Taylor Kruse, Harvard University Part 1
Hello! My name is Taylor, and I am currently a freshman at Harvard University. Part of my French 20 class was to complete four TalkAbroad experiences, each focusing on different topics centered around the themes we were currently studying. During this time, our theme was immigration and culture, so our assignment was to learn as much as we could about our partner’s country and story (this was all in ten minutes, mind you). For this assignment, I chose Salah Elbarnaty from Morocco, since his picture and bio made him seem very personable and friendly.
Being my first TalkAbroad experience, I was incredibly nervous about my conversation. While it seems silly in retrospect, I was anxious as I paced around my dorm room cursing the French curriculum for requiring me to complete such an assignment. I set up my environment and entered my room about ten minutes early, not knowing how to conduct myself. Then, at precisely 1:45, Salah entered the room with me.
I was incredibly lucky to have Salah as my first partner. Just as I thought when I chose him, he turned out to be a really great guy. He immediately set me at ease. Although, as I would come to discover, this would be a common trait among all my TalkAbroad partners, I felt that Salah was very beneficial to have as a first-time user. Probably the most helpful thing he did (even without him knowing it) was to make me forget about my self-consciousness when it came to speaking French, which was probably the thing I was most worried about. He acted as though I spoke the language fluently, which gave me the courage to push myself and my vocabulary.
Because of our unit, I asked him a lot about his life in Morocco. We discussed his work, his favorite foods, and even some holidays widely celebrated in his country. I purposefully chose someone from a nation I had no information about, so that I could really learn something new from a different place in the world. Salah definitely fulfilled this criteria, as he educated me about a lifestyle I knew absolutely about, which was both exciting and fascinating. Also, like any good partner, he would ask me the same or similar questions, which I was somewhat surprised by. Again, this was my first time, so I didn’t quite expect the back and forth dynamic which would naturally arise. It forced me to think critically and expand my vocabulary, which Salah helped me with using the chat feature.
Just like that, ten minutes flew by. I said my last “au revoir” to Salah and signed off. I left my first TalkAbroad assignment so much differently than how I entered. I felt that I genuinely knew more about the world. I felt relieved that what I thought was a mountain was, in reality, a molehill. But mostly, I was glad to know that I made a new friend from a different continent, all while speaking French!