Sarah Gooch, University of Texas
When I was first assigned to do a TalkAbroad session during my first semester of Spanish in college, I was frankly dreading it. I was nervous about not being able to speak perfectly, and the thirty minutes we were assigned seemed like forever. I initially chose to speak with Gina Baeza Guillen, because the site said she was perfect for beginners. I hoped that would help ease my nerves. During our first conversation, Gina had me calmed down within minutes. Not only was she very patient and would help me figure out how to say words I did not know, but she also answered many of my questions about her life and the cultures in Mexico. She was also able to let me know if there was a better or less formal word for what I was trying to say. It was truly amazing to me how quickly those thirty minutes flew by and I found myself wanting to talk for longer even because we were so immersed in conversation. I felt that I learned a lot more in that one session than I could have just by learning out of a book or during class, and it made the language learning process much more real for me. I have since spoken with Gina two more times for additional assigned sessions and will likely continue to meet with her in the future. It is nice to be able to speak with someone that can watch your progress over time and give you feedback about your speaking in real time. Even if you do not meet with the same person every time you log on, I feel that the experience of conversing with people of different backgrounds and with different languages is incredibly important in today’s culture.