Gormezano is a 2013 graduate of Oberlin with a BA in East Asian Studies. A recent recipient of both the Critical Language Scholarship and participant in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, he is currently working as an account executive for Japan Airlines at their San Francisco office.
I applied to be a residential advisor for the Middlebury-Monterey Summer Language Academy on a complete whim. When I was accepted to the program’s Spanish academy based out of Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT, I had very little idea of what I had gotten myself into.
Campers and staff alike took the Language Pledge on the second day of camp, committing to speak only in our target language during the four-week session. I know I wasn’t the only one feeling apprehensive about how we would get through daily activities in a second language. However, with willpower, patience, and lots of humor we made. In fact, we not only made it, we thrived. Friendships were formed, inside jokes cracked, soccer games won–and we did it all in Spanish.
That summer I saw the uniting power of language, as middle and high school students, some with no Spanish experience at all, learned together. And I learned with them; I got more practice with the command form than I ever would have in an ordinary immersion experience — ¡Siéntense! (Sit down!) ¡No se muevan! (Don’t move!) ¡Ten cuidado! (Be careful!) ¡Esuchen! (Listen!) We all relied on each other to communicate, mime, or translate and somewhere between singing boras and making goofy crib videos of our living groups a community was created.
It was an absolutely incredible experience that showed me how quickly we can pick up languages and how little we need to really be able to communicate. Without a common native language we turned to pictures, charades, and circumlocution. Students that were completely novices acquired a tremendous amount of vocabulary and were piecing together basic sentences. Those with more experience improved with their fluidity and confidence. Watching my students get so excited about their own Spanish successes motivated me to continue to better my own language skills here at Oberlin. I hope to return to Green Mountain College this summer to help another group of young language learners gain confidence speaking Spanish.
Kevin is a fourth year student majoring in Mathematics who studied abroad in Jordan on a Fund for Education Abroad Scholarship at the Ali Baba International Center.
Elizabeth Goodbody is a fourth-year Psychology and Hispanic Studies double major. She has been studying Spanish since high school and last semester she studied abroad in Córdoba, Spain.
Studying with PRESHCO (Programa de Estudios Hispánicos en Córdoba) last semester taught me about Spanish history, culture, and politics, but above all I learned about the importance of language. Being able to communicate with Spanish speakers made my trip infinitely better; I would never have had the full cultural experience had I not known Spanish.
I would highly recommend the PRESHCO program for people trying to learn or perfect their Spanish. PRESHCO puts language learning in a cultural context, making it easier to see the connections between learning and using Spanish. For more information on PRESHCO, click here.