Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Author: Nick Derda (page 1 of 2)

Trendy or Socially Conscious? A Reflection on my Internship in Mexico

Hey all,

So it’s been a few weeks since my internship at Fundación Origen ended, and as my time comes to a close in Mexico I’ve been thinking more and more about that. One of my Mexican friends the other day was telling me that the new “in thing” to do among the Mexican elite (aka the students who go to the UDLA) is to go to an indigenous community for a weekend, come back and talk about how difficult it was over non-fat Moka-Frappe-lattes with extra whipped cream at Starbucks, and then forget about all the people you met during your experience the next week. I was slightly horrified when I heard this. Ok, so I didn’t chat with my amigos over Green tea frappes at Starbucks (I’m still too much of a hipster to set foot into one of those icons of capitalism), but I had definitely talked about my time at the Fundación like it was the most difficult thing ever, and then went on living my life like nothing happened. Ugh. Am I one of those sell-outs, who was just doing this internship to be hip? What’s next…am I going to join the Peace Corps or Teach for America not because I have an actual social conscience, but because it will look good on my future resume? I don’t want to be one of “those people.” I can’t be!!!

Now before I went off the deep-end into one of those philosophical self-inquiries, somebody reminded me of something. Ok, so I came back from my weekends in the indigenous community and talked about how difficult “their” lives were. Wasn’t that the experience I was looking for? I live a privileged life. That’s an undeniable fact. Going to work with this community gave me the opportunity to confront that privilege. I might not think about how easy I have it when I go turn on the hot water in the shower on Monday morning while I’m racing to class, but it would be too stressful if I was thinking like that all the time, right? Instead of unpacking my privilege and trying to collaborate with other people to help make their lives less stressful, I would be doing nothing but feeling guilty all the time. No thanks, I’ll pass.

If there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from this experience, then it’s the fact that I’m a lot more defensive of people who are less privileged than me. When we went to stay with my friend Ivan last week in Mexico City, we were driving around in his car and these kids, who couldn’t have been more than 12 and who were most likely of indigenous origin came up to his car and started washing his windshield. He gave them a peso for their work (the equivalent of about 10 cents). He complained that they were just lazy and should have gotten a real job. Normally, I’m kind of reserved about this things. However, for some reason that day I flipped out. The culture of poverty doesn’t teach people how to function in a normal work environment. Mexicans discriminate against indigenous people in the workforce all the time. Many indigenous people who go to Mexico City to work don’t speak Spanish. And why should these little kids be working at all? They should be having fun being kids and not dealing with the fact that the Mexican government and educational system has failed them miserably.

Whether you agree with me on this point or not, I think it’s clear that my outlook on life has changed because of my work with Fundación Origen. I’m not so sure that many people could say that about their internship experiences. Thanks for that Mexico.

Un abrazo,


Ok. So this could be interpreted as a post-colonial theorist's nightmare, what with the white kid helping out the brown-skinned kid. However, I'd like to think that my experience at Fundación Origen was different than that.

An unscientific poll

Me and some of the other international students who participated in my informal survey.

My time in Mexico will be coming to an end soon, which means “real life” will be starting up again (sad face). I know what I’ve thought of this experience, and you’ve probably been able to tell how I felt through my posts. With that being said, I conducted a highly unscientific poll over this past week to find out what other people thought of their experiences in Mexico (the good, bad, the awesome, and the terrible). Here’s what people had to say:

U.S.A.: “Mexico is a vegetarian’s nightmare. All you can eat here is Vitamin T–tacos, tamales, tortas and tequila.”

Germany: “I’m never leaving!!!!”

France: “People say that Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world, but they think that because they believe everything that’s on the news. I actually feel a lot safer at UDLAP than I do at my Uni back home.”

Australia: “It was hard at first, but my Spanish is finally getting better!”

Honduras: “I love Mexico!”

U.S.A: “Mexico has been the worst and best experience of my life. There are things I wish I could change, but really I’m so glad that I came here this semester.”

Australia: “Clubbing and drinking are fun for about a week, but then you kind of get burned out.”

U.S.A.: “Mexican girls should not be allowed to wear high heels if they don’t know how to walk in them.”

U.S.A.: “I decided to stay here another semester because I love it so much.”

U.S.A.: “I still don’t understand why they eat pizza with ketchup here!”

