International Event #2: Día de los Muertos

I have tried this semester, and intend to continue, to expose myself to Latin American culture. It is a beautiful thing that I have been so fascinated to learn about. In my Spanish class, we started talking about Día de los Muertos several days ahead of time. There was a mixed opinion on it. Some thought it was a strange tradition; other, like myself, loved it. I see it as an incredible way to celebrate life as the blessing it is and also continue to honor those who have passed on. Our Spanish professor asked us what sorts of things would be set up in honor of us. I’m unsure what mine would be completely, but I can assure you it would involve Dr. Pepper, books, and homemade tortillas.

The Spanish department set up an altar for a famous Latin American singer. I visited and was fascinated by the set up. Just looking at it, you could catch a glimpse into the personality being honored and the celebration that was at hand. It had me excited for the festival that was coming up on Sunday.

Friday there was a free shirt pass out that ran out of shirts in minutes. I was salty because I felt like some of those people who got shirts probably had no idea about the festival on Sunday, I, on the other hand, had been faithfully following the event on Facebook from the time it was announced and was stuck in Biology so I didn’t end up with a snazzy shirt.

I went home Friday night and drove up much earlier than usual on Sunday to make it to the event. I drug with me my boyfriend and a few friends from OU. None of them had ever been to or heard anything about Día de los Muertos. I was elated to inform them and have them experience the whole thing with me. An important part of becoming Globally Engaged, I believe, is sharing with others the new things that you learn.

The entire thing was incredibly well handled. I give props to the students who put it together. Everywhere I looked people were laughing and enjoying themselves. People had sugar skulls painted on their faces, there were masks in the sugar skull style available as well. There were those who were born into the Latin American culture and then there were those of us who were new to it all, but no one seemed to care everyone was there to celebrate life and honor the loved ones who passed before us. There was live music- I didn’t get to listen to much. I was the only one in my group who spoke any Spanish, and I speak very little.

All in all, this was one of the neater things I was able to attend this semester and I am so glad I did. I have fallen in love with Día de los Muertos.

International Event: Mexico Mixer

Mexico Mixer On a whim I decided to go to the “Mexico Mixer,” and I am so glad that I did! Basically the event was a giant pizza party where OU students who are learning/know Spanish got to meet and talk with some students from Mexico who are here for a month to study English. I was kind of hesitant to go because I figured I would have to speak in Spanish at the event, which is not my strong suit, so I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But, in the end, it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up (hello, free pizza) and I figured that I needed to push myself to practice my Spanish conversational skills.

At the mixer, I met several different students and really connected with two sisters who are here from the state of Guerrero. We spoke in Spanish, and I understood most of what they said although I made several mistakes while trying to speak. But, I was never really embarrassed like I thought I would have been. Everyone was so nice and encouraging, and there was no judgment. It really was a great way to get out of my comfort zone.

At the end of the mixer, I exchanged numbers with a few people and connected on Facebook, but I figured they were doing that more out of an obligation than anything. Luckily, it turns out I was wrong! The sisters messaged me later that night on Facebook, and we talked for a little bit before saying goodnight. The next day I was in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art for an assignment when I ran into the sisters at the museum! All of the students were touring the museum that day, but I couldn’t believe what a coincidence it was that we ran into each other at the same time. It was really fortunate because I was able to connect with the sisters on WhatsApp so that we could text each other. Ever since I have been in contact with them most every day. We text in a mixture of Spanish and English and have made plans to eat lunch together a few times.

I am so glad that I went to the mixer because I ended up making some new friendships. It is really nice to be able to practice my Spanish, but it is even nicer being able to help people learning English. I know that my new friendships are going to last longer than the few short weeks the sisters are here in Oklahoma. The mixer served as a good reminder that good things come when you go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do something new.

Estoy Aprendiendo Español

As I write this, I have officially finished my first week of Spanish. I say finished, I mostly just mean muddled through. Every single day of the class I was lost. Our instructor is fluent. Most of the students in the class have had some background in it. Therefore, from day two the class has been taught in exclusively Spanish. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t want to cry because I had little to no idea what was going on. We had a homework assignment due at the end of this week that I just finished last night. Any guess how long it took me to complete?

Six hours.

That’s not distracted browsing on Facebook and pinning quotes on Pinterest work either. That is sitting down and focusing completely on the task before me. I am positive that I have never spent that long on an assignment- ever. In high school, I took difficult classes, but none that challenged me near as much as this class has and we’re “just getting started”. I am so far out of my learning comfort zone. Already, though, this class has challenged me to a broader view of the world.

Probably the third day of class my instructor, Señora Audas, came into the classroom a flurry of activity as usual. She pulled out her phone and started chatting excitedly in Spanish. She told a story with large hand motions and a smile in her voice. I listened intensely, desperate to understand. At the end, she and the majority of my classmates laughed. I wanted to cry. I felt isolated. I felt stupid.

You see, in high school, there weren’t that many times that I really struggled to understand a concept more than any of my classmates. If I didn’t get something- hardly anyone else did either. I graduated with a 4.0. I was part of the National Honors Society. I was an Oklahoma Academic All Stater. School was my comfort zone. Now, here I was completely lost. I had to take a deep breath. I had to remind myself to be patient with me because I am just beginning.

It hit me that there are so many incredible people who experience that every single day when they come to America. People who are stunningly intelligent and experts in every field with more knowledge than I could ever hope to obtain who come here and feel that same way when it comes to speaking English. I suddenly could sympathize (though my Spanish class is a substantially smaller scale) with those I see from other countries struggling to grasp the language I just happened to be born into. This moment reminded me to have compassion for those struggling at the post office, or at the restaurant, or even just in front of me in class.

I challenge you to do the same. Open you eyes and open your heart. Don’t take things for granted because you never know when you’ll be on the opposite side of the situation.


Cross posted onto my personal blog found here.