as well.
I now am taking Spanish classes at UNC Charlotte, in the Spanish club, and am planning on minoring in it as well. I have also been chosen to be an interpreter on a spring break community service trip to Puerto Rico. I could not see my life being half as great as it is.