This summer, four Harrison Seniors traveled across the world to different locations for six weeks to learn more about their foreign language, but there was one catch: they couldn’t speak or hear any English the entire time.
For Emma Snyder, Mickinleigh Prior, Oliva DeCrane, and Teryn Azpell, it was a long but worthwhile process to get into the program, beginning with a test in the fall to see how well the student’s foreign language comprehension is, and if he or she had passed this test, they were eligible to apply for the program.
“It was pretty hard,” DeCrane said. “It was college level grammar, vocab, literature, and then a writing portion.”
The application process after the test may have seemed daunting them, being about 10 pages long, but was worth it in the long run once they were accepted.
For this application, they had to get three recommendation letters in addition to explaining why they wanted to join the program and how they would react to different scenarios that could possibly happen to them while they were there. They also described themselves to let their future host families get to know them.
Months later, they were accepted into the program and then given their locations.
Azpell was located in Chile, and while she was there, she learned about how different the culture compared to America’s.
“The food was different,” Azpell said. “It was a lot blander than it is here. The culture there is not as modern as it is here.”
Azpell also learned many life lessons from this six-week experience.
“I learned how to appreciate a new culture and learned how important it is to get support from you host family when you go over there and really adapt to a new country,” Azpell said.
Snyder, Prior, and DeCrane were all spread across France, hours apart from each other.
“Nervous, scared, homesick,” were all the feelings Prior went through her first week there.
For all four of them, it was an adjustment to be separated from their family and everything they knew.
“They say there are four stages of culture shock,” Snyder said. “The first is that you get there and it’s euphoric. You’re so excited that you’re in a new country. The second one, you’re starting to get a little homesick, and then the third one you start to get really homesick and you hate everything, and then the fourth one you’re easing into it.”
All of them learned to leave their comfort zones from this experience and how to become more independent.
“I learned how to be away from my family with little to no communication,” Prior said. “When stuff is hard, you just gotta keep going, don’t give up.”
Each country was very different from America, particularly with regard to fashion.
“You walk everywhere and everyone is fashionable,” DeCrane said. “People don’t walk out in sweat pants and t-shirts, that’s not a thing.”
Even though they were only gone for six weeks, coming back to America was a huge adjustment.
“The first time I spoke English was at a customs officer, because you have to speak English in the United States to the customs officers,” Snyder said. “So I was trying to think of what to say, and I would start talking, but it would be in French and I was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to go back to English.’”
All four students have now considered using their languages in their future careers in some way, whether it be the study of how the brain processes languages or becoming a teacher.