Australia: “I was supposed to go back after this semester because I’m graduating. But I’m getting a job teaching English. I never want to leave!”

U.S.A: “I’ve had a good time so far, but I am starting to feel a little bit homesick. I think it’s time to head back to the States.”

U.S.A.: “Mexico equals Love!!!!!!!!”

That was just some the feedback I got during my random and rather awkward poll. Remember everyone’s study abroad experience is going to be different. Even if you have a rocky time know that wherever you go, you will never be the same when you come back. So take a risk and go on an adventure…today!!!!

My Mexican Playlist Part 2

Me "chillin with my ladies" at Voodoo Mama, a great place to go to when you're tired of the usual Mexican club scene.

After a brief hiatus from going out, I’ve started heading out to more nightclubs, bars, and general hotspots to find you all the music that you have to know if you want to fit in in Cholula. With that said, here’s my second top five songs of Mexico:

5. The title kind of makes you feel dirty, but the lyrics are so catchy that you’ll find yourself singing it in the shower. At #5, here’s Plastilina Mosh with “Pervert Pop Song.” And if you’re worried that this song will be a little too risque for your liking, please just take a listen. The song is more about what you want out of a good relationship than being about pervy spanish-speakers.

4. Whether your a Kurt fan or feel something special for the cheerleading Brittany, you have to admit that the songs from Glee are pretty catchy. Coming in at #4 is the Glee version of “Teenage Dream.” Be forewarned, the only thing that Mexicans like better than Glee is High School Music. Even if you’re not a fan of either, just try to be accepting of people who like these shows.

3. Sometimes you just feel like your life is out of control. Sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do because you keep making bad decisions. If you feel this way, then you should probably take a listen to “Take Over Control” by Afrojack featuring Eva Simons. So take a break from the hectic life of studying abroad, head over o Kurandera and just let the music take you over.

2. You thought that Mexicans only listened to clubby, danceable music. Well that’s just because you were in the wrong places. You want clubbing tunes, head over to Kurandera, Zambesi or Unit. But if you want more chill, more alternative tuneskies, then head over to Voodoo Mama, Pacha Mama (before 11 that is), or BarFly. I nearly freaked out when I heard the Queens of the Stone Age come on. Coming in at #2 for the inner hipster in all of us is “Nobody Knows.”

1. Some people think they’re amazing. Other people think their lyrics are banal and repetitive. And then they’re are those of us who are completely indifferent to them. Whatever category you fit (or maybe you don’t fit) into, you have to admit that no clubbing experience is complete without listening to at least one Black Eye Peas’ song. So here it is at # 1 the Black Eyed Peas with their smash hit “The Time (dirty bit).”

Hope you enjoy rocking out to this songs! Peace.

My Mexican Playlist Part 1

Me at the infamous Unit with some of my Mexican friends. Yes, Johnny, la gente está muy loca.

Most of the Mexican students at UDLAP keep a constantly running playlist of the same music. Club music rules here. If you’re not listening to the latest David Guetta track or Katy Perry’s new hit single, then you’re nothing more than a poser. Although I’ve grown tired of listening to these I-can’t-get-these-out-of-my-head-tracks-no-matter-how-hard-I-try, I thought I would share some with you all. So here’s my top 5 Mexico Playlist of Spring Semester 2011:

5. She’s a neo-liberal’s dream with her catchy tune that praises the underdog in all of us. It’s Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Don’t be surprised if you see actual fireworks going off in Kurandera when this song comes on.

4. Are you feeling sentimental? Want to tell that special someone how you really feel about them? Check out Reik’s “Inolvidable.” It comes on in the clubs at about 2am when it’s time to take a breather from all that hard-core rocking out. So grab a partner and dance the night away.

3. Americans love her, Mexicans worship her, and people named Alejandro probably hate her. Coming in at #3 is Lady Gaga with “Alejandro.” After spending nearly a semester in this country, I can attest to the fact that Gaga got it right when she said Alejandro was “hot like Mexico.”

2. What’s that? You think Barbara Streisand is a washed-out, has-been from the 80s who’s completely irrelevant to contemporary pop culture. Well guess again! At number #2, here’s Ducksauce with “Barbra Streisand.” Do Do Do dooo dooo doo doo do. Be careful with this one. It’s been known to stay in people’s heads for weeks at a time.

