Summer class offers worldly experience without leaving home

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

It must be that time of year again. A chill in the air and a dramatic increase in Brookings traffic can only mean one thing-the beginning of a new school year.

I have to admit, I enjoy starting school again. I guess I’m one of those nerdy types who gets excited about new books (aside from the price) and going to class again (religiously, for at least the first few weeks). But a return to school seems all too familiar for me this fall, as I spent three weeks of my summer in the drill camp of the academic world-taking a summer class.

For three weeks in July, I totally lost track of time. My mornings consisted of rolling out of bed only because I knew that a vanilla cappuccino waited for me at Bagel Works only a few short blocks away.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the class I took. “Introduction to Hispanic Culture” gave me a glimpse into Latin-American life every morning without ever having to leave my coffee or even my comfy classroom chair, for that matter. I just wasn’t prepared for the intensity which accompanies a summer class.

For example, almost all of the course material was in Spanish. I mentioned studying. As anybody who knows me can attest, I am terrible at studying. Add reading in a foreign language to my more-than-inadequate study skills and you have a recipe for disaster, right? Culture shock for me was not limited to the language-but included studying–the likes of which I’d never before experienced.

So with a little Las Ketchup, Marc Antony and the occasional J-Lo and Julio Iglesias playing in the background, my friend Noel (who was also taking the class) and I spent our evenings learning about everything from Latin American politics to holidays to history.

Aside from all that I learned-and I did learn a lot in that class-one lesson seemed to rise above the others. My classmates and I were encouraged to open our minds-and our eyes—to cultures different than our own. I realized that while learning about other cultures, the similarities-not the differences-between the cultures seemed more intriguing. What seems foreign at first glance proves to be just the opposite. We have more in common with our neighbors than we may at first think.

Even though it may sound more exotic than spending a summer in Brookings, one does not need to jump on a cross-Atlantic flight to learn about another culture. Take a class about another culture that sounds interesting just for the heck of it. Say “hey” to that international student sitting a couple chairs down from you in class. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You might even feel a little more worldly right here in Brookings, South Dakota.

Denise Watt is a journalism major.