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Puerto Rico - Su12

posted Sep 2, 2012, 3:29 PM by Joanne O'Toole   [ updated Feb 4, 2016, 12:13 PM ]
An Adolescence Spanish Education major who 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 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 you?

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?

In 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 understandings?

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.