Boughton takes advantage of Spanish immersion opportunitiesApril 5, 2010
For Bobby Boughton, majoring in Latin American studies means one immersion experience after another in Spanish-speaking countries. Foremost among these have been studies and work at a Spanish language school in Guatemala during two consecutive summers.
What motivated you to study in Guatemala?
Sometimes when I’m working on my Spanish it feels unnatural to speak with another native English speaker. In Guatemala there was no question about speaking Spanish, you have to in order to accomplish anything. This, in my opinion, is the best way to learn and master a second language.
How did you spend your time there?
At the school, Juan Sisay, you will study for 5 hours a day one on one with your professor. Aside from this there are a ton of activities that the school hosts. Hiking up a volcano, traveling to a church to study things like religious syncretism, or even going on a cable ride over a banana plantation are all provided by the school.
What did you enjoy most?
I would say that the best part about the whole experience comes from the people you meet. People don’t need a lot of experience to teach their native language, and even though all professors at Juan Sisay are university educated, a lot of the professors were around the same age as me. As a result of this, they enjoy hanging out and inviting students to activities when school gets out. It’s such a great experience, and without a doubt I would recommend Juan Sisay to anyone at Cornell.
You worked at the language school last summer. What did you do?
My position was International Coordinator. With anyone interested in coming to the school I would keep in contact with them, helping manage schedules, payment plans, bus transportation while in Guatemala, and answer any question a potential student might have. I also gave translations at all conferences at the school, which covered topics such as the unofficial economy in Guatemala, abortion rights in Guatemala, Mayan culture, and many other things. It was a great job.
You also spent three weeks in Cuba — what was that like?
This was the adventure of my life. I stayed with a family of 13-plus, paying just around $10 dollars a day. Eventually, I realized that a lot of people thought I was Cuban while I was down there, and because of this I was able to transfer all my money into Peso Cubanos and basically live like a Cuban. I took the Cuban taxis, rode the Cuban buses, and ate at the Cuban restaurants. Pretty much, I became a Cuban for my entire stay.
What have you gained from your travels?
I would have to say it has really helped me see what’s important in life. Not doing the typical tourist activities while traveling opens your eyes up to a completely different perspective. I’m more open and accepting of people’s beliefs. If you look at my main goal starting out, though, I feel like I’m close to being fluent in Spanish. I guess that’s pretty cool.
Any other highlights from your Latin American Studies courses?
Traveling to Mexico with Doug Hanson’s ceramics and drawing class is without a doubt the highlight of my college experience. Seeing how Latin American culture can be represented though art and ceramics was so moving to me. I probably would not have the view and understanding of Latin America I do now had it not have been for Doug and this course.
What’s next after Cornell?
There is a graduate school in Costa Rica, University for Peace, that I am very interested in. I have also thought about teaching English for a couple of years somewhere in a Spanish speaking country. I met a friend in Mexico City who recently opened an English school in Argentina; we’ve been talking about the possibility of me coming down to join him for a couple of years. I guess I’ll just wait and see. At this point in time I am completely satisfied with the way Cornell and my experiences traveling have shaped and continually influence me.
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