by Haley Dwyer
Well, my time at the Refugee Center has finally come to a close and I’m sad to say that unfortunately I have had to call it quits earlier than I thought. Over the past three weeks, I have been getting sicker and sicker. Recently, I found out that not only did I get lucky enough to get mono in the last month of the semester but also I now have a sinus infection along with the mono. Being sick is not fun. When you are sick, going to class, talking to friends, walking up the stairs, and even eating lunch is painful. Add in speaking a foreign language with a native Spanish speaker and it can get overwhelming very quickly. I have learned a lot from being sick and working at the Center over the past couple of weeks.
I learned that it is important to take things slow. When you are sick, there is a large part of your brain that is devoted to simply attempting to deal with being sick, so mistakes are made easier. Although making a mistake is not the end of the world, it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when you are sick. Because of the added stress that your body is under with the sickness, your stress hormones are pumping extra hard and that little tiny mistake can ruin a perfectly good day. After getting frustrated with myself, I realized that I was worrying over nothing. Quickly, I learned that moving forward was the best thing to do in the circumstance. You can’t control your immune system so it is best to learn to work with it instead of against it.
Along with taking things slowly, I learned that sometimes it’s important to ask for a break. Personally, I am the type of person who is really good at pretending they are not sick when they are actually dying on the inside. I simply go about my daily life and pretend that my body is not crying out in pain with everything I do. After dealing with mono, I have learned that sometimes it is best to ask for help. You are not perfect, and everyone gets sick so sometimes calling in a sick day is not the end of the world. That is what I have had to do with my last three weeks at the Center. After being yelled at by both my parents and the doctor, I asked for help and called in a couple sick days. I learned that people are accepting of things that you can’t control and that asking for help is always best. Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself and people generally understand this.
Most importantly, I learned that I can actually speak Spanish when I am not in the “mood”. I know that may sound strange or obvious to some but in the past I have always avoided using Spanish when I’m not up to it or just not feeling my best. Speaking a different language takes a lot of concentration and when I am sick, it is extra effort that I was not willing to give. Now I know that if I just take it slowly and ask for help when I need it, I can speak in Spanish.
Originally when I signed up for this course, I was excited that I had to complete 28 hours in the community. Although it is a large time commitment, I believe that it is one that is achievable for students who are truly looking to improve their Spanish. It is understandable that a professor would get frustrated with students who simply do not hold to this commitment and instead make excuses in an attempt to maintain a decent grade. Along with impacting the professor who coordinates the programs, I think it is important too for the student to realize that their organization is counting on them to volunteer each week. When a student simply stops showing up to volunteer, it can pose a major issue for the organization that they are working with. This is especially true when a sickness arises. Not only will the professor have the added strain of working with the student to complete their hours but the organization is also left without a volunteer. Because I stopped volunteering at such an early point, not only did I put strain on my academic grade but the Center also has to function without the help that I promised. This aspect of getting sick is the most difficult for me.
Although I am sad that my time at the Center has finished, I am glad that I learned how to handle being sick and speaking Spanish before I go to Spain next semester. I am also extremely grateful for the time that I spent in the Center. I can easily say that I learned more about myself, Spanish, and different cultures in the one semester that I spent at the Center than the three other semesters that I have spent taking Spanish courses at the University.