Sunday, December 9, 2012

Student Reflection

Daniel y su amiga, hace ocho años.
Daniel y su amiga, hace una semana.
by Daniel Cox

Maintaining Relationships

My last entry focused on the importance of establishing connections, which, interestingly enough, segues nicely into the topic I have decided to discuss for this entry:  maintaining relationships. During these last few weeks, I have begun to think about how I will try to keep in contact with the people I have grown to know during my time at the Frances Nelson Dental Center. Although I only spent 28 hours with them, I was able to share a lot of really great experiences with the regulars in the office. I was surprised when I considered how much I had learned about them personally and realized I’d developed a sense of belonging.

After almost three months of working with the same group of people, I felt a sense of comfort and trust. While the office generally had a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, there were several times when it transformed into a high stress environment. When confronted with an issue that I did not know how to solve, I had to rely on the assistance of the other workers. This can be daunting in the absence of comfort and trust. Once I established these, I could depend on the others for assistance rather than frustration. I now recognize how important the small two to three hour commitment was to my weekly routine, and I find it difficult to have to say goodbye. However, I know that I can rely on them for help in the future, and I am sure they know they can reach out to me as well.

This recently developed sentimentalism arose from a short trip home last weekend. A few months back, I received an invitation to a wedding from a high school friend. The invitation was warmly received, as it had been more than a year and a half since I had last seen her, and even longer since I’d seen her family. Her family was one of the primary reasons why I initially started learning Spanish and I am infinitely grateful for the exposure that they provided me. When I finally had the opportunity to see them all again and, for the first time, feel comfortable speaking with the entire family in Spanish, I couldn’t help but feel excited.

The few months leading to the wedding flew by much more quickly than I’d anticipated, and by the time the day I’d planned to leave arrived, I had forgotten that there was another person I’d hoped to contact. I decided to send a last minute e-mail to my high school Spanish teacher, letting her know I was coming to town for a few days and would love to catch up. She immediately responded that she had been promising to invite a college student to talk to her students about the importance of learning a second language. Although I shuddered at the idea of arriving at my high school at 7:45AM, I knew that the guest speakers I’d heard a few years back greatly influenced and inspired me to continue my studies in Spanish.

Once in the classroom, I spoke with the students for several minutes in Spanish and then answered questions in English. Many of the students’ faces lit up when they started talking about heading off to school next year and hearing that there really are opportunities to continue and enrich their “Spanish experience”. I knew that the visit was really important to my teacher and being able to show my gratitude for all of her support by sharing my passion with her current students was a great way for us to reconnect.

However, the reunion that really showed me the importance of maintaining relationships was the wedding. The moment I walked through the door, I saw a dozen familiar faces, still warm and welcoming. We began speaking about our lives and what had happened during the past few years, and within the first few minutes, I’d switched over into “Spanish-mode”. I loved being able to connect with them on a level that had always seemed just out of reach; actually talking and expressing what I could easily have said in English, but wanted to say in Spanish. Toward the end, I felt hesitant to return home and strike up a conversation with my mom in English. Being removed from an environment where I could immerse myself in the Spanish language (and culture) made me appreciate the opportunity even more.

Overall, these reconnections reminded me that the relationships that we value and maintain, in whatever way we can, are testimonies to our own journeys and the journeys of our loved ones. They remind us of our progress and the struggles from which that progress emerges; they also remind us to recognize and celebrate the progress of the people we care for. Through our experiences with Spanish, in our classes, in the community, and in our personal lives, we have developed unique relationships that give value to the work we do as bilingual students and people.

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