Grace Speas, University of Texas
I am a college student in the U.S. and I had my TalkAbroad conversation with Yarimar Jara Artavia, another student who lives in Costa Rica. I want to start off by saying that I do not live in a Spanish-speaking household, but I have always had a love for the way the language sounds while living in Florida and Texas during my childhood. Because of this, I hoped to one day master it. However, like many who have tried to learn a second language as an adult, I have a strong desire to learn but find myself frustrated when I cannot get beyond simple sentences to master Spanish fluency and feel comfortable in conversations with native speakers.
When I came to college, I knew I would have exposure to the language from my Spanish teacher and the lessons, but I assumed I would not be getting any one-on-one practice with actual Spanish speakers. When my teacher introduced my class to TalkAbroad, at first I was nervous and uncomfortable. I was going to have to talk to a complete stranger? For 30 minutes? “I can’t even hold a conversation in English for 30 minutes,” I thought to myself. This sounded like a daunting task. I went on the TalkAbroad website to browse through the conversation partners. Speakers on the page had a portrait of themselves along with a short description and their interests. I would like to say I chose Yarimar at random, but I really chose her because she had a friendly face and she was “Approved for Beginners.” I definitely considered myself a beginner.
When the day of the conversation came around, I was strangely nervous for a person who often talks too much. Yarimar called me exactly when the clock hit 12:30, and we began our conversation. She was thoughtful of what I said, and she never interrupted me. It surprised me how much we had in common as college students. We spoke about debt, the temptation of college students to use credit cards too often, and about how technology can cause anxiety if used too much. Yarimar said she always has her cell phone on her, which is true for me as well.
Suddenly though, toward the end of the conversation, my camera stopped working. “Oh, no, I knew this would happen,” I thought to myself as I saw the little green light go off, because I often have trouble with my camera while video chatting my mother. Without missing a beat, Yarimar apologized for the disturbance and just kept moving on with the conversation. We talked for five more minutes before saying goodbye. When I closed my laptop, I was proud I had talked for an entire half hour in Spanish, but I was mostly grateful for Yarimar. Instead of dwelling on my technical camera problem and wasting time, she had kept the conversation lively and focused. So, Yarimar, if you’re reading this: ¡Gracias por todo!