1. You’ve seen people eat pizza with ketchup. You’ve heard Mexican hipsters hopelessly trying to use their Nextels at Bambukos while the music was blaring. And you’ve felt sweaty people awkwardly rub up against you at Unit. Do you ever just have those moments when you want to say, “Johnny, la gente está muy loca.” Topping off this unofficial chart at #1 is Sak Noel’s “Loca People” aka the official theme song of my semester in Mexico.

5 things to do on the weekend when you don’t feel like traveling.

The entrance to Africam Safari. Yes, it's a bit cheesy, but nonetheless a fun place to go for a day trip.

So after being here a few months, I’ve found some rather fun things to do around Cholula and Puebla that are low key, cheap, and most importantly fun during those weekends when you just don’t feel like traveling.

1. Take a walk to the market in Cholula. It takes about a half hour to get there walking or about 5 minutes on a bus that costs 6 pesos. The market is filled with all kinds of sights, sounds, and interesting people.

2. Hop in one of the camiones (small vans that work like buses) that run up and down Camino Real (the street with all the bars and night clubs), and head on over to the mall at Angelópolis. It’s just like the malls in the U.S., making it a great place to go if you’re feeling homesick. There are a few high-end stores there. So if you’re looking to get something for cheap, it might be better to try a market.

3. Go walking around the center of Puebla. Puebla is the capital of the state of Puebla, so it’s very similar to many urban cities in the U.S. On Sundays, there is a really cool market where you can buy everything from knockoff Ray Bans to puppies.

4. Head back on over to Angelópolis or to the mall at San Diego and go to the movies. On weekdays after 6pm you can use you UDLA ID to get a student discount. At Angelópolis, you can go to the regular movie theater or you can opt for the VIP section where you will find reclining leather seats, waiters, and a full dinner menu for just a few pesos more.

5. If you’re feeling adventurous, then take a trip to Africam Safari in Puebla. It’s a bit pricey to get into, but it is really fun. You get to drive around the animal park with a guide as if you were really in Africa. Sometimes UDLA organizes a trip there on the weekends. This is probably the best option because they get discounted pricing, and are able to provide you with lunch.

While you're riding in a vehicle for the majority of the safari, there is a section where you can get out and walk around. That's where I snapped this pic of the hippo chilling next to the lake.

There's more than just African animals at Africam Safari. There's an entire section devoted to kangaroos. It's really cool because they are just running around loose as you walk through the exhibit, and you can have the opportunity to feed them if you wish.

Safety Tips While Studying Abroad

With all the people at Carnaval, this was seriously a pickpockets dream.

After being mugged in Chile this past summer, and having my Ipod stolen, you would think that I would have learned to be a little more careful with my electronics while abroad. Well guess again! Over my trip to Veracruz for Caranaval this past weekend, my digital camera was stolen. I gave it to my friend to take some pictures during the parade; someone snatched it out of his hand while the parade was passing by. Oh well, you live and you learn I guess.

This experience has really gotten me thinking about being safe and using good judgment while being abroad. So here are some tips that I’ve learned from my own mistakes:

1. Be discrete with your valuable items while walking around in public. You probably already stick out enough as it is. Don’t make yourself a bigger target by waving around cash or other valuable items.

2. Be leery of unfamiliar taxis. Rather than hailing a cab on the street, it’s better to call the company and have them pick you up. Never get into a taxi that has two people in it unless it is a colectivo, as it is much easier to be robbed by two people than it would be to be robbed by the driver.

3. When you go out to nightclubs, try not to bring jackets, purses, or wallets because these can be easily stolen. (Bring just your ID and enough money with you for the cover, drinks, and transportation).

4. If you’re out at a club with other people and decide to leave, make sure to tell someone. This will help protect you because other people will know where you are, and it will save your friends the time and energy of looking for you and worrying about you.

5. If you ever go someplace new, then make sure your cell phone is charged and you know someone who you can call in case of an emergency.

6. Use the buddy system when going to the ATM, and try to avoid withdrawing money at night.

7. Be aware of your surroundings. As a foreigner it is very easy to wonder into the “wrong” part of town. If your not sure if the place you are going to is safe, then ask!

8. Don’t do anything that draws unwanted attention (i.e. acting ridiculous, speaking English really loudly, being extremely obnoxious to the other people around you). You probably look like a tourist as it is. If you look like you know what you’re doing, then people will probably leave you alone.

