Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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My key to language learning

I hate to admit it, but Stacy was right when she said you MUST create local friendships to truly get the most out of an immersion program. Granted, this is far far harder than it sounds (I met my friends by dating a local boy), but if you can find a way into a group of locals, it’s worth it.
I went on the Ecuador program with 14 other students and my first obstacle was breaking the Willamette bubble. With this many classmates to choose from, it’s easy to go out in large groups and not feel the need to make new friends.
If I could start a conversation with someone else, my next obstacle was that this someone was usually a boy who tried to speak to me in English and really would just rather get into my pants than carry on an intelligent conversation. For this reason, I remained with my Willamette friends and a few other Americans from other programs and nearly gave up completely on bonding with locals.
By a sheer stroke of luck I met Pacho,my local boyfriend in Ecuador, through a guy chasing my friend Katie. Two and a half months into the program and I finally found a conversation partner. At first I had no idea he spoke fairly decent English, so all our conversations were in Spanish. I found he would listen and our conversations got on more and more in depth topics and I’d tell him my long personal stories in Spanish. We’d go to the bars with his group of friends and inevitably we’d involve ourselves in drunken philosophical debates at 2 a.m. In this manner, I truly learned Spanish.
Although my classes at ACLAS helped a lot, no class can give you true proficiency. For true proficiency you need to explain yourself to someone who can’t speak English and even better if you have to do this drunk at 2 a.m.

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