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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Studying abroad changed my life, and my accent, too!

By Alexis Lear

December 1, 2006 | College is a time for experimentation. I know where you all think this is going, and if that's the type of experimentation you're into, then more power to you. But I mean experimentation in terms of giving ourselves the opportunities to become better and smarter people. Experiences like going out on a limb and moving into an apartment with that girl in your biochem class who says she talks to animals. Experimentation like having bright pink nails, dying your hair purple, piercing your tongue types of experiences.

We're in college, we need to do the things now that we won't be able when we're out of college, grown up, and stuck with the old ball and chain. We need to have fun and have experiences that we can look back on and know we would not be the same people without them. Don't let yourselves grow up too fast and think you need to be wearing a suit and tie all day everyday or a Utah favorite, replenishing the earth at uneconomical rates.

My way of experimentation in college came through studying abroad, and I know I am a better person for it. This past spring I studied in Malaga, Spain; a little city of about 500,000 people on the southern tip of the famously known bull fighting country. I chose to study abroad because I needed to get out of Logan and get out of my comfort zone.

My whole life I have been too afraid to let myself experience anything that wasn't completely comfortable for me. College and moving away from my pampered life on the east bench of Salt Lake City was the first semi-big step I ever took in my life. Moving 70 miles away from home to Logan was only a beginning for me. At first, Logan and Utah State were big and scary and a struggle for me. I had to make new friends, cook my own food, and learn the hard way not to pour bleach into a washing machine full of colors. After a couple years, Logan became a second home for me, and that is also when Logan got too comfortable and I decided I needed to study abroad.

No matter how open minded you think you are, you're nothing compared to how you'll be after you live out of the country for any period of time. Studying in Malaga opened my eyes to so much, and taught me things I could have never experienced in Utah. I lived with a Spanish family in a small apartment right across from the bull-fighting stadium. Hernan, Kali, and Santiago were my family for three months. My Senor, Hernan, tried to tell me once that there were only five continents and thought my Ipod was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. My Senora, Kali, made some of the best food I had ever tasted; but laughed at me when my face turned pea green after I ate my first piece of cow throat. Their 3 year-old son Santiago pretended he was Ronaldo when we played soccer, and made me cry when I taught him to say spoon, "sthpoona," his face lit up and he never looked so proud.

My first class in Malaga, taught completely in Spanish, consisted of myself, a girl from Australia, two 14-year-old brothers from China who couldn't speak a lick of English, a 25-year-old entrepreneur from India, and a 53-year-old millionaire from Finland. This class put any thought of diversity at Utah State to shame. Through that class, I learned much more than Spanish. I learned that everyone had an opinion about George Bush.

"No, not all Americans are as dumb as he is," I convinced them. "I don't know why he was elected for a second term either!"

I had to let my class members down and tell them that I hadn't ever seen Angelina and Brad in real life, and I had to explain to them exactly what peanut butter was. I was only in Malaga for four short months, but in that time I saw the smallest bikini I had ever seen in my life, I saw a 40-ounce glass beer bottle broken over a woman's head just to steal the euros from her wallet, I dressed up and traveled to the third biggest carnival in the world, and I danced in clubs that make NVO look like an overly modest Institute dance. My time in Spain is my motivation to graduate college, get a job, and make money so I can go back to the beaches there someday.

Spain was one college experimentation that I will never forget. I did have times there when all I wanted was to be back here. I broke down one time when I meant to tell my senora that I was embarrassed about something but actually told her I was pregnant; it was times like that when the communication barrier seemed too big to try and conquer. There were times when I couldn't stand the thought of watching another episode of Seinfeld in Spanish, or another Coca-Cola Light without ice.

But my hard times there have made my problems here seem minuscule. I am a stronger, more open minded and freethinking person because of my time in Spain. I try different foods, I talk to more people, and I am more thankful for everything we have here in the U.S. because of Spain. I may brag a little too much about the fact that I swam in the Mediterranean, and I speak Spanish now with a thick Spanish accent, but it's all part of the experience.

So please, if you are able to study abroad -- do it! You'll learn more than in any Utah State class and you'll be a better person for it.



Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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