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Rachel Hoppe, Auburn University

05 Oct 2015

“Estoy muy nerviosa.”

This was one of the first things I said to Camilo, a nineteen-year-old engineering student from Bogotá, Colombia. I was speaking to him through TalkAbroad as an assignment for my Intermediate Spanish class at my university. Our teacher had told us that it was common for students to go into their first TalkAbroad conversation nervous and hesitant, but that they typically would warm up to the other person and relax after talking for a few minutes. Despite this information, I was still skeptical. Convinced that my experience was going to be nothing short of a complete train wreck, I imagined myself incorrectly using the preterite and imperfect verb forms while my conversation partner stared at me in silence, unsuccessfully trying to comprehend what I was saying. I pictured myself repeatedly nodding along to lighting-speed, fluent Spanish filled with words I had never heard before. In my head it was going to be a painful conversation filled with confusion and grievous grammatical errors on my end.

After making my nervousness known, Camilo asked me why I felt that way. I told him my Spanish was not very good. “Lo siento,” I said. (Admittedly I apologized at various times throughout the discussion.) But Camilo’s positive attitude and encouragement helped me feel much more comfortable with the conversation. If I made a mistake with my verb forms or vocabulary, he would kindly correct me and help me with what I was trying to say. We actually laughed a lot, and the talk as a whole was very lighthearted. Discussion topics ranged from fashion to music to my love of empanadas (“Empanadas? Me encanta!”). We discovered that we both enjoy sports after I held up my lacrosse and field hockey sticks in an attempt to explain the sports I played in high school. Although I can’t say I understood every single word Camilo said, I could understand the general idea and was able to respond well enough that it was a mostly fluid conversation. Previous to TalkAbroad, I had never spoken to someone completely in Spanish for longer than about ten minutes, but once my nerves had calmed, the conversation flew by. Before I knew it, Camilo was wishing me good luck in school and saying goodbye. With his help, I learned a lot, and will definitely not be nervous for my next TalkAbroad session.