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Tabitha Aviv, Portland State University

11 Sep 2017

I am a first-year French student in my third term and I was assigned to have a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker. When I got the assignment, my heart jumped into my throat. Given, I was okay in class and tended to pick up to vocabulary and pronunciation quickly, but I was going to have to talk to someone who had been speaking this language their whole life. To say I was nervous was an understatement.

Luckily, Camille is a very good conversationalist. She talked slow enough that I could catch her words, she rephrased questions that I didn’t understand, and was very friendly. I could very easily see myself having a much longer conversation with her once I know what she’s saying 100% of the time. Overall, the conversation went great. I forgot some words and didn’t even know how to say others but I never once felt embarrassed to not know. The time also flew by, I logged on and started asking questions and the next thing I knew, Camille was telling me that I’d fulfilled by 30-minute requirement and was saying goodbye.

All the nerves I had seemed a tad overdramatic at that point, and I was excited that it seemed I had held my own quite well for a lot longer than I thought I would have. Camille was in Spain at the time that we talked, which took me off guard. There was a massive time difference, that surprised both of us between not only Spain and the Pacific Northwest corner of America, but that there was a considerable time difference between her hometown in Canada and Portland, Oregon – which is where I am now.

The best part about my conversation with Camille was the fact that we came from vastly different families. She is the only child in her family and had an enormous Christmas tree every year. I come from a family of eight who are Jewish and never had a Christmas tree. We joked about my big family and how where she’s from, there is one family of seven and mostly families of three and how even where I’m from, I still have the biggest family around. Even though we had this seemingly substantial difference in our childhoods, we still found that our mentalities of the holidays are the same – a time with lots of family, lots of food, and lots of love.

It was fantastic to meet a person who I have so much in common with - from how we spend our weekends to the activities we do with our friends – that I otherwise would never had known existed. TalkAbroad is a fantastic tool to practice your language skills but also a great resource for meeting people and reminding yourself that all around the world, you’re bound to find someone who you can talk to just the way you talk to your friends at home.