9. Follow your instincts. If something seems sketchy, then it probably is.

10. If someone tries to rob or mug you, then let them have what they want. You can replace your wallet or your Ipod. You can’t replace YOU!

It’s very easy to do things abroad that you wouldn’t normally do while at home. Just use some common sense and be weary of your surroundings and strangers and your study abroad experience will be fantastic!

Chau, camera. It was nice to know you!

Some Thoughts about Social Class

In my last few entries, I’ve mentioned in passing the social class differences here that have at times made me feel rather out of place. This week I wanted to spend a little more time explaining those so people have a better idea of what it is like at UDLAP.

Most Mexicans who are able to go to universities after the Mexican equivalent of high school (known here as la prepatoria) usually end up going to a university that is within their home state. These are usually smaller, like the size of one building, and highly specialized. You go to a culinary arts school or a fashion design school, not a liberal arts university where you get degrees in vague concepts like “gender studies” or the “humanities.” People typically end up staying at home, and then move out when they are done with their 4-5 years as an undergrad (the 5 year plan is common here because many Mexican university students end up spending a year abroad). UDLAP is different in that the majority of the students here aren’t from Puebla but from all over, which is more similar to universities in the U.S.

UDLAP has been described to me by several people as a school you come to if your “daddy has money.” This has made for a very interesting social class dynamic. While most people at Valpo are at least somewhat concerned about finances, money is not as big as an issue here. For instance, the Mexican friends that I have made receive about the equivalent of $500 USD (United States Dollars) every month from their parents to spend on food and going out. Even if you are eating rather expensively that is still a lot of money to be spending here. And if people spend all that money before the month is over, the typical response is to call your Mom or Dad and have them send you more money.

While a lot of people do receive scholarships from UDLAP (they usually have to do office work for the department they are in), it is not as common as it is in the U.S. to have a job while you are going to college. If you have enough money to be able to afford going to a university, then your family is probably wealthy enough to pay for everything that you need or want. If people do have jobs, then they often work in the bars and nightclubs that are close buy on campus and use their money to buy Prada handbags or to pay for expensive weekend trips to Jamaica or Cuba.

The fashion is extremely influenced by the social class of the people here. Designer brands are everything here. Whereas in the U.S. I would probably brag about being able to find knock-off Ray Ban sunglasses or finding “cool” clothes at a thrift store, most UDLAP students would never dream of doing these things. If you buy sunglasses, then you buy designer ones, regardless of the fact that they probably cost $300 USD. If you’re going to buy clothes, then you don’t buy “designer-inspired” items, but the latest pieces from the Marc Jacobs fall collection.

You're just not Mexican without your Ray Bans 🙂

After taking a class about consumer culture last semester at Valpo, I have been rather anti-consumerism lately. This has made me feel a bit out of place sometimes when my Mexican friends are talking about fashion, electronics, or more generally just about the stuff they buy. While they listen to me when I tell them that I shop at thrift stores for clothes, that I consciously avoid designer brands, and that I try to save my money as much as possible, you can tell that they think I’m strange. At first this made me uneasy, but after two months of dealing with this I’ve more or less gotten used to it.

These are cultural differences. Neither of us is right or wrong. We just have different mindsets. Had I been born into this culture of wealth and privilege, I would probably have similar ideas and tastes. While it would be easy for me to get frustrated and just call the students here “spoiled rich kids,” I try not to do that. Actually the people here have taught me a lot, and actually I think they have made me more secure about the way that I live my life in the United States. It will be very interesting to see how I readjust when I go back to the more middle class, slightly less consumer-obsessed world that is Valpo.

Roughing It in an Indigenous Community: My Mexican Internship

One of the little girls who came to Casa del Sol.

After weeks of listening to presentations by different organizations, filling out countless amounts of tedious paperwork, and having about 2.5 interviews, I finally started my internship this past weekend. I’m working with la Fundación Origen, which is a non-government organization (NGO for those of you familiar with the lingo) that collaborates with an indigenous community located in Xaltipan, Puebla, Mexico.

On Thursday afternoon we (2 Americans, 3 Australians, and a Canadian) hopped on a bus headed toward the city of Cuetzalan, which is about 4 hours north of Cholula. Upon our arrival, we had to take another “bus,” which was really a pickup truck with a cover over the truck bed, for an hour. By the time we arrived at the Fundación Origen headquarters, known as the Casa del Sol, I was exhausted.

