by Frederick Holt
It was the most unknown of places—yet the most empowering.
Initially I arrived with the avid mind of a skeptic. For me, the language learning experience in a foreign city was as alien as Mars. In fact, the entire situation was alien. To contemplate the sudden wild ideas that many travelers have on the road is like trying to pick every single meal at an eat out restaurant. So many to choices, but you can’t have them all. What would be my dish of choice? While sitting in Santa Marta on Columbia’s Caribbean coast, sweat soaked to my skin, I hopped on the first bus to Bogota to attend the school I’d stumbled upon when looking up courses.
There are many idiosyncratic notions that you must accept while traveling. One is acting on a whim. Before I knew it, I was in a classroom. I had gone from looking like a sweat ridden dog to a respectable human being—sitting at a desk and listening to my new teacher Gisela. I am the resurrection of life saith the Lord. Except it was only my fashion sense that had been recalled to life!
My Language Learning Experience
When I arrived, I was entreated to a full encore and all the support I needed to try and find a base for my Spanish. The school ensured that I could conduct my language learning at a level that suited my needs. ‘Un poco’ i.e. small, is what I told the school my level of Spanish was.
Whee Institute may have seemed like an experience that was intimidating as it not only promised a ground work of Spanish but also hard work. Which is a perfect reason to join a language school. It is impossible to ignore the intense and rife feelings of embarrassment when you try to conjure up a very basic sentence in Spanish and a local resident merely raises their eyebrows. The desire to integrate and experience the real aspect of any nation is the wish of any competent traveler.
Beyond the Classroom
With Whee Institute, you are included in local life on a level that l didn’t think was possible. Through the course, I was taken out into the local areas of Bogota. Two examples are when we went to a park and a supermarket. If you can imagine a foreigner trying to interact with locals then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the picture of me stuttering as I tried to form cognitive words and phrases. But it’s this kind of educational practice that society has fallen short of investing in. Here you are pushed out of your comfort zone and forced to make a real impact on your skill set. It all comes to a real and visible truth. You are in the capital of Columbia conversing with people.
One great image that springs to mind is when my fellow classmate, Tao, began talking to a group playing football. Within minutes he was surrounded by a small crowd, laughing as they tried to understand each other.
Attending Whee Institute has been a privilege that will undoubtedly remain with me for many years to come. A strenuous but highly enlightening experience. From learning how to not sound like a goldfish, to experiencing the culture by throwing stones at gunpowder packets.
Certainly playing this game (Tejo) proved to be one of the highlights of my time here. To truly experience something wonderful you must be prepared to put in a great amount of effort to see results. And be open to new cultures. I have seen a beautiful city and beautiful people toiling through their daily lives to make a positive contribution. It is something that I am proud to be a part of and proud to share with you.