Newfound Confidence in Quito

Louis Herman
October 19, 2018

When my SO (significant other) came to visit me last weekend, I was super excited. I couldn’t wait to show them all the big tourist sites: the churches, the museums, the churches that have been turned into museums, and the giant statue of la Virgen de Quito with the view of the whole city. They were flying in late friday night, so I spent the whole day getting everything in order for their arrival. I packed my things, checked in at the AirBnb, double checked the bus schedule, and napped for a couple hours. The whole day, though, something in the back of my mind was bugging me. I felt a little anxious, in a way completely unrelated to the standard anxiety of seeing someone you love for the first time in three months. It took me a little bit, but I eventually realized what was worrying me: I knew I was going to spend the whole weekend speaking English, which, you know, wasn’t really the goal when I came to Ecuador.

The main reason I’m studying abroad is because I want to improve my Spanish. There were definitely other factors involved (such as a desire to expand my understanding of the world), but I’m here, principally, to better my language skills through immersion. Since being here, my ability with the language has definitely improved, but not to the degree that I’d like: I’ve been speaking a fair amount of English with my other exchange student friends, despite our repeated agreements to hablar en español. My worry was that, with my SO visiting, I would be speaking even less Spanish than I do with my English-speaking friends, and that by the end of the weekend I would’ve forgotten all my Spanish.

I tend to fixate on this sort of thing, so by the time I arrived at the terminal to catch the bus to the airport, I was decently stressed out. Something happened there, though, that made me realize I had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t sure what bus I needed to take, so I asked a guy who, it turned out, was also going to the airport. Him and I started talking, and it turned out that his name was John and was from Venezuela but worked at a hospital here in Quito. The conversation—all in Spanish—continued. We talked about his reasons for leaving Venezuela, my reasons for studying abroad and, eventually, our views on capitalism (he was in favor; me less so). It was a wild experience for me, because I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly good linguist, but there I was, talking for two hours about everything from food to politics to travel in a language that wasn’t my own.

That single conversation did more for my confidence with the language than any other interaction I’ve had this semester. The whole weekend, I felt comfortable asking strangers for directions, and I even at one point ended up talking to a Chilean pizza vendor for something like twenty minutes about the documentary he was working on. It also turned out that my SO could understand more Spanish than I had previously thought, so I never felt like I was excluding them. It ended up being a really perfect weekend, and while I definitely did speak more English than I probably should’ve, I walked out of it with a newfound confidence in the Spanish language that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken that bus to the airport.

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Louis Herman

<p>Hi! I'm a current junior at the University of Rochester studying the history of early modern globalization, with a specific focus on links between Asia and Latin America. When I'm not busy writing papers, you can probably find me lying down on the beach, soaking in the sunlight, and reading sci-fi.</p>

2018 Fall
Home University:
University of Rochester
Rocky Point, NY
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