Obies Using Languages: Chelsea Cross, ’15

Chelsea Cross is a member of the Class of 2015, currently pursuing a major in Sociology and a minor in Hispanic Studies. She spent the first 6 weeks of her 2014 summer vacation volunteering as a dance instructor in Colima, Mexico and conducting a private language study with Lucia Stone’s “Spanish Awakenings” program.

When I first arrived at La Casa Hogar San Jose orphanage in Colima, Mexico this past summer, I was given a room, a schedule and 60+ boys and girls for whom to coordinate dance classes. It was my first fully immersive experience in the Spanish language, and on top of this I was expected to teach a full class of native speakers. My communication skills developed quickly and effectively, although I was greatly aided by the universal language of dance.

I was sincerely impressed with the confidence with which these children spoke and went about their daily chores and activities, but how shy they became when presented with even the simplest steps. As the week progressed, more and more children who once stood pigeon-toed in the corner began to romp and bounce around, visually breaking out of their shell. At the final showcase, kids broke into dance with reckless abandon; it was an incredible feeling to know that I had played a part in helping them shake free off all inhibition about dancing in front of others. As an instructor of dance, I was able to actively engage with the children through movement, helping them discard their inhibitions and create something beautiful from within.

If there’s one thing that I took away from my living experience there it’s how very little we need to live on to be content. I truly loved waking up each day and lesson planning in a foreign language, with our little Walmart brand fans, a pencil and maybe some peanut butter & jelly in between meals! My friend and colleague, Emily Schcolnik, and I bonded a lot over those 4 weeks and so did the kids and I.

 My spoken Spanish has taken leaps since the start of the summer; by the end I was able to hold and keep up with full on conversations with taxi drivers and plane passengers. I’m thankful for this learning experience too because it has allowed me to bring culture and meaningful context to my 2nd grade S.I.T.E.S. classes and NINDE Spanish tutoring sessions this semester.

I just have nothing but good things to say about the program. The money we brought as donations went toward helping a young woman pay for college. It felt wonderful to be there for her. I hope that the relationship between the college and La Casa Hogar San Jose continues for a very long time.

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