Spanish For Me? ¡Sí!

Hannah Geller
April 25, 2018

How and why did Spanish become my second language of choice?

Long story short, I grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia known as the Mushroom Capital of the World for its mushroom production. Many of the employees of the mushroom farms are immigrants from Mexico who come to America seeking the American Dream, fair wages, and quality education for their children. In fact, the majority population of my tiny town is actually Mexican.

My childhood was filled with frequent trips to the local Mexican ice cream shop, “La Michoacana,” delighting in unique flavors like mamey and corn. And as soon as I could read the signs for the Panaderias and Taquerias I became curious about the language... so much so that I asked my parents to sign me up for a before-school Spanish course in first grade. To be fair, I probably didn’t learn much. Uno dos tres, rojo azul verde. What it instilled in me though was a deep desire to understand others.

Fast forward 11 years to college.

After fulfilling the language requirement at Penn State I decided I was done studying Spanish. For good. So after my last class, I celebrated (meaning I probably bought myself Chick Fil A.)

One year ago I boarded a plane to go to Roatan, Honduras as part of a volunteer spring break program through Hillel. This first visit to a third-world country forever changed my perspective on life and the importance of language. Because English has become the global language, I figured I would never have a problem being understood internationally. This proved to be wrong once the plane touched down next to the crystal clear Caribbean.

As only 1 or 2 of the locals we worked with knew more than “hello” in English, I quickly went into Spanish mode. After years without studying it came back to me as quickly as the Hondurans welcomed us into their homes.

Let me tell you-- being able to connect with people was the best. feeling. ever.

Their smiles, hugs, and generosity would have been enough. Yet having the ability to ask questions and hear about their lives made all the difference. At the end of the week I had formed incredible bonds with my new friends and promised I would return.

Simply being in that environment-- the reggaeton music, Spanish street signs, fresh food-- made me realize that the reason I lost interest in language was because it was forced on me. The moment I chose to speak the language is really when I fell in love with it again.

And here I am today. Writing from Granada, Spain, where the world is my classroom. The amount I have learned depends on the standards we use to judge.
Can I roll my “r”s? Not at all.
Can I use the vosotros form? Barely.

Am I fluent? Nope.

Can I confidently make friends with Spaniards while in Italy? 100%

Can I bargain my way to whatever price I want using Spanish in Morocco? You bet.

Can I go to concerts in Spanish, order my coffee in Spanish, and take 4 of my 5 classes in Spanish? Sí, sí, sí.
And for all of these tiny victories, I am so proud of myself. But to me, being able to go home and order my favorite ice cream in Spanish will be the greatest success of all.

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Hannah Geller

<p>I'm a junior at Penn State studying film/video, international studies &amp; Spanish. I am very passionate about watching sunsets and eating french fries. Previous international experience includes an internship in Israel, a documentary shoot in London, and a service trip to Honduras. Fun fact-- I spent last summer on 3 different continents!</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
Kennett Square, PA
Film Studies
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