One of my favorite things about the university experience is that there’s a place for everyone. No matter what your studying or what groups you identify with, you’re bound to find a place where you belong. I love the Spanish club at OU because it brings together people who would otherwise never come into contact with each other. The members of the Spanish club share a love for the Spanish language and all of the cultures that are associated with it, which really allows us to quickly find a common ground and s place to belong. Almost all of the members of the Spanish club are either majoring or minoring in Spanish and are passionate about the language. It’s really fun to watch people discuss the language and have a time outside of the classroom to share their feelings and thoughts and plans for the future concerning Spanish. The Spanish club offers meetings once a month (which usually include snacks) that are a really chill time to meet other students at OU who share the same interests as you! There are usually once-a-semester events, such as the Dia de Los Muertos event last semester, that are open to the community. If you’re looking for a place where you can connect with other people who love the Spanish language, definitely check out the Spanish club!
“Ladies and gentlemen, damas y caballeros, welcome to the ground.” That’s how the pilot of my plane to Mexico announced our arrival in Puebla, after a rather abrupt drop at the end of a three-hour flight in the smallest jet I’ve ever been on. It was so small that, even though American Airlines normally allows two carry-ons, everyone had to check their second carry-on. If you’re planning on flying into Puebla, make sure your smaller carry-on has all your valuables: if you have to check your laptop, it’ll be returned to you in several pieces.
We met all of our professors, our fellow students, and our student coordinator at the airport. While the last of our cohort made their way through customs, we exchanged the first of our money, and learned a trick for converting pesos to dollars. The exchange rate is currently about 19 or 20 pesos to the dollar, so you take the price in pesos, drop a zero, and divide the result in half.
My first impression of Mexico was of the giant van that took us on the forty-minute drive from the airport, in Huejotzingo, to Puebla proper. (Puebla is both a city and a state, somewhat like New York.) Eight people and all their baggage were crammed together in the van, but it was a good way to start to chat with people.
We finally arrived at the student apartments, where everyone else was living and my host mother waited to pick me up. I’m the only student this semester who’s staying with a host family rather than in the apartments. I decided on a host family because it would be easier to practice my Spanish when Spanish was my only option. Plus, it’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the apartments, and your host family cooks you breakfast and dinner every day of the week. I’m always budget conscious and never have time to cook, so it was a no-brainer for me.
Over spring break, I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve at Casa Hogar Getsemani, a children’s home in Morelos, Mexico. I went with a team of thirteen–six women and seven men–to cook meals for the children at the home during the week so we could give the house parents a vacation of their own. The men travelled each day to the nearby town of Allende to build an outdoor tabernacle for Pastor Oscar, whose family and church we have grown close to in the past four years of making these trips. It is always such a joy to be in the presence of people who are so in love with the Lord and who really see each moment as an opportunity to bring him glory. I’m always so overwhelmed by the love of the kids at the home and the genuine joy they have in whatever they’re doing. It’s hard to put a trip like this into words, so I’m going to share some of the pictures to (hopefully) give you a glimpse of what I was blessed to experience this week.
One of the things I love the most about OU is the wide range of international events that are offered by the different colleges on campus. This fall, the OU Humanities Forum invited Nadia Villafuerte, a Mexican author, to come and host a creative writing workshop. Afterword, she and my professor, Dr. Julie Ward, held a bilingual reading in the library of “Cajita Feliz.” In my Spanish Literature and Culture class, we read a chapter from her book Barcos en Houston entitled “Chica Cosmo.” It’s the story of a young woman who is trying to reach Juarez, Mexico but has to betray a fellow immigrant in order to do so. Villafuerte now lives in NYC and is a professor at NYU, where she is working on her next novel. Her work has been chosen to be part of an anthology of Spanish works, which is incredible considering that she has only been published for about ten years.
I love that OU promotes such an international environment. Both of my Spanish professors this semester update us regularly on new international events on campus, and one of them offers extra credit if we attend. There are so many events on campus that it’s impossible to attend all of them, but it’s important to make an effort to be internationally involved and informed because our society is becoming more and more global. Listening to authors and speakers from other parts of the world is an amazing way to learn more about their culture, their language, and about how they see the world, so if you have the opportunity to attend events like this one, you definitely should!
What’s your name, major, and classification?
Maegan Brewer, I’m a Spanish Pre-Physical Therapy major with an HES minor, and I’m a sophomore.
Why did you choose to major in Spanish?
Because I have a passion for the Spanish language and culture and, being pre-PT, I hope to be able to serve more people better because I’m bilingual.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully, I’m a physical therapist in Tulsa who owns my own PT clinic that can serve a wide range of people from all backgrounds and ethnicities.
What’s your favorite Spanish word?
Oh, gosh. Probably “zanahoria.” It means “carrot.”
What has been your favorite Spanish class at OU so far?
Um, I guess Spanish Literature and Culture. Con Doctora Julie Ward.
What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a major in Spanish?
Don’t just try and get through it because it’s super good to know Spanish well, especially in Oklahoma. Even if they know English well, people still feel more comfortable being spoken to in their first language. Especially for health fields and things like that. Serving people, I don’t know,
Do you have a favorite Spanish quote or saying?
I would quote Michael Bublé in “Quando quando quando,” but’s that’s Portuguese. Um… “Solo de error se aprende.” Only from mistakes can you learn. It’s from Shakira.
What’s been the most challenging part about studying Spanish so far?
My participation grades. Just kidding. Probably learning to not compare myself to native speakers, because they know all the answers and they talk so fast. I’m beginning to accept that I’m still learning and that we’re not on the same level, but that it’s okay because everyone is at different places in life.
