Adolescence Spanish Education major, Elizabeth Morales
, participated in the SUNY Oswego study abroad program at La Universidad de Río Piedras,
on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico
, in Summer 2012
. She shares her experiences from this 4-week summer program below.
What was the program like?
This program was great! The staff
members at the University of Rio Piedras were supportive and friendly. This summer program offered
a class about the Puerto Rican culture and also Spanish classes were
available: basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. The culture class was given in the English language and the
Spanish class was given in both English and Spanish to help the majority of
students understand a new concept taught in class.
How did this study abroad experience inform, influence, or change
This study abroad program gave me the opportunity to learn about
the Puerto Rican culture and diversity. In this program, I learned that Puerto
Ricans have developed their culture based on their past influences: Tainos,
Africans, Spaniards, and other European countries. These past influences added
more flavor and special rhythms to the “melting pot” in Puerto Rico. I was also
informed about the Afro-Caribbean influence in Puerto Rico. They have a strong
influence in the musical rhythms, food, language, and so forth. One of many interesting
facts learned in this summer program, was that most of the afro-Caribbean
influences come from the tropical zones of the continent of Africa. When
Africans arrived to this country, they brought with them a strong oral
tradition. This oral tradition originally came from the Taíno and
afro-Caribbean influences. Overall, my experience in this program helped me
develop a new perspective on life. Nowadays, I am open-minded, willing to learn
and expand my knowledge of other cultures different than my own.
What experiences helped you develop your target language skills?
this summer program, I learned about the origins and development of the Puerto
Rican society. My awareness of the past and present of the Puerto Rican society
will help me understand and value the different points of view of students. Thus,
my experience helped me develop and increase a cultural awareness of this
island. Lastly, my ability to speak the Spanish language fluently gave me the opportunity
to interact with Puerto Rican people.
How did the study abroad experience help you develop cultural
My experience being in Puerto
Rico help me expand my awareness of another Hispanic/Latino culture. I was able
to observe and learn about some of the visible and invisible aspects of this
culture: food, festivities, art, music, values, beliefs, ethics, physical space
etc. Puerto Rico has a rich culture and many beautiful things to offer to the world.
I also learned an interesting phrase in this program, ‘todos quieren ser
caciques nadie quiere ser naborias/everyone wants to be caciques but nobody
wants to be naborias.’ This is an interesting and wise phrase because some
individuals want to obtain powerful roles without making any effort. This made
me aware of my ability to reflect from previous experiences and value my knowledge
of this culture. To deeply understand more cultural concepts of this island, a
host family would have been a plus to this program. I hope that in the future,
this program could add or offer the option to live with a host family.
What special stories or experiences illustrate the value of the program for you?
In one of our excursions, I had the chance to go to Culebrita: a
small island and part of Puerto Rico. Culebrita had a turquoise blue shade,
crystal clear water, and the sand had a golden color. Culebrita was as
beautiful as the paradise must be. It is the perfect place to relax, swim, and
snorkel. In Culebrita, I had the opportunity to meet a Puerto Rican family.
This family taught me how to swim. They were patient, friendly, and energetic. I
wish I had more time to interact with this lovely Puerto Rican family. I had
the courage to talk to them, and I rarely talk to strangers, but this was one
of the most memorable experiences in Puerto Rico. My study abroad experience is
priceless! If I have the chance to travel again, I will do it! This program
opened my eyes and mind to become an independent learner, take risks, and enjoy
the uniqueness of other cultures.