Friday, February 26, 2010

Student Reflection: International Service Learning

by Bridget Kern

Spanish 232 or Spanish in the community interests me very much because it reminds me of a program that I participated in over winter break. In January, I volunteered in Costa Rica and Panama through an organization called International Service Learning. In Costa Rica and Panama I worked as a dental assistant in mobile dental clinics that provided low come people with dental care. Many of the students that were on the trip with me knew little to no Spanish, making it extremely difficult for them to communicate with our patients about their oral health. This experience emphasized my belief that learning Spanish is an extremely beneficial to the community. My average knowledge of Spanish greatly aided the dentists that I worked with as well as our patients in communicating with each other. This made dental procedures, aftercare instructions and asking questions much easier.

My experiences in Costa Rica and Panama are the reason that I believe in Spanish 232. It is very important for people in the community that speak Spanish to be able to communicate and relate their needs to people in their native tongue, because sometimes they lack the words and phrases to express themselves in English. So far I have volunteered with the University of Illinois' Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) once at the Urbana Free Library. In this program an author of a bilingual children’s book reads their story in English and Spanish. The story that was read the weekend I volunteered was about a grandmother’s relationship with her granddaughter. There was one little girl in particular in the audience who understood only parts of the story in English, however, when she heard the story in Spanish her face lit up and I could tell that she knew exactly what emotions and situations the story was trying to convey. Experiences like the ones I have mentioned are reasons why I think programs in Spanish in the community are so important. I am also trying to volunteer at the Refugee Center, and I can’t wait to get started and have another opportunity to use my Spanish to aid people with communication.

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