Esther Espeland (middle-right in Salmon colored shorts) is a second year, undeclared major. She has been learning Spanish both informally and formally since elementary school, and spent her Winter Term abroad in El Salvador. (Photo credit goes to Lisa MacDonald)
This January I was lucky enough to spend three and a half weeks in Santa Marta, El Salvador with the Oberlin in Solidarity with El Salvador winter term trip. OSES as we are called, is one of Oberlin’s hidden gems of a student organization. Few students know that our school has maintained an eight year long relationship with a community in the northern mountains of El Salvador. El Salvador experienced a 12 year long civil war during the 80s and 90s, and the town we visit was hit especially hard; the majority of residents were refugees in Honduras for 6 years, and upon returning back to El Salvador, found their home destroyed, and would entirely rebuild their community. Every year a group of students travels to Santa Marta for three weeks, staying with host families, working with and learning from various community organizations, to learn about the civil war.
I had the wonderful experience of working in the community radio station. Myself and two other students were tasked with recording an international news piece each day. We would spend the morning researching news, writing our bit, and record ourselves in the production room, all to create a three-minute segment. We did this not because we were adept in radio production (oh boy were we not), but because we were told the various listeners would find our accents “cute.” We also had several opportunities to be interviewed for a radio program. Because we were students from the United States, people were interested in our opinions about US politics, specifically immigration and US youth movements. Even though speaking Spanish live over the radio was a terrifying prospect, we ended up holding our ground, and not making too many grammatical errors (we still made a lot). Due to the constant Spanish I was speaking on the trip, I became much more comfortable with the language, and with making mistakes.