Danny Pavitt – Spanish-Immersion in my Own Country (Spanish)

All Student Stories, International Policy and Development

Story written by Danny Pavitt, IPD, ’16

You may consider the question that I initially did: Who goes to Vermont to study Spanish? Well, I can emphatically confirm that Middlebury College turns non-believers into Spanish-speaking believers. For seven weeks, students pledge to speak, eat, dance (salsa, flamenco), socialize, listen, read, write, and hopefully dream in Spanish.

With one month left of my spring internship in D.C., I received THE email informing me that I had been selected as a Kathryn Davis Fellow to study in the Summer Intensive Language Program. I then changed my plans and embarked on a new adventure in the backcountry of Middlebury, Vermont.

There was a buzz around that breathtaking campus. For me, there was no better motivation than seeing classmates make themselves vulnerable as we tried to express ourselves in an unfamiliar language. Middlebury College creates an atmosphere that encourages language learners to make mistakes, get out of individual comfort zones and SPEAK; the three most important components of language learning. With these language-learning ingredients, paired with the expertise, passion and dedication of a team of professors, bilingual assistants and administrative staff, the result for most of us was a delicious paella of Spanish immersion that eventually left us wondering, “where has the seven weeks gone?” and “how has our Spanish improved so much!?”

img_2113Middlebury College brings in a heavy-hitting list of academically-recognized professors from all over the world. I have become a part of an impressive legacy that boasts numerous highly-acclaimed literary figures, language advocates and political figures. As the school enters its 100th year of existence in 2017, I see no better time to be engaged in and involved with one of the best language programs in the country.

Middlebury contributed greatly to my language goals, providing me with the confidence, “las ganas” (the motivation) and the language abilities to pursue opportunities that require high-level Spanish speaking skills. Now I know that I need Spanish in my life. I can see myself living abroad; Latin America holds a large piece of my heart! But I’ve also realized I don’t necessarily need to go abroad to speak Spanish. Only that Spanish is such a big part of who I am now that it would feel as though I wasn’t living up to my full potential if I wasn’t speaking it regularly.

Having a better understanding of the Spanish language allows me to communicate and connect with people that would otherwise be blocked off. I have been given a brand new key to a door that I could, for a long time, see but not enter. Turns out that I am extremely happy when I enter that door into the Spanish-speaking world. For that ability, I am grateful.