I still remember my first day of Spanish class on my first day of 7th grade. I remember thinking, ‘wow it would be cool to speak Spanish, but I don’t need this, why am I here?’ From this point on, I dreaded Spanish class. I finished three years of class because I had to, not because I wanted to. I regret these thoughts and actions more than anything right now. It wasn’t until I attended the Fisher Fall Frenzy my freshman year at Ohio State that I realized my desire to travel outside of the country. Another student told me about the Global Internship Program. As a Marketing major hoping to work in the fashion industry, she told me about the amazing opportunities for fashion in Madrid, Spain. After researching the program, I realized I did not have enough Spanish experience to work for a fashion company in Madrid. Eager to accomplish my goal of living, traveling, and working in Spain; I sat down with my counselor to see if I could add a Spanish minor to my degree even though I would have to start from the beginning. I left her office with a Spanish class scheduled for my second semester at Ohio State and a new excitement for my future.
After a few more Spanish classes and a lot of Duolingo, I was on a plane to Madrid, Spain. I was ecstatic to be living in Spain for two months, working for an international fashion company, and traveling all of Europe for the first time. Every day, I worked extremely hard to speak in Spanish to my boss and other locals. And every day, I became more and more disappointed and frustrated in my ability to speak Spanish. Meanwhile, I was having an amazing time exploring Spain and learning about the culture. I met many locals that could speak English and I began to think about the culture surrounding language in Spain and all of Europe compared to ours in America. Spaniards begin learning English when they are born and are encouraged to learn other languages as well. Becoming bilingual is not an option, it is required for success. In America, learning other languages is helpful, but not necessary for success. One Spaniard told me what most Europeans think of our culture when he said, “Americans are so lazy. You know only one language, but I can speak four!”. I began to think back to my first Spanish class, and yes I was lazy. I’m sure many Americans can relate to my attitude about Spanish class however, I hope this attitude can be changed for future generations.
Throughout my two months in Spain, I encountered many more communication issues. This was frustrating, but every day I learned something new and became more motivated to improve my language skills. I began loving my laid-back and lively life in Spain and I realized that in the future I wanted position with international travel or even relocation. I knew that new and amazing opportunities would arise for me if I could master Spanish. A director of the program told me one of the first weeks, “Allison, work every day to improve your Spanish. A business student in the U.S. who has international experience AND can speak both English and Spanish always stands out, you could do amazing things.” At this moment I began to realize how many doors my education in Spanish and my experience in Spain would open for me. My internship in Madrid was incredible and I know I would love to work there again.
Looking back on this trip, I just want to hop on a plane and go back. I absolutely loved traveling, exploring, and working in a new place. If I could bring one aspect of Spain back to the U.S., it would be their attitude towards language. I am disappointed in American education for not making language a priority. I want to change this for future generations so that languages are more accessible to students. I hope all students can experience other cultures and develop a curiosity for language. As for me, I feel more motivated than ever to excel in my Spanish classes. I have a genuine desire to improve my Spanish. While in Europe, I was also able to visit Portugal, France, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Visiting these places, I encountered four more languages I did not know. I am interested in learning the basics of many languages so I can feel more comfortable traveling all over the world.
The Global Internship Program gave me my first experience out of the country and this changed the way I see my future. I never would have felt confident enough to pursue an international career, and now I cannot see myself doing anything else after graduation. While living abroad can be frightening for many people, I would encourage everyone to do it if given the opportunity. This trip inspired a new curiosity and motivation in me that I will never forget. I will always resent my 7th-grade self for passing by the opportunity to learn Spanish, but I am more proud that I challenged myself to have a life-changing summer.