|Daniel Ebenhoeh Spotlight|
Junior majoring in Spanish
I am a junior, and Kalamazoo native, majoring in Spanish with an English minor. In the spring semester of 2006 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Querétaro, Mexico. The Querétaro program was a great choice for me as a Spanish major because it allowed me five-and-a-half months to become immersed in a Spanish-speaking country.
The three core classes which all of the participants had to take covered Spanish syntax, Mexican culture, and the interactions between the Mexican and United States cultures. I also took two electives at la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, studying Mexican history and European Art history of the 15th century. The classes helped me improve my Spanish and also showed me a new classroom environment, different from that typically found in the US.
While the classes taught me a lot, they can not compare to all of the experience I gained outside of the classroom. Living everyday with a host family in Mexico and practicing my Spanish is what really improved my fluency and my Mexican accent. The largest things, such as talking with immigration officials, as well as the smallest things, like taking the city bus to the supermarket for deodorant, were all tests of my Spanish. By the time I had to leave I had the vocabulary to engage in deep conversations with my professors, and the confidence in my abilities to joke with the airport security guard on the way home.
While my Spanish was being tested daily, so was my perspective on many things surrounding life, priorities, and other people in this world. Living in a totally different system, some of the customs I had thought important in previous stages of my life suddenly were not so important. My experiences helped me to see alternative ways of doing things; not as wrong or bad, but rather only as different. This semester in Mexico opened my mind to new thoughts and ways of thinking and my improved Spanish skills are the things that find most valuable of all that I gained from my study abroad experience.
While I was in Mexico I chose to take on a new direction with my studies. After talking with a number of WMU Spanish faculty members that came down for spring break and considering my talent and interest in the language, I decided on a new career path of becoming a Spanish professor at the university level. I hope to have the opportunity to study abroad at least one more semester during my undergraduate or graduate level studies.