Emilio, the organizer, had warned us that we would be “roughing it” this weekend, and he really wasn’t lying. The house had no running water. The bathroom was outside. And there were no mattresses so we had to sleep on the floor.

On Friday and Saturday we got to know the location a bit. Though the Mexican government has been trying to make an effort to help the indigenous peoples of the country for the past few years, most of their efforts have fallen short. The result has been extreme poverty, pervasive alcoholism, high drop out rates from high school, and numerous problems with domestic violence within indigenous communities. Xaltipan exhibited many of these problems. Many of the people walked around with no shoes, tattered clothing, and had teeth that were in very poor conditions. While many of these observations could possibly be attributed to cultural differences, I do not think it would be out of line to say that poverty had a great effect on these people.

I was frustrated a lot this weekend because it seemed like we were not really doing anything. One of the customs of this community is to invite visitors into their homes and feed them. There’s nothing wrong with free food, except when you get invited to three different homes in the spans of three hours and given a full meal at each. I had a bit of a culture shock moment the first time we were eating because we were served soup and not given a spoon to eat it with. Emilio explained to us that we had to fashion spoons out of the homemade corn tortillas that the people gave us. You would think it would be easy to make a tortilla spoon, but in reality it’s really difficult. You end up eating about 10-12 tortillas just to finish one bowl of soup. Needless to say I’ve starting exercising after this gluttonous weekend.

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to work with an after school program called Casa del Sol. I helped the six year olds with their math homework. Somehow math homework turned into drawing time, which led to a marker fight that ultimately resulted in me having marker all over my face. It was slightly frustrating, but I still had a lot of fun.

I still can't get over how beautiful Mexican open air markets are.

On Sunday, we went to the open-air market that was in Cuetzalan. It was your standard Mexican market except it was a lot larger than usual. After spending about two hours there, we made are way back to the bus station and headed back to Puebla. I’ll be going back during the middle of March.

Here's a picture of an indigenous woman doing business with a Mexican woman at the Cuetzalan market.

Misbehaving Locks, Good Food, and Preppy House Parties: My Weekend in Vera Cruz


Taking that “seize all ye roses while ye can” mantra to heart, I jumped on my Mexican friend Jorge’s offer to come home with him this past weekend to Vera Cruz. This was a very gringo-filled weekend, as I would also be traveling with my friends Katie and Skylar who go to the University of Wyoming and who are completing their second semester at UDLAP. We left on Friday afternoon at around 3p. After the 3 ½ hour bus ride on one of those coach buses, we finally made it to his mom’s apartment. When we got there, however, we ran into quite the snafu. Unbeknownst to Jorge, his Mom had changed the locks a few weeks ago so we had to wait about an hour outside in the unseasonably cold Vera Cruz elements until his mom came with the new keys.

This is a statue of Porfirio Díaz, one of the most important political figures in Mexico. It was located near the port, which was one of the few places we actually got to visit.

After finally getting inside, his Mom took us all out to dinner. The restaurant was weird because it was basically the living room to somebody’s house, which I’m beginning to realize is a pretty common setup in Mexico. After pigging out on tortas, empanadas, and fried tortillas, and falling for one of Jorge’s try-it-because-it’s-not-that-spicy-although-it-really-is jokes, we went back to the apartment and waited for Jorge’s friend Zelma to come pick us up.

At about 10.30, Zelma arrived in her SUV that looked like it had been a contestant on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” We went to this rather pricey bar where the smallest thing of beer they sold was three liters. Everything was expensive because we were in Vera Cruz, a place that has been described to me as “The Hills of Mexico.”

The next morning, we woke up late. Jorge had locked the door the previous night and we just now realized that the lock had broken and we were trapped inside his apartment. There were bars on all the windows for safety reasons, so there was really no other way to get out. This situation was just too ridiculous to be real. But then again this was Mexico, a place as I’ve come to learn where anything can happen. After some failed DIY-tries to get the door open with a screwdriver, Jorge finally got one of his neighbors to call a lock smith who was able to open the door in about 2.5 nano seconds, making all of us feel slightly incompetent.

