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Advice from the Field: Immerse Yourself!

 

Hampshire College alumna Casey is currently earning her master’s degree at Boston University and has been sharing her journey to becoming a language educator with us. This week, she reflects on the value of immersion experiences at home and abroad.

In her words:

In the summer of 2016 I attended the Arabic, Persian, Turkish Language Immersion Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Within four hours of arrival, everyone in the program signed a language pledge, pledging to only speak their target language. For eight weeks, I lived on the same hall as my professors and friends and we all had a common goal, to learn more Arabic.

Cut to the next summer, where I’m on a plane alone from New York to Casablanca, Morocco, to study abroad in Meknes, a city I had never heard of.  I was taking four hours of Modern Standard Arabic every day at the language center, and living with a host family and an American roommate.  My experiences in Morocco differed greatly from my experiences in Madison, and adjusting to Moroccan culture was a huge factor.

Casey standing at UNESCO heritage site in Morocco with ruins
Casey at Volubilis, a UNESCO heritage site outside of Meknes

 

Immersion and study abroad programs are great, and there are opportunities everywhere to take part in these programs. Colleges and universities can have language houses, hallways, or immersive programs for the academic year  where you are living with others and pledging to speak only the target language when you are in your dorm or in the language house.

Along with more exposure to the target language, these opportunities can provide leadership experience as well.

For example, Boston University, where I am currently a graduate student, has been piloting its Global House—a hallway full of students eager to practice and gain more language skills.

Market stall with pottery in Morocco
Market stall in Morocco

 

Studying abroad and immersion programs are priceless in terms of both language and life lessons learned, but they are different experiences. If you’re thinking about these programs, seek out someone who has studied abroad or has done these programs to get their input, and ask them all of your questions.

To find an immersive environment for your language of choice, you may not have to look further than your own campus!

If you want to find programs but don’t know where to start, the Language Programs section of ACTFL’s Lead with Languages campaign has many resources that I wish I knew about two years ago. You can also find a native speaker of your target language that’s local to your area, and start practicing language with them and asking them questions.

One thing is for sure—my journey to becoming an Arabic educator would not have been the same without these life-changing immersive experiences.

 

Interested in exploring language teaching as a career path?  Check out our Become a Language Teacher page for information about scholarships, certification by state, and more.  Or want to catch up on previous posts sharing Casey’s journey?  Read her “Ask Away” interview and her first article as a guest blogger here.

And as always, don’t forget to share your language learning story with us @LeadWLanguages on social media.