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### Exploring Chile: Unveiling the Language Lessons of a Semester Abroad

This semester, I will be embarking on a study abroad journey in Santiago, Chile. Over the past week, I’ve found myself pondering whether my decision to spend five months in Latin America, attending university, residing with a host family, and navigating a bustling city while fully immersed in Spanish reflects a hint of masochism. I couldn’t help but question why I didn’t opt for Europe, where English is more prevalent, or choose an international program where English-speaking peers abound.

These introspective musings have stirred profound inquiries within me. What is the significance of language? Why strive to master another language in a world that is increasingly interconnected, with English being a common denominator? In an era where proficiency in programming languages like Python, C++, or JavaScript is highly valued, does traditional language learning, such as German or Hindi, still hold relevance? Is language merely a collection of symbols and possibilities?

While I don’t possess definitive answers to these thought-provoking questions, contemplating the essence of language has prompted me to revisit my personal connection with it, especially during my tenure at Notre Dame.

Upon commencing their freshman year, Notre Dame students are mandated to undertake a university seminar and Writing and Rhetoric (WR), unless they have earned Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits to exempt WR in favor of another writing-intensive course. The university’s core curriculum, comprising six liberal arts courses, aims to nurture students’ rapport with, and appreciation and comprehension of, language. Moreover, various colleges may impose additional language prerequisites, such as the College of Arts and Architecture’s requirements.

This underscores Notre Dame’s commitment to cultivating linguistic proficiency among its students. The capacity to digest texts, engage in persuasive discourse, articulate thoughts effectively, and communicate proficiently — be it in English or other languages — stands as a cornerstone of a Notre Dame education.

My fascination with language has been a constant in my life. In my formative years, instead of indulging in Barbie dolls or Legos, I found solace in crafting narratives. Despite my rudimentary spelling skills, I would string together letters in an imaginary syntax, endeavoring to transcribe the tales swirling in my mind onto paper. As my reading skills developed, I voraciously consumed books as if they were vital sustenance, quenching a thirst I couldn’t articulate. In school, my penchant for verbosity often earned me reprimands, with one teacher likening me to a “Chatty Cathy” in my report card.

As I matured, my adeptness with language garnered praise. I excelled in speech-writing, debates, poetry, and storytelling competitions. I aced English assessments and collaborated with like-minded friends to publish literary magazines. I even had the honor of delivering the commencement address at my high school graduation. My identity as a wordsmith and my affinity for language felt like second nature.

However, my linguistic journey at Notre Dame has been a tale of transformation. Once hailed as a stellar wordsmith, I now find my prose lacking finesse and substance compared to my peers’ polished and eloquent compositions. The prospect of crafting essays, which serve as the primary yardstick for evaluating my academic performance, fills me with dread. Hours spent at my computer are marked by meticulous scrutiny of idea coherence, sentence structures, word selections, and an incessant fear of grammatical missteps.

Beyond the realm of writing, engaging in seminar-style classes and leading yoga sessions have tested my oratory skills. While I’ve made strides in public speaking and articulating coherent thoughts, I often stumble over words, struggling to embody the composed and intelligent persona I envision.

Despite my insecurities and somewhat bleak assessment of my linguistic prowess, I am certain that Notre Dame has nurtured my language proficiency. My liberal arts education has deepened my love for literature, propelling me to refine my writing and communication skills.

During my sojourn in Santiago, I anticipate forging a fresh bond with a new language. I intend to approach Spanish with the same childlike wonder that once fueled my mastery of English. Through the trials, errors, and eventual triumphs in grappling with Spanish, I aspire to glean fresh insights into the universal threads that unite all languages.

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Observer.