By the time we were able to actually leave the apartment, it was about 9p. Zelma came over and picked us again and took us to a party she was having at her house. Her house seriously looked like something off an episode of MTV’s “Cribs” (sorry for all the pop cultural references today btw. I just don’t know how else to describe this stuff). The house was one of those modern-looking pads made out of concrete in a gated community that made it feel like we were in a prison. In the middle of the house was a courtyard with an in ground pool. In the guesthouse, where we were hanging out, her dad had a private music studio and a 15-person movie theater with mood lighting that kept changing colors!

As if I didn’t feel out of place already, Zelma’s friends were all those Abercrombie and Fitch model wannabes who live for partying, don’t care about school, and don’t really have to worry about their futures because daddy’s trust funds will take care of them for the rest of their lives (sorry if this comes off as bitter…I’m just not used to being around people of this social class). It made for a really interesting social dynamic because I had essentially nothing in common to talk to them about. It’s hard when your interests are more along the interests of human rights, social justice and liberation theology and all they talk about is their new Ray Ban sunglasses or who had just hooked up with who at so-and-so’s last beach house party.

The next day was Superbowl Sunday. We took it pretty easy and went to a bar to watch the game. After that we headed to another bar just to get some drinks and talk.

Here’s a pic of the Zocalo in Veracruz. One of the few places that I actually made it to this weekend.

That was pretty much my weekend in Vera Cruz. Although I’ll probably have to go to Vera Cruz again to know what it was actually like, I’m still glad I went. I had a really good time with my friends even though I did feel kind of out of place a lot of the time. Hopefully my next adventure will feel a little less like a wannabe Ke$ha music video and a little more oh hey I’m in Mexico 🙂

The fountain in front of the Veracruz aquarium. It’s one of those cheesy spots where everyone snaps a pic for the family Christmas card.

Jorge described Vera Cruz as a place where people drink, party, sleep, rinse and repeat. So if clubbing and partying aren’t really your scene, then you may want to consider going someplace else in Mexico. In case you want to learn more about Vera Cruz, I have posted a couple of links to some interesting touristy stuff. Enjoy!

Check out the Vera Cruz Aquarium or the Vera Cruz Soccer team.

What a beach should actually look like in Veracruz when the weather isn’t terrible.

¿Me puedes hablar en español? Ok, thanks.

My gringo-ness at it's finest. And I wonder why people don't think I'm Mexican. haha.

After being here for almost a month, the initial shock of being in a foreign country has more or less worn off. There are still those moments when the fact that I’m in Mexico hits me like a ton of bricks, but more or less I’ve basically come to accept and respect the cultural differences that exist here.

Something that has been troubling me over the past few weeks is the fact that I have been relying on English way too much. The problem is that everyone here speaks English. Whether it be my suitemates, my Mexican friends, or even people at restaurants, everyone sees that I’m clearly not Mexican and they speak to me in English. At first this didn’t bother me that much because I thought that people were just trying to be helpful, but now it’s just downright annoying. I came here to speak Spanish. I need to speak Spanish in order to get better at it.

I have heard various reasons for why it seems that “foreigners” are able to pick up English with much greater ease than native English speakers can learn other languages. English is supposedly easier to learn conversationally, while foreign languages in the U.S. are taught through lectures and not through practice. Another theory is that English as a second language is taught much earlier than foreign languages are taught in the United States. Someone else suggested to me that English-language media, like movies, tv shows, books, etc., is so globally used that even this exposure primes people in non-English speaking countries to speak it with greater ease.

I haven’t been really sold on any one of these theories, as they all have certain flaws. And they don’t seem to explain to me why my roommate can speak English almost fluently after only taking one semester of it in college. I’ve been taking Spanish for eight years and he still runs circles around me.

The conclusion I’ve come to within the last few days is that I’m just going to have to accept that for some reason other people are able to learn foreign languages easier than myself. I’ve resigned myself to force myself to speak Spanish as much as possible. If native speakers speak to me in English, then I am just going to have to respond to them in Spanish. If they make fun of the way I pronounce things or of my gringo accent, then I just have to remember that they make mistakes when they speak to me in English and that I’m never going to get better unless I just ignore them.

The other thing that I have started to do is just telling people that I want them to speak to me in Spanish. I can’t count how many times I’ve said, “Me puedes hablar en español,” in the last week. It’s been working slightly, but as soon as they say something that I don’t understand, people start talking to me in English. I am just going have to be more proactive with all of this. Hopefully I will walk away with this semester with improved Spanish skills.

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