Do you plan on studying abroad at any point during your time at OU?
Yes! I’ve heard of a month-long trip where you get to work in a clinic in Spain, which is perfect for me, because I’m Spanish Pre-Health. And I want to do that.
Any final comments or thoughts about being a Spanish major?
Spanish is rad.
Thank you so much for your time!
It was Latin America week. I knew because I had gotten an email about the events and the happenings. It was also the week that I was due to meet with a study abroad advisor to begin searching for options that fit me. I knew in my head exactly what I was going to do a summer trip to Oxford this coming summer and then a spring semester in Mexico. It’s funny when your plan is “set” how life has a tendency to change it up.
As we chatted about my intentions to go to Puebla next spring, her face perked up when I mentioned that I was pre-med. “Well, have I got the opportunity for you,” she told me about how OU’s study center offers a program in the fall- and only the fall- that would let me go on rotation in a local hospital and get some outstanding experience. I was interested, but I wasn’t sure. “Let’s go down, they’re just about to start their program on Puebla.” Together, she walked me down to a room in Farzaneh Hall where a long table was set up with chips and salsa. There were only about six other students, the gentleman speaking (I wish I could remember his name) had wild black curly hair and an excited look about him. He was one of the main people over the Puebla center. He had a girl with him, she was pretty and more on the quiet side. She spoke beautiful Spanish and had study at Puebla the year before.
As we ate chips and salsa, he spoke of Puebla, Mexico, the culture, the opportunities. She briefly covered “pro tips” for studying abroad there. Next, he addressed each one of us and wanted to know what we were studying so that he could tell us what Puebla could offer us. After that, he asked “So what are the reasons for NOT going?” Any concerns we brought up, he was able to answer. I left there feeling fairly confident and sure.
Later in the week there was a salsa dancing class as the Salsa is a big part of Latin American culture. While there is no video proof, I assure you I am a pro salsa dancer.
Just kidding, I’m heading to Puebla next fall, but I’m hoping no one asks me to dance.
If you are a student at OU who would love to learn more Spanish and spend time with others who share the same interest, you should check out the Spanish Club! It is a student-led group that sponsors several on-campus events each year. It meets once a month, usually in Kaufman Hall; during this time, we speak in both Spanish and English and eat delicious food! You can participate in events such as the Tomatina, which is a water balloon fight meant to imitate the Tomatina Festival in Spain, where people throw tomatoes at each other for fun. By joining the Spanish Club, you can meet people who share similar interests and be more involved on campus!
El Día de los Muertes, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates those who have passed away. The dead are honored by the building of altars, or ofrendas, and gifts such as sugar skulls and marigolds. It is a three-day long celebration, lasting from October 31st to November 2nd, that is celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico and as a cultural celebration in the United States.
This weekend, OU hosted a Día de los Muertos festival, where altars were built in honor of those who have passed. It featured musicians, face painters, vendors, food trucks, a Ferris wheel, and cultural elements that served as a way to both enjoy and learn about Mexican culture.
I ran into one of my sweet Phi Lamb sisters who wore a beautiful traditional dress to honor her heritage, so of course we had to take a picture. Her makeup was done to look like one of the sugar skulls which is used to honor the dead.
I wasn’t able to stay for the headliner, but this band was still great!
The llamas were probably one of my favorite parts, but I couldn’t get a good picture of them, which was a little sad honestly. Overall, this was a really unique experience in Mexican culture, and I’m grateful that I attend a university which supports and sponsors events like this that encourage cultural awareness and acceptance!
Holy cow. I’m exhausted, my feet hurt, and I smell like raw cow meat, but life is so great! Woke up late this morning and missed breakfast, but got to help mom and Rebecca in the kitchen for lunch until the butchered cow came. We cut and cut and cut at that cow for what felt like forever, served lunch in the middle of all the chaos, then cut cow some more. Then we ground it, cooked it, dehydrated it, and did it all over again. The whole process took about nine hours, but now the children’s home will have enough meat for a whole year! The weirdest part about the whole thing was that the cow was still warm on the inside, but it wasn’t too bad if you just looked at is as a very large anatomy lesson. Around late afternoon I ran to the market with Bud, who the kids call abuelo, my mom, and Rebecca to get some extra food. We got back, cooked dinner, did some extra thorough cow blood removal and cleaning, then headed back to take another cold shower and hit the hay. Hasta mañana, Mexico.
Today was our first full day at the children’s home and it was so fun! I spent all day in the kitchen with mom and Rebecca cutting fruit, baking chicken, peeling potatoes, sneaking bites of brownie, and other culinary endeavors. (My least favorite part of the dorms is their lack of a kitchen.) In between all the cooking, though, we got to play with the kids! Rauil, Miranda, Daniel, Angie, all of them are so precious! We swung, painted nails, see-sawed, played tag, and went down the slide until we were exhausted. In the kitchen, though, I got to know Dulce, an 18 year-old girl, a lot more than I did last year. She can understand English and I can understand Spanish we just can’t speak them, so I talk to her in English and she replies in Spanish and it works really well! She is the sweetest. Around mid-afternoon I rode with two of the house parents to visit Siuri, a little girl who now lives with her sister, to wish her a happy birthday. She got a pair of Frozen shoes and a beanie baby, so she was super excited! We got to see her sister’s baby, and then we headed back to the home. I cooked some more, played some more, ate some food, took a cold shower, and now I’m headed to bed. ¡Hasta mañana